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.


At July 13, 2008 3:30 pm , Blogger Evie Christie said...



Your reading of my poems was amazing and surreal. It was exciting to be there.

Miss Evie

At July 16, 2008 2:14 pm , Blogger Zachariah Wells said...

I think you should have read them offstage, while Evie lip-synced them onstage. Now that would be cool. In all seriousness, this business of "young" has always seemed super dumb to me, too. Like the Breathing Fire anthologies in which you have to be born after year X. At least Purdy, in one of the Storm Warning anthos, had the good sense to put Pete Trower in, even tho he was older. Fuck, the guy was a logger for 22 years before he got really serious about writing. Lots of other late bloomers who actually lived interesting varied lives before they started publishing poems. Like JD Black and Peter Richardson, not to mention Don Coles.

Isn't Bob Snider awesome? Love that guy.

And hey, isn't that a weird shortlist. Reads more like three shortlists to me:

1) Browne and Mancini (the westcoast KSW shortlist)

2)McGimpsey and Ross (the central Canadian, not afraid of humour shortlist)

3)Dachsel, McInnis and Wigmore (the free verse lyrical shortlist)

Makes one wonder who the jurors are...


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