26 March 2009

First review of Cigarettes

Susan Cole, the arts editor at NOW Magazine, wrote the first review of Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. Now, I always say that whether the review is good or bad, I'm always grateful that someone paid attention or that it bothered someone enough to write about it. This is a good review, though! It made me weepy.

It's also so nice to see the cover appearing in colour here and there. Fidel Peña and the gang at Underline Studio did an incredible design job. Plus, Fidel's always recommending great books for me to read.



197 pages, $19.95 paper.
NOW RATING: NNNN [out of 5]

Vignettes like those in Buying Cigarettes For The Dog aren’t easy to pull off. You have only a small space in which to make a big impression or evoke a strong emotion, which is why poets like Stuart Ross are best suited to the exercise.

Ross doesn’t waste a word, and the impact is often breathtaking. He knows how to extend a metaphor so that even the most absurd or hallucinatory episodes – and there are many of these – convey deep meaning. I mean, of course the Pope doesn’t come to stay at his house (Me And The Pope), but Ross makes you believe that the papal visit to Toronto messes with his head and his relationships.

Elliott Goes To School gets inside the mind of a high school shooter. The near-novella Guided Missiles – the only lengthy piece in the collection – tracks a sad radio DJ on the brink of disaster. And in the 11 short pages (really short, since this book is small-format) of Dusty Hats Vanish, Ross conveys Nicaragua’s heartbreaking poverty and political upheaval while slyly commenting on tourism in the region.

But some of these stories are also laugh-out-loud funny. Language Lessons... With Simon And Marie! spoofs the stilted syntax of a couple learning English. And anyone who’s had to sit through an evening of self-indulgent or just plain shitty theatre will fall in love with Ross’s vicious but dead-on So Sue Me, You Talentless Fucker.

A talented guy like Ross can get away with that.

Over and out.

25 March 2009

Buying Cigarettes for the Dog: April 1 launch in Toronto

I sure hope you can make it.

Here's an excerpt from the book.

Over and out.

22 March 2009

A bit of what I've done, and a Boot Camp

Just finished a mammoth editing job, one that's been hanging over me for months, so I feel I can come up and breathe a bit. Though I do have all these other editing jobs leaping up snapping like killer fish from a sparkling pond. I'm glad for the work. I just wonder when I'll get some time to write.

Been doing lots of workshops too: this past week, I travelled to the burbs where I did a creative writing session at a drop-in centre with a group of homeless and otherwise marginalized adults. A fantastic experience. Some really good writing happened, a lot of catharsis, and some first steps towards a new kind of self-expression. I learned a lot, too, which for me always makes for the best kind of workshop.

In previous weeks, I've done workshops in schools in downtown Toronto and in Woodstock. Plus a pair of online workshops for a hundred or so students in rural locations across BC's Interior. This was called Poetry Rocks, and I had to prep for it by creating a couple of videos of me reading, by way of introduction. My buddy the gong maestro Steve Lederman shot 'em. They're right over here and here.

Chicago poet Richard Huttel was in town for a week and I set up a couple readings for him. The first was in Toronto: Richard, along with David W. McFadden, Lillian Necakov and Nicholas Power at the Magpie on Dundas West, for an event called Four Poets, Eight Eyes. The place was filled up, the readings were all really excellent, and it was great to see a nice mixture of vets of the Toronto poetry scene and a bunch of the young 'uns. The next day Richard and I hit the road for Ottawa, where we read with Michael Dennis in the living room of Charles and Amanda Earl, who were great hosts. Nice little gathering of Ottawa poets and prosers for that one.

I put together a small chapbook of poetry through my Proper Tales Press for Richard and for Michael. Richard's is called Rainy Day Cliffhanger and Michael's is Forgiveness, My New Sideline (each available from me for $4 including postage). I really enjoyed that Michael read the entire chapbook for the Ottawa reading, in addition to a few new and unpublished poems.

Meanwhile, my short-story collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog is at the printer. Skedded to be ready in time for the April 1 launch at Clinton's in Toronto. It's a really insane book. It's all over the map, and the map it's all over is not authorized. But it's nice to have a spiny book of fiction again, my first since 1997.

Last month I ran a Poetry Boot Camp in Toronto and it filled up almost instantly, leaving me with a waiting list for the first time. I've scheduled another this month, and the spaces are going at a more steady pace, though there are still some left. Here's the skinny:

Sunday, March 29, 10am-5 pm (w/ 45-minute lunch break)
Christie/Dupont area
$75 includes materials, light snacks & a book by Stuart Ross

To register, write Stuart at hunkamooga@sympatico.ca

A relaxed but intensive 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 writing strategies and relevant readings from the works of poets from Canada and abroad. Arrive with an open mind, and leave with a heap of new poems!


I am the author of six full-length poetry collections, including the acclaimed I Cut My Finger (Anvil Press) and Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected (ECW Press). DC Books recently published my newest collection, Dead Cars in Managua. I'm Poetry Editor for Mansfield Press and Fiction & Poetry Editor for This Magazine. I also writes a regular column — "Hunkamooga" — for the literary magazine sub-Terrain. For nearly 25 years, I've led writing workshops and I've brought my popular Poetry Boot Camp to venues across Canada.

In 2009, Freehand Books will release my second short-story collection, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog.

Over and out.

21 March 2009

Passing reference in Quillblog = international stardom?

This peripheral mention in a recent Quillblog made me chuckle.

Like any jury is going to put me on the Giller list!

Meanwhile, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog is set for an April 1 Toronto launch at Clinton's, with special guest writers Heather Hogan (yay!) and Steve Venright (yay!). Dear Tom Walmsley was going to be on the bill, but can't make it, after all.

Further launches and/or readings scheduled for Montreal (April 15), Kingston (April 18) and Ottawa (April 30). More to come in May and June.

Over and out.

05 March 2009

And now a message from our sponsor.

Please buy this.

Over and out.

02 March 2009



Thursday, March 12
The Magpie, 831 Dundas West (near Euclid)
7:30 pm
Admission by donation

Chicago poet Richard Huttel gives his first Toronto reading in nearly a decade, joined by Griffin Prize finalist David W. McFadden, as well as beloved Toronto poets Lillian Necakov and Nicholas Power.

Hosted by Stuart Ross. Who sure hopes you can make it!

Chicagoan RICHARD HUTTEL was born in Evergreen Park, Illinois, USA, in 1954. He is the author of Bucktown Serenade (e.p. press), The Be Seeing You Variations (Surrealist Poets’ Gardening Assoc.), 4 Poems (with Lillian Necakov) (Proper Tales Press), Fan Mail from Some Flounder (Proper Tales Press) and The Evolution of The Rutherfords to Lumpie (e.p. press).

DAVID W. McFADDEN lives a quiet life in a noisy part of Toronto. He's the author, most recently, of Be Calm, Honey (Mansfield Press), Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden (Insomniac Press), and An Innocent in Cuba (McClelland & Stewart). Why Are You So Sad? was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Prize for Poetry.

LILLIAN NECAKOV has been writing and giving readings for over 30 years. She is the author of Polaroids (1997), Hat Trick (1998) and The Bone Broker (2007) among others. Her work has appeared in anthologies and magazines in the USA, Europe, China and Canada, including Surreal Estate: 13 Candadian Poets Under the Influence (2004). She lives and works in Toronto.

NICHOLAS POWER has recently published from the monastery, starting where I am, cutting water, and The Steady Pull of a Curious Dog with his own imprint, Gesture Press (publisher of over 25 authors since 1984). His collection of poems [a modest device] was published by The Writing Space. Poems have appeared lately in Descant, bywords.ca, leafpress.ca and ottawater.com. He is a founding member of Meet the Presses collective and performs with the sound poetry ensemble Alexander’s Dark Band.

For more info, write Stuart at hunkamooga@sympatico.ca