06 February 2008

It's OK, I'm unarmed

A few hours of peace yesterday and today, and I did my first pass on the final edit for Dead Cars in Managua. Jason Camlot did a fantastic edit, one I could step into. I tugged on the sleeves, turned up the collar, sewed patches on the elbows, ripped out coffee-stained bits of fabric. Meanwhile, here is the cover:

The painting is by Howi Ross. Howi and I went to high school together — AISP, up in North York — along with Howi's sister, my friend Lisa. Me and Howi made a couple of terrible plasticine-animation Super 8 films. It occurs to me that he might be called Howard now. But I'm not sure. I was a little worried about how the cover would turn out, because DC Books follows a template, giving their books a basic uniformity, but I'm pretty damn happy with what they've done. And thrilled that they took my suggestion for the cover artist.

Also finished my design today for the CD An Orphan's Song: Ben Walker Sings Stuart Ross, which should be out later this month. Dana gave me a hand with the intricacies of Quark and Photoshop. I'm proud of the design: best thing I've done. Though it's not saying much: I'm not much of a designer. I just want something that'll live up to the brilliant work that Ben has done in his composing and adaptations. Hoping that Ben can get to Canada in a few weeks so we can have a little launch concert. Some of Ben's non-Stuart Ross songs are right over here.

The last month or so has been chaotic and in many ways excruciating. Buy me a beer and I'll tell you about it. But I've finally gotten around to ripping open mail, and I discovered a great little package from Michael Mann, from St. Paul, Minnesota. I met Michael nearly 20 years ago when I went to visit my Guatemala/Nicaragua buddy Joe in Minneapolis. I think it was jwcurry who put me in touch with Michael, and Michael invited me to read at the alternative school his kids attended back then. Among the students was debby florence, whose chapbook My Defense for Why I Talk So Much I published a few years later, and Michael Sawyer, a young anarchist poet. debby and Michael S. went on to publish the weekly poetry mag Bomb Threat Checklist, and out of that sprouted Michael S.'s own poetry mag, Unarmed Journal. Michael M. later joined him on that project, and now Michael S. has moved on and Michael M. forges on.

I'm sure I have some details wrong there, and I invite a straightening out of the sequence of events.

I wrote, in Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, about the trip Michael S., debby, and a few other amazing friends took to Toronto to sell Bomb Threat at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair in the early 90s. And then debby came back to Toronto a few years later, and I organized a living room reading for her and invited bill bissett — her favourite poet. It was a great event. We all sat in a big circle and went around reading, and debby did an extended set. I'm pretty sure Emily Pohl-Weary was here, and Maggie Helwig, perhaps Chris Kubsch. Tara Azzopardi. Somewhere there are photos.

Which leads me to this piece of mail from December that I finally tore open. Unarmed #57, a beautiful quarter-sheet-size mag packed with the poetry of adventure: this one with visual and linear pieces by jwcurry, Ficus Strangulensis, John M. Bennett, debby, Michael Basinski, Derek Beaulieu, John Barlow, the great Joel Dailey (through whom I met Camille Martin and whose Fell Swoop is another one of the great, long-lived American micropress mags), Charlie Nash, and lots more. And tucked into the mag is a chapbook of equal size and thickness, Totem(s), by Steve Dalachinsky.

If you're interested in the mag, write Michael M. at unarmedjournal@comcast.net. If you're interested in what debby is up to these days, and there's an awful lot of it, check out her incredible blog.

If you want to read a poem about these great Americans, check out "One of Those Lakes in Minnesota" in my collection Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected (ECW Press, 2003).

With all the goddamn poison in the air lately, it's great to fall in love again with small press.

Over and out.


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