30 September 2007

Frank and Joe, hardly

Just finished reading Frank Rich's excellent The Greatest Story Ever Sold, in which he collates and timelines the events leading up to and following the invasion of Iraq, with emphasis on the false narrative put across by the Bush admin and also the pathetic capitulation of the mainstream media.

Here's a perfect soundtrack for it.

I met up with my dear American buddy Joe G. last Saturday in Windsor. We hadn't seen each other since our previous Windsor convention in 2005, but after the first few minutes, it was sorta like — as it often is between good friends — only a week or two had gone by. It's always inspiring to see Joe: he's among the most decent and smartest guys I've ever known. We met in 1989 in Guatemala and have spent a fair amount of time together in Nicaragua, back then and in 1996. We had a good walk by the Detroit river, wandered around town, and ended up at a great Vietnamese restaurant called the Mini, before hittin' the road for our separate ways. When I got home, I sent Joe a copy of my novel MS. He's a good reader of my work.

The next day I was a little ragged for my Poetry Boot Camp, but I had 11 participants and it went really well. Nice to have a few published writers in the group, too. I tried out a few new writing projects and brought back a few old nuggets. I'm amazed at how the Boot Camp always creates a feeling of camaraderie and adventure. Think I'll schedule another one for November.

Monday night Dana and I went to see Nick Lowe at the Mod Club. I adore Nick Lowe. We got up real close — it was just Nick and his guitar, his British beak and his incredible balcony of grey hair. Played a lot of songs from his new album, At My Age, plus the obligatory "Cruel to Be Kind" and a bunch of others, including "The Beast in Me," "All Men Are Liars," and "Shelley My Love." Some of the new songs are real dark and persona-driven, à la Randy Newman. I love seeing these old guys who just get better and better. It was a sublime concert, exhilarating.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Ben Walker spent 10 days in a remote studio in Scotland recording 15 tracks based on my poems. I hadn't heard four of them till he played them for me the other day via Skype. I'm more and more excited about this project. There should be a CD by the end of the year or early next.

Segueless, I'd now like to plug an interesting project by rob mclennan, his "12 or 20 questions" interview archive. I mean, I've given the guy a pretty rough time at times, so I gotta hand it to him for this one. While I have mixed feelings about the idea of asking nearly identical questions of scores of writers, it can also be really neat, because the comparisons between answers are so stark. Some of the writers are lacklustre and some step up to the plate. I haven't read them all yet, but so far I particularly like the interviews with Souvankham Thammavongsa and Michael Dennis. Souvankham is edgier, more provocative, more dangerous, and more intelligent than any of the self-proclaimed bad boys and outsiders of CanLit. And Michael is an honest straight-shooter who brooks no crap himself.

Time for sleep shortly. Sunday I read at 4 pm at Word on the Street, in the dreadfully named "Great Books Marquee" tent, and then at 7:30, Kate Sutherland and I kick off the fall season of the Fictitious Reading Series with readings by Marianne Apostolides and Brian Panhuyzen, at This Ain't the Rosedale Library.

Over and out.

25 September 2007

Your Racist Friend

This is where the party ends
I'll just sit here wondering how you
Can stand by your racist friend
I know politics bore you
But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you
You and your racist friend

— They Might Be Giants

18 September 2007

books coming out of folks' ears, and a review, and other stuff

Sent the finished draft of my novel to a couple of writer friends, Jason Heroux and Heather Hogan. One has so far reported back with great enthusiasm; the other is still reading. I'm already chomping at the bit to knock off a bunch of revisions. Maybe in Banff next month, where I get a few days at the retreat after Wordfest.

Finished working with Lillian Necakov on her forthcoming Mansfield Press poetry book, The Bone Broker. It's her strongest and most adventurous collection. Meanwhile, Steve Venright is coming down the home stretch with his own Mansfield title, Floors of Enduring Beauty. It's really felt like a book in the latest incarnation. Again, this one is a real departure for Steve: fans of his stuff will be happy with it, but they will also be challenged. And I think Steve'll get a heap of new readers.

Both these books due out this fall. They are my first two acquisitions for Mansfield. I implore everyone to buy stacks of copies, not only because they're great books, but also so Denis de Klerck will keep me on as a poetry acquirer and editor for the press.

Meanwhile, Jason Camlot has invited me to kick off his own poetry imprint through DC Books. Dead Cars In Managua comes out this spring -- the first time I'll have poetry books out in consecutive years. Makes me a bit nervous. And this book will be a departure for me. It doesn't follow the trajectory of my first five spiney poembooks.

Toronto writer Lisa Young recent wrote a review of I Cut My Finger online at Gadzooks. A pretty surprising take on my poetry, I think. Nice when people put a lot of thought towards your writing.

Looking forward to this Sunday's Poetry Boot Camp. Really interesting mix of participants so far. And it's the first one I'm running out of the boardroom of the co-op where I live. It's going to be very relaxed for me: and it'll be nice to be so close to my poetry collection. Still a few spaces left....

Last week, got my latest Hunkamooga column off to sub-Terrain for their "Student" issue. Again, a departure. No yuks in this one. Very heavy, personal stuff. Nice to have that kinda flexibility with the column.

Excited about the current issue of This Magazine: the Fiction & Poetry section features 16 amazing haiku by Tom Walmsley, and very short stories by Sandra Alland and Michael Boyce. (Sandra's blog from Scotland continues to be brave and provocative. Sort of like Sandra herself.)

Over and out.

11 September 2007

The dead, and how long it takes to read them

They read the names of the 9/11 dead in the U.S. today. It can take as long as six hours, said one CNN anchor.

If, today, they start reading the names of those killed in Iraq as a result of the U.S. "response" to 9/11, they will finish on November 4.

Over and out.

10 September 2007

Poetry Boot Camp - Toronto, September 23!

Sunday, September 23, 10 am to 5 pm
Christie & Dupont

Fee: $75 (advance registration required - please email me for payment options)
Includes materials and light refreshments.
Enrolment limited to 12 participants.

Poet, editor and writing instructor Stuart Ross offers an intensive one-day workshop for beginning poets, experienced poets, stalled poets, and haikuists who want to get beyond three lines. In a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere, Poetry Boot Camp focuses on the pleasures of poetry and the riches that spontaneity brings, through lively directed exercises and relevant readings from the works of poets from Canada and abroad. Stuart also touches on revision, collaboration, and publication. Arrive with an open mind, and leave with a heap of new poems and writing strategies!

Stuart Ross is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including the acclaimed I Cut My Finger (Anvil, 2007) and Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected (ECW, 2003). He is the editor of Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence (Mercury, 2004) and the Poetry & Fiction Editor for This Magazine. His other books include Confessions Of A Small Press Racketeer (Anvil, 2005) and Henry Kafka & Other Stories (Mercury, 1996). In spring 2007, DC Books will launch its new Punchy Poetry imprint with Stuart's collection Dead Cars In Managua.

Stuart has been active in the Canadian poetry scene for more than 30 years. He is the co-founder of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair and has appeared at festivals across the country, including the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Banff-Calgary WordFest, Vancouver Jewish Book Fair, Words in Whitby, Ashkenaz Festival of Yiddish Culture, and MayWorks. He has taught writing to adults and teens for over a decade, and was the 2005 writer in residence for the Writers' Circle of Durham Region. Visit his online home at www.hunkamooga.com.


05 September 2007