31 July 2008

All My Goddamn Poetry Books

This is idiotic, but here's a new project I'm starting tomorrow.

Over and out.

30 July 2008

August Poetry Boot Camp, Toronto

Getting to be time for another Poetry Boot Camp. Please spread the word!

Also gauging interest in a multi-week Poetry Critiquing workshop this fall. Please drop me a note if you'd like to get on board.



Sunday, August 17, 10 am to 5 pm (includes lunch break)
Christie & Dupont area

Fee: $75 (advance registration required - please email hunkamooga@sympatico.ca or phone for payment options)
Includes materials and light refreshments.
Enrolment limited to 12 participants.

Poet, editor and writing instructor Stuart Ross offers an intensive but relaxed one-day workshop for beginning poets, experienced poets, stalled poets, and haikuists who want to get beyond three lines. 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!

28 July 2008



Do you think I’m made of money? You’ve just scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg. Curiosity killed the cat at the dog and pony show, but you let the cat out of the bag, you sad sack. I’ll lay down the law in cold blood: a chicken in every pot tends to feel all cooped up, so be careful not to put your eye out when you tilt at windmills. It’s a small world, like a bump on a pickle, and your cheque is in the mail.

Stuart Ross
Written in 2007 at a workshop conducted by Camille Martin

20 July 2008

Buy my bombast

For those who got interested in my Hunkamooga column as a result of the squib in the New York Times blog, I have a whole goddamn book of 'em. Here it is.

And you can buy it right here.

And there's a review of it by Stephen Cain in Canadian Literature right here.

And there's a review of it by Stephen Knight of Quill & Quire right here.

Hopefully, I'll be able to con Anvil Press into doing a Further Confessions.

Over and out.

17 July 2008

"Up Since 5:30, down since 1959"

OK, by popular demand (that's you, Anne), here's the entirety of my Hunkamooga column that caught the eye of the dude from the New York Times Book Review. It appeared in the spring 2008 issue of the Vancouver-based magazine sub-Terrain (which everyone should subscribe to).


by Stuart Ross

Up since 5:30, down since 1959

Are all writers as negative and self-loathing as me? Is there even a single writer with a sunny disposition who greets the morning, pressing her face into the flood of sunlight that gushes through her bedroom window, and chirps, “Oh, glorious life! I can’t wait to write!”

Me, I wake up slowly, groggily, reluctantly, eyes burning, always far too early, no matter what insomnia-driven time I get to sleep, and within seconds there’s the foggy realization of who I am and the sorry circumstances of my life, and I feel despondency set in. And while it’s true I don’t live in a lean-to made of rusting, battered automobile hoods in a garbage dump on the outskirts of Managua, I still somehow feel justified in whining. I lie on my back on my book- and paper-strewn bed and stare at the cobwebs on my ceiling and quietly murmur, “I can’t wait to see how I avoid writing today. I’m more than halfway through my life and I haven’t accomplished a goddamn thing.”

Now, it can be scientifically determined that I have had five full-length poetry collections published, a book each of short stories and personal essays, a couple of collaborative novellas, and a heap of chapbooks. My last poetry book, I Cut My Finger, received rave reviews across the board, including in The Globe & Mail and The Toronto Star. Also, the excellent Montreal poet Jason Camlot, on taking the helm of a new imprint of DC Books called Punchy Poetry, contacted me and said he wanted the first title he put out to be by me. I’d just had a book out, its corpse not even cold yet, but I rustled together an insane new manuscript called Dead Cars in Managua, and Jason fell for it.

But this isn’t enough to make me love myself.

A cursory investigation would also show that over the past year and a bit, I have had the opportunity to edit books by four of my poetry heroes — guys who shook my world when I was real young, and whose works have been vital to me ever since. Through my own Proper Tales Press, I published If I Were You, a collection of poems Ron Padgett wrote collaboratively with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan, and James Schuyler. Also through Tales, I put out the chapbook Concrete Sky, 15 haiku all beginning with the same line, by Tom Walmsley, with an assist by Michael Healey’s liver. Through Insomniac Press, I edited and introduced a 300-plus-page collection called Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden, which may be the best book in the history of Canadian poetry. In fact, it is one of three books short-listed for the Canadian 2008 Griffin Poetry Award, and if it wins, Dave might pay for my next order of French fries at Legends. Most recently, as poetry editor for Mansfield Press, I edited a book called Dog, written by poets Joe Rosenblatt and Catherine Owen, based on photos by Karen Moe. Even though Joe flipped through about 50 of my poems, back when I was in high school, and muttered “Nothing worth salvaging here,” he is a hero of mine, and now I’ve edited one of his books.
But this isn’t enough, either.

Here are two other things that just aren’t enough. When the current coordinators of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair (an institution I co-founded a couple of decades ago) hired a lawyer to threaten me with a defamation suit because they didn’t like my harsh but constructive criticism of the [CENSORED] job they did coordinating the fair, I received scores of letters of support, and they, reportedly, received upward of a hundred letters of condemnation; I mean, what the hell are a couple of writers doing threatening another writer with a defamation suit? Good fucking gawd. Anyway, I’ve had so many people try to comfort me by saying stuff along the lines of, “Look, neither of them will ever write a poem as good as your worst poem.” And while that may be true, it isn’t really the point.

Oh yeah — the other thing. My friend Ben Walker, who is a brilliant British singer/songwriter and also the step-grandson of Bertrand Russell, recorded a whole CD worth of songs he built around my poems. He and I jointly released it as An Orphan’s Song: Ben Walker Sings Stuart Ross (send me a 20 and I’ll send you one). It was perhaps the greatest compliment my poetry has ever been paid.

But it’s still not enough to make me greet the morning with burbling enthusiasm.

If this sounds like the kind of inventory one compiles before one kills oneself, you’re in no such luck. You wish I’d abandon this last page of sub-Terrain so that Karen Connelly could take over and write about far more Important Things, but you’ll have to pry this page from my cold dead hands. Not that I’m going to kill myself, mind you. I don’t have the heart to sentence anyone to the task of dealing with the archaeological morass that is my apartment. Plus, I’ll do everything in my power — including not killing myself — to stop Karen Connelly from taking over this page.

When I moan about my sorry personal life, about the hurt I’ve caused, about the endless regrets I have, the lack of family, the chaos of my apartment (my entire apartment looks like the walk-in closet of some lunatic who has kept clippings of every newspaper article that contained the word “the” for 40 years) — when I moan about this stuff, my spectacular friends — and my friends are spectacular, I’m blessed that way — tell me I’m a good guy, and a good writer, and I inspire lots of other writers, and also I don’t live in a garbage dump in Central America.

But this isn’t enough. I’d give up the whole writing thing in exchange for a life of serenity and self-acceptance.

Stuart Ross is a Toronto writer whose GP will prescribe only half the usual dose of Wellbutrin. His (Stuart’s, not his GP’s) most recent book is Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books). You can write him at hunkamooga@sympatico.ca and visit his website, hunkamooga.com.

Over and out.

En Why Tea

My car got stolen on Sunday night, which put everything out of whack on what was supposed to be a very organizedly busy week. I had meant to go to the pre-reading walk around High Park at Monday's Scream, but showed up late, saying, "I missed the walk because my car got stolen."

I also meant to say on Monday: Happy birthday, Dana! But, like I say, my car got stolen and I got distracted.

Anvil wrote me today to let me know my Hunkamooga column in sub-Terrain got the nod from the New York Times. This astounds me. It's right here.

My car was found on Tuesday morning. Instead of taking the bus up to Sheppard, these fuckers smashed the passenger window, stole my CD changer, jammed a screwdriver in the ignition and took my car. I really gotta get rid of that car. The police have been might nice, and so has the insurance company. Really.

This summer I've been editing a few books for Mansfield's fall list: Emergency Hallelujah, by Jason Heroux, and Flutter, by Alice Burdick. I am so goddamn excited about these books. Jason and Alice have been amazing to work with. Now I'm digging into David McFadden's Be Calm, Honey, a big collection of recent sonnets. David closed the Scream Mainstage on Monday night, after a mostly really good lineup of poets, fictioneers, glossarists, and non-fickers. He did a very brave thing: he read just one poem. A 15-parter. That takes guts, because if you embark on such a project and it's tanking, you just gotta keep going. But he didn't tank: he got a great response. I've really been enjoying watching young people get dazzled by Dave's readings over the past few months, because poets of his generation get overlooked far too often. And David is the real thing. The last set, which is just about all I caught, also featured excellent readings from Sina Queyras and Dani Couture.

In my freelance life, I also recently edited a poetry book by a young writer named Asher Ghaffar. It's called Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music, and Michael Holmes at ECW is putting it out this fall. As personal policy, I rarely discuss freelance jobs here on Bloggamooga, but this is another extremely exciting book: really inventive, provocative, and often beautiful. Asher was also a blast to work with.

More soon. I'm gonna go smoke a NYT cigar.

Over and out.

12 July 2008

"I'm Stuart Ross and I approve this poet"

So much. So much.

The good news: I got shortlisted in the poetry category for the ReLit Prize, which goes to Canadian books published by independent presses. Here's the list:

The Shovel, Colin Browne (Talonbooks)
All Things Said & Done, Marita Dachsel (Caitlin)
AEthel, Donato Mancini (New Star)
Sitcom, David McGimpsey (Coach House)
Two Hemispheres, Nadine McInnis (Brick)
I Cut My Finger, Stuart Ross (Anvil)
Soft Geography, Gillian Wigmore (Caitlin)

I have my cut fingers crossed. The prize is a nifty ring that you can spell words with.

The other week I read at the Alumni Night of the Scream Festival, at Supermarket in Kensington Market. It was an odd little conceit: a bunch of us, um, elder writers were to read from the work of a younger writer, sorta passing the torch on to the next generation. I chose to read the poetry of Evie Christie, who I really admire and whose work bears absolutely no resemblance to my own. Of course, waited till the last minute to make my choices: a few poems from her book, Gutted, and a couple of newer poems, which she supplied me with.

Now, this "next generation" thing was a little odd, because, for example, Priscila Uppal, who is 33 or 34 years old, read from the work of a 30-year-old poet. The other odd thing: well, I'd've just liked to hear the chosen poets read their own works! You know, Evie Christie could've gone up there and read her poems, and then I could say, "I'm Stuart Ross and I approve this poet."

But, really, I think of most poets whose work I like as my peers, age and publication history aside. Anyway, I sort of wondered how I might read her poems: I practised them aloud at home a couple times, just to make sure I could pronounce everything. I figured I'd read them really straight, just intone them. But when I got up to the stage, I decided to read them as if they were my own poems, which is to say, I read them in the voice of someone who's a few grades behind in school. It felt really neat to do that, to let my poems' persona find himself somewhere in Evie's poems.

The night turned out pretty neat, but I do regret not pointing her out from the stage and asking her to stand up, so people could see who wrote the damn things. In fact, if the Scream does this again, I'd suggest that the host point out all the young writers and maybe corral them onto the stage. And the whole idea of "young" is curious: I'd redefine that to mean "young" in terms of the number of years one's been writing. So that 60-year-old young poets could be represented too.

A few days earlier, I helped celebrate the reopening of This Ain't the Rosedale Library on Nassau Street, also in the Market. It was a really beautiful event. Took place on a Pedestrian Sunday, so the Market was packed, and Charlie and Jesse and Dan set up a bunch of chairs out front of the store, and a microphone, and the lineup of writers and musicans stretched from mid-afternoon to about 8 pm. I read some poems, plus the story "Open Windows," from Henry Kafka, which is nice to read on a sweltering day. And it was sweltering. Steve Venright also read, and Pam Stewart, and Claudia Dey, good readings all. The celebration was kicked off with a great set by Bob Snider, who I'd never seen before. He's hilarious. And later on Six Heads did their weird and atmospheric thing, which is always fascinating.

One great bonus was that Tara Azzopardi showed up. Haven't seen her in ages. She's writing, and making art, and she's in a band that plays Appalachian music. A lot of other great pals were there, too. And James and Rick (but not Rick James) from This Ain't's former Church Street location came too. Yay!

More later.

Over and out.

01 July 2008



In the trembling afternoon
my ovaries
wriggling in blue spooky light.
I speak as one whose filth
sucks up every breath
that moves through the market
up near the ceiling.
But when I tried to imagine
possible trees, trees dark to themselves,
the video years made us brittle.
Maybe I should watch the blossoms
for half a century
with hazelnut eyes —
the tree moved again!
But what concerns me most is not so much the smoke,
in dungarees, a ski jacket and a hard hat,
as the tulip,
swinging in the hammock of the Internet.

25 May 2008