30 May 2008

Lab Cab, Montreal launch for Dead Cars, plus other stuff in short

The Buffalo launch for Dead Cars was more like a reading than a launch. But it was great to read in Buffalo for my first time. And I got to see a lot more of Buffalo than I had in the past. Pretty interesting place. Some fantastic bookstores. Nice drive there with Jason Camlot (who was also reading) and Paul Vermeersch (who was along for the ride): we played lotsa tunes.

This weekend, I take part in the 3rd Annual Lab Cab Festival. I'll be way upstairs in the Green Room at 2:15 and 3:45 on Saturday, reading the entirety of the "Hospitality Suite" sequence from Dead Cars. That should be an emotional workout for me. Lab Cab happens at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street. There will be events all weekend and you can see the schedule here.

Then, on Sunday, it's the Montreal launch for Dead Cars in Managua. I haven't been to Montreal in ages. I'm pretty excited, even though it's only gonna be a whirlwind visit this time around. I'm really looking forward to reading with David McFadden — I don't know if that's ever happened before. It'll also be great to read with Sarah Steinberg, who I met many years ago when I was volunteer-teaching at my old high school (she was the surly star student) and to meet Arjun Basu, the Punchy Fiction writer. The details:

Punchy Writers/DC Books, Matrix Magazine/Pilot Reading Series, Writers Read at Concordia, Insomniac Press/Serotonin Books present



Stuart Ross, DEAD CARS IN MANAGUA (DC Books/Punchy Writers)

Arjun Basu, SQUISHY (DC Books/Punchy Writers)

Sarah Steinberg, WE COULD BE LIKE THAT COUPLE (Insomniac Press/Serotonin Books)

PLUS!!! a special guest:

David McFadden
Griffin Prize nominee, reading from
WHY ARE YOU SO SAD? (Insomniac Press/4 A.M. Books)


Puggy Hammer, rocking like idiots

Sunday, June 1st, 2008
8pm until the music stops.
The Main Hall
5390, boul. St. Laurent, Montreal

I've seen a bunch of theatre lately, a bunch meaning two plays. And it's made me want to revisit my own attempts at playwriting. Somewhere I have a stage adaptation I wrote for my short story "The Cannibals" and I've also been wanting to expand The Ape Play, which is now a whopping two minutes after its original one-minute incarnation.

This week, I saw Alias Godot at Tarragon, courtesy of my new friend Verne. The play, a kind of post-9/11 sitcom-meets-Three Stooges homage to Samuel Beckett's play, is by a guy named Brendan Gall. It was uneven, but an awful lot of fun. I think if the dramatic underpinnings could've been played up a little more, it would have been a stronger play. But there were some brilliantly funny lines in it, great performances all around, and some good physical comedy. Alon Nashman, who played Godot, looked like a cross between a Magritte bowler-hatter and a hasidic Jew. I warmed up for it in the afternoon by watching the film version of Waiting for Godot from the Beckett on Film box set, which is fantastic.

Back in Edmonton, I saw Psychosis 4.48, by Sarah Kane, the British playwright who hanged herself at age 28, in 1999. This play was a sort of suicide note. This production, at the TransALTA Art Barns, was directed by Amy DeFelice, but I suspect the three actors, Lora Brovold, Melissa Thingelstad, and my friend Clarice Eckford, all of whom were really compelling, had a lot of input. The experience was like looking into Kane's brain as she contemplates and then rationalizes her suicide: the three actors all played her, or aspects of her, and also her psychiatrist. It was an incredibly strong piece of theatre, and sent me into a bit of a tailspin, especially after an evening of discussing Daniel Jones with Mark McCawley at the Strat. That was an awful lot of suicide for two days.

Over and out.

22 May 2008

Buffalo launch for Dead Cars In Managua

OK, Jason and I are climbing into the car, accompanied by guest traveller Paul Vermeersch, and we're heading to Buffalo on Friday to launch our books. My first-ever reading in Buffalo.


Friday, May 23, 7:30 pm
Rust Belt Books
202 Allen Street
Buffalo, New York

Stuart Ross, launching Dead Cars In Managua (DC Books Punchy Writers Series)
Jason Camlot, launching The Debaucher (Insomniac Press)
David McGimpsey, launching Sitcom (Coach House Press)
and Buffalo's own Andrea Strudensky

Please tell any buffalo you know.

Last night's Toronto launch at the Dora Keogh was a great success. After a day in which about 30 people phoned and emailed in their regrets, the room was nonetheless packed. It was a great experience reading from the new book. The poems are so foreign to me that it feels like I'm trying to figure out how to read them as I read them. Which is fun. People cried. I've never had people cry at one of my readings before. I cried.

So many awesome people showed up. Old friends, very new friends, dear friends, friends who I didn't know were friends. Nearly 40 Dead Cars sold, plus a few Orphan's Songs. Paul Vermeersch was a great host, and saved me a lot of trouble (if you know what I mean). A pleasure to read with Jason Camlot, who did an amazing job of editing my book, and Catherine Graham.

More later.

Over and out.

20 May 2008

Toronto launch for Dead Cars In Managua

My new book of poetry, Dead Cars in Managua, the first title in DC Book's Punchy Poetry Series, is about to be launched in Toronto. Here's the skinny:


Wednesday, May 21, 7 pm till late (readings about 8)
The Dora Keogh Pub, 141 Danforth (near Broadview)

Stuart Ross — Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books)
Jason Camlot — The Debaucher (Insomniac Press)
Catherine Graham — The Red Element (Insomniac Press)

Should be a nice time. I'll have some contraband copies of An Orphan's Song, too, if you want one.

A bit more about Dead Cars In Managua: this is a pretty unusual book for me, divided into three distinct sections. The first, "Dead Cars in Managua," is a long prose poem accompanied by photographs I took in Nicaragua in 1989 and 1996. The second, "Hospitality Suite," is a long poem in sections about hospitals and their unique world. The third, "You, a Person," is a compilation of poems I've written mostly during the Poetry Boot Camps I've led over the past couple of years.

Over and out.

16 May 2008

It's 4:48. Do you know where your psychosis is?

Nice getting to know Edmonton a little better. Check into my sleazy little hotel room yesterday afternoon after the kwik trip from Vancouver. Felt pretty disoriented downtown, so just started walking. Wound up at Audrey's for 7:30, where I was doing a reading, having piggybacked on onetime Edmontonian Betty Jane Hegerat's book launch. Audrey's is a fantastic indie bookstore, and they set up nice for the reading.

The downstairs space was packed, mainly with Betty Jane's relatives, but a few people showed up for me too. But all those relatives - presumably most of them hadn't been to readings before, except maybe for Betty Jane. So I think my poetry took them by surprise, but I got a very good reception. It was great to read for the first time from Dead Cars In Managua. Mainly delved into "Hospitality Suite," the long poem about hospitals.

Near the end of my reading, Mark McCawley showed up, and after the event he took me on a walking tour, from downtown, across the terrifying and seemingly endless High Level Bridge. The wind was really strong, and I didn't handle the acrophobia-inducing walk all that well. But we made it. And wandered up and down Whyte Avenue, stopping for a drink at the Strathcona Hotel.

Mark and I exchanged packages, and I got a heap of chapbooks and magazines, some of which will probably freak me out. Talk frequently returned to Daniel Jones, who Mark published many years ago. Mark's interest is in very edgy, dangerous writing. So we also talked about Juan Butler, Tom Walmsley, Evie Christie.

This morning I met my dear cousin Fern for a tea near the hotel, and then headed to Whyte Avenue, where Wayne Arthurson and I had lunch at Mosaics, one of the greatest veggie restaurants I've ever been to. Wayne's an amazing guy who works really hard. And he wrote a nice article about me for the Edmonton Journal that got published earlier this week.

Now, biding my time till this evening, when I hit some small theatre to see the excellent Clarice Eckford, poet and actor, perform in Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis. It promises to be incredibly heavy, Kane's last play before she killed herself in 1999 at age 28. The script apparently doesn't distinguish between characters, or even inventory the characters. Lance La Rocque told me the play was staged in Wolfville a couple years back with a cast of six. This Edmonton production has a cast of three.

Toronto is only 48 hours away now. It feels so long since I've been there. I want to go home and do nothing but read and write.

Over and out.

14 May 2008

Edmonton launch of Dead Cars in Managua! May 15! And other stuff goddammit!

Edmonton writer and pal Wayne Arthurson arranged for me a last-minute reading in his home city. Happening tomorrow evening at Audrey's, an excellent indie bookstore. Here's the guff:



at Audrey's Bookstore
10702 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton

May 15, 7:30 pm

Toronto poet Stuart Ross launches his sixth full-length poetry collection, Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books Punchy Writers Series), and Betty Jane Hegerat launches her short-story collection, A Crack in the Wall (Oolichan Books).

Meanwhile, I'm spending my last full day in Vancouver. Dave, Alison, Lily (their daughter), and I drove here from New Denver on Friday. I really love this city. This big city with mountains in the distance.

On Saturday, I met up — in person — with Zachariah Wells, with whom I've butted heads a few times in the cyberworld. The rumours were correct: he's a really nice guy in person. We exchanged books, and he gave me a nifty little chapbook from Mercutio Press (Ben Kalman's Montreal micro), and he also gave me my contributors' copies of Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets (Biblioasis), which I'm thrilled to be in, with some extraordinarily unlikely company. I gotta say, the cover looked sort of okay online, but in the flesh, the book is gorgeous, a real class act. Zach and I will now resume spitting venom at each other over the internet. Damn you, Wells!

In the evening, a great visit, as always, with Mark Laba and family: partner Karen, coupla sub-year-old twins, and son Eli (well, Eli was off at his grandma's). Mark is my oldest friend; we met when we were about three. He's Canada's secret literary weapon: so secret, he doesn't even know it himself. If you can dig up a copy of his one big poetry book, Dummy Spit (The Mercury Press), you will have a poetry-reading experience unlike any other.

Also great to see Michael Boyce, who is working away on his follow-up to his novel Monkey (Pedlar Press). We had a long coffee and walk on West 4th. I'm glad to be in touch with him again after being pals way back in the 1980s.

Lance La Rocque happens to be visiting Vancouver from Wolfville, just as he was during my own visit last December. He promises me he's gonna send me his poetry MS, just for a friendly read. We walked through the rain, checking out bookstores and playing the "Hey, have you read this?" game. And we chatted for a while at Wicked Cafe on West 7th, an excellent place with a wide variety of loose green teas.

Got together, of course, with Brian Kaufman, my boss over at Anvil Press. He gave me copies of the new issue of sub-Terrain, which features incredible paintings by John Lurie (!!!). I don't quite get why there's not a throw to Lurie on the front cover — except that it would've interfered with the cover painting. My column "Hunkamooga" appears in the mag, and it was for this column that I got my first-ever National Magazine Award nomination. I'll be losing on June 6. Can you believe it's one-fucking-hundred-and-sixty clams to go to that gala? Feeeeeerget it! Brian and I met at Sofie's, where I fell for the waitress.

Later Monday evening, Dave and Al and I went to see some comedy improv and stand-up at a restaurant on West 4th. The audience was smaller than that of the average poetry reading, which got me thinking. About something. The quality of the art was just as uneven as at a poetry reading. But it was a huge amount of fun. Unlike most poetry readings.

Clint Burnham just got home after his Test reading in Toronto, so I got to whine to him yesterday for a couple of hours, again at Wicked. I'm looking forward to Clint's big book on the history of the KSW, even though I probably won't be able to understand it. I hear he did a good reading in Toronto last week.

So many other people I want to visit while I'm here, but I guess I'll just have to come back soon.

This morning, though, was my main chunk of work in Vancouver: a Canada Council-sponsored reading at the Jewish Community Centre, organized by the Jewish Book Fair, for Grade 11 students from King David High School, which is right across the road from the JCC. It was a real pleasure: they were a great audience and had great questions and a nifty teacher. I got to drag out all my Jewish content: the Razovsky poems, and various other pieces with Jewish references. I also played them a couple of tracks from Ben Walker's An Orphan's Song CD, which they really enjoyed.

It for now.

Over and out.

08 May 2008

24 hours left in New Denver

My time in New Denver is quickly winding down. On the one hand, it feels like I've been here for months; on the other hand, I can't believe I'm leaving tomorrow. Terry and Ron have been amazing hosts. The days have been packed with work and hikes and kayaking and long discussions. Working this week with Katrina's 5/6's has been the perfect way to end my stay here: so many truly talented kids.

Unlike my other stays here, this one isn't going to include a few days of leisure once the work is done. So I'm sitting in my bed now, peering out across the lake, and trying to memorize the painting. I'm hoping I'll be back soon, with more time to write and think and visit and walk the trails.

Tomorrow, I'm driving to Vancouver with Dave, Alison and Lily: my dance card there is pretty open: only a workshop at the JCC next Wednesday with Grade 10's. Hoping to see lots of friends while I'm there. Wander. Maybe do a few manuscript evaluations for local writers.

In the meantime, Jason Camlot has set up three launches for Dead Cars in Managua, hopefully with more on the way. So far it's May 21 in Toronto; May 23 in Buffalo (my first-ever reading in that city); June 1 in Montreal.

And I've scheduled a Poetry Boot Camp for May 25 in Toronto. This is gonna be one busy month.

Over and out.

06 May 2008

13 Ways of Looking at New Denver

On Saturday, I kayaked across Slocan Lake. I think it was the sixth time I'd been in a kayak, and the third time I'd been in a one-seater kayak. It was terrifying, producing a kind of vertigo. But I was pretty proud of myself.

This morning, I watched Beckham walk by my cabin carrying a deer's hoof with about 20 inches of deer leg attached to it.

I read twice last Friday with George Bowering, and during the Q&A I was the Rowan to his Martin, the Martin to his Lewis. The Grades 7-10 kids from Lucerne read too, at the Friday night Lucerne School & Community Coffee House, and they were amazing and brave.

Yesterday my new book arrived here in New Denver for me. I'm thrilled with it. With the heft of it. The fantastic cover painting. The great stock inside that makes my photos so sharp. I wanted Dead Cars in Managua to be a different kind of book for me, and it certainly is. I find it sort of bewildering and weird. So I'm pretty excited by it, to see what people think of it. The Toronto launch is May 21 at the Dora Keogh. Toronto seems really far away right now.

I visited with Peter McPhee at his Slocan Park estate last week. That place blows me away. It blows me away that Peter so quickly made the transition from hectic Toronto to the extreme laidbackedness of the Kootenays. We had dinner in Nelson.

Last week was a crazy teaching week: from hour to hour, each day, I jumped from one grade to another, never staying with one class long enough to learn the kids' names. But it was a great experience: the kids' were game to try any insane writing strategy, and so much fantastic stuff was written. This week: an entire week with the same group of 15 Grade 5/6's. It'll be a great experience in a different way, and one I'm more accustomed to.

Still no reading set up for Edmonton. Anyone have a living room?

This has been good, this getting away from Toronto and listening to woodpeckers pummel the metal roof of the cabin.

On Sunday, Dave and Alison and their daughter Lily arrived from Vancouver; they're teaching animation to the secondary school students all week. Dave and Alison are the creators of Ricky Sprocket and Bob and Margaret. And they are my lift to Vancouver on Friday, and my hosts there for nearly a week.

Terry is a phenomenal teacher, and a wholly excellent person. I learn this more with each visit to New Denver.

I've written more poems in the past week or so than I had in the previous several months. Some of them are pretty corny.



Over and out/talk soon.