04 June 2008

Of Montreal, the Griffins, the Small Press Book Fair, and other stuff

So much has been happening. Spent the weekend in Montreal, where I launched Dead Cars in Managua, along with Sarah Steinberg, Arjun Basu, and David McFadden. Puggy Hammer — featuring David McGimpsey, Jason Camlot (my editor at DC Books) and Matt ? — rounded off the evening. I knew very few people in the audience, though some old friends did show up, but got a really good response. And it was fantastic, again, to see McFadden getting much audience love and totally enjoying himself. His reading was nothing short of masterful. This boost the Griffin nomination has given him has been great: features in the Hamilton Spectator, the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star, a new awareness among audiences, a bit of travel….

And last night, at the Griffin Prize reading, he read last in a cast of seven (four international nominees and three Canucks). He had a shaky start, as he was obviously nervous in front of the auditorium audience of about 600 or 700. But as soon as he began the first of the brilliant four-poem selection, he was the master again, and got a fantastic and spontaneous response from the audience (which seemed to consist of about 575 opera-going rich people, plus about 25 poets). Dave also read one of my favourite poems of his, "Secrets of the Universe." It was also exciting to see John Ashbery — was this his first Toronto reading ever? — I mean, geez. He's old now, and walked pretty slowly, but his voice was so clear and powerful and his delivery so plainspoken. It was such a great experience.

In the meantime, I've been fending off interview requests about the Small Press Book Fair dispute from the National Post. Has the Post ever covered the fair before? But now there's "dirt," so they want in. I told the guy no. It's an emotional place I don't want to go. Plus I've been threatened with a defamation suit, and although I've never defamed the coordinators of the fair, I have no idea how they might interpret anything I say (or don't say, given how mangled one's quotes often get in the press).

He wrote back and pressed me on it. He didn't want to publish the article with only their side of the story. Don't I want the opportunity to deny the statements/claims made against me? Oh, and wouldn't I like to have my picture taken? Um, nope. I think that anyone who has given this some sober thought already has an opinion on those "claims." I gave him a brief written statement only:

This dispute was not strictly between me and the organizers of the Small Press Book Fair. From the beginning, I avoided the personal, even when I was repeatedly attacked personally. I understand that the organizers received complaints from as many as 200 members of the small-press community. So I'm not the only one who was outraged with how they handled input and criticism.

The bottom line for me: I don't believe that people who hire a lawyer to try to silence and censor another writer have any place running a fair devoted to free expression and diverse voices.

So the fair is this weekend, and my understanding is that an awful lot of the regular exhibitors will be sitting this one out. I don't plan to return to the fair until it's back in the hands of people who don't threaten legal action against and smear their critics.

Okay, that's off my chest. Back to more important matters.

Tonight the Griffin Prize will be awarded. I think McFadden actually has a chance in a tough field that also includes Robin Blaser and Nicole Brossard. One of the judges, last night, declared Dave McFadden "the world's most readable poet" or something to that effect. I've never been to one of these Griffin bashes. Should be an interesting time.

And then on Friday, the National Magazine Awards, where I'm up for the Best Column award for "Hunkamooga" in sub-Terrain. I mean, I hope I win, but I know I won't, and I'm going to see Martha Wainwright that evening.

And speaking of magazines, the upcoming issue of This will feature fiction by Karl Jirgens and poetry by Ally Fleming. And I'm really sad that editor Jessica Johnston is leaving the mag, to go back to school or something silly like that. I have loved working with her and I think she's done a great job on This.

And speaking of awards, Emily Schultz has been shortlisted for this year's Trillium Award for Poetry for her first book of poetry, Songs of the Dancing Chicken, which I copy-edited for ECW Press. I'm rootin' for her!

Over and out.


At June 04, 2008 11:05 pm , Blogger Charlie Irving said...

Not to raise a touchy subject, or beat a dead horse, but...

I *go* to the JCC, regularly. I'm in the Annex regularly for friends and French classes.

Haven't seen a single poster or flyer or other printed thingy there or in the neighbourhood. No akimbo announcement. No town crier.

Dun dun dun!

*Did* however see it in Patchy.


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