29 April 2009

Reading the Dog in Ottawa

I'm reading tomorrow as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Considering it my Ottawa launch for Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. Here's the guff:

Thursday, April 30, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts & Humanities:
314 St. Patrick Street, Ottawa, ON

Martha Baillie, Stuart Ross and Neil Bissoondath

Tickets: $15 / $10 Student or Senior
Free for Festival Members and Carleton Students

Simone Weil says, "The fixed point of view is the root of injustice." Engage with three of Canada’s most respected authors whose work sheds new light on our fragmented existence.

Sounds mighty intimidating.

Over and out.

22 April 2009

Cento for Alfred Purdy

Al Purdy and my mom died on the same day, five years apart. Last night I participated in the fund-raiser that Paul Vermeersch organized in Toronto for the Al Purdy A-frame house. Some lovely presentations there by Elyse Friedman, Dani Couture, Chris Banks, Adam Getty, David McFadden, and others. I wrote this cento, composed entirely of lines from Al Purdy poems, for the occasion.


He begins to speak
like a small storm cloud
and hills under our feet tremble,
and a small rain like tears
from the hot fields
under a million merciless suns
reach across the distance of tonight

Years later at Ameliasburg
I remembered that blind dog
under a faithless moon —
it was a heart-warming moment for Literature
— a thud and a cry
love and hate
doing pushups under an ancient Pontiac

Five minutes ago I was young, five minutes ago
we were very happy
but my hate was holy as kosher foreskins then
and the quick are dead and the dead grow hands
the goldfinch repairs his nest with a patchwork of sunset
fingers like fireflies on the typewriter
as earths shapes and reshapes itself
suspended between stars
in an imaginary town

I knew a guy once would buy a single drop
of the rain and mists of Baffin
as if a child had clapped his hands
into the tips of falling leaves
I’ve seen these trees spilling down mountains
like golfers searching for a lost ball
a necklace strung together
inside the brain’s small country:

light comes and goes from a ghostly sun
on both sides of the swan
but first they cut off his fingers
beside my crumbling little house
standing in a patch of snow
in the silvery guts of a labouring terribly useful lifetime

Which reminds me I’d better hurry and get out

21 APRIL 2009

Over and out.

21 April 2009

An anniversary

19. Grandpa Holds Her

My mother’s father sewed things:
pants and vests and shirts and jackets
and this brown-and-grey quilt we drape over
her thin body, the fabric squares rising and falling
as the ventilator pumps air into her,
to make her presentable, so she can
mingle at parties, stroke her son’s hair,
play bridge with the Levmans. Well,
it makes her chest go up and down.

She is detached.

These are her breaths now. Look at her go.
She lies beneath the quilt her father made.
I read her prayers in Hebrew. I read her Wordsworth.
I read her a psalm that had become such a cliché
but now it’s real. Yay, though.

Her father holds her in his quilt,
takes her into his arms, pulls
her to the place he went, with its
wood-panelled walls and itchy green chair.

Soon there is only the quilt.

—from "Hospitality Suite," by Stuart Ross, Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books, 2008)

20 April 2009

Al Purdy ... If I'm not sick, I'll be there.

OK, I got sick on my travels east. I am coughing and snorfling. But if I am better on Tuesday, this is where I'll be (and where you might like to be, too, regardless of my health):

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
8:00 - 11:00pm
The Dora Keogh Pub
141 Danforth Avenue, Toronto

Please help us spread the word! Invite your friends!

On the ninth anniversary of his death, we will gather to pay tribute to the legacy of "The Voice of the Land," the late, great poet Al Purdy.

And to raise funds for the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust, there will be a raffle and a silent auction of rare Purdy memorabilia courtesy of the Trust and Eurithe Purdy. Admission by donation, PWYC. Donations over $50 (cheques accepted) will be eligible for a tax receipt. Additional raffle tickets will be sold separately.

With tributes by:

and MORE!

19 April 2009

Dog Star

Really pleasurable readings in Montreal and Kingston this past week. In Montreal, at the Green Room, as part of an ongoing series by Matrix litmag: read with Elizabeth Bachinsky and Michael V. Smith, both of whom were fabulous. Nice times hanging out with them, and with Jason Camlot, David McGimpsey, J-P Fiorentino, Mike Spry and others, including Carolyn Smart, who happened to be in town from Kingston.

And then on Saturday, read for Bob Mackenzie's Chameleon Nation series at an art gallery of the same name in Kingston. Again with Liz and Michael, but this time joined by Jason Heroux, who gave the best reading I've seen him do, from his two Mansfield books and from other stuff.

After we all read, there was a nearly unbearable open-mic set. I've wondered this over and over: do most of the people who read at open mics ever pass their eyeballs over a decent book of contemporary poetry? Are they stuck back at Robert Service and Ogden Nash (which they imitate very badly)? Man.

Today, Patricia Robertson reviewed Buying Cigarettes for the Dog in the Toronto Star. It's over here. I'll post the text another time. Very curious headline: "Kicking against them" — could it have been "Kicking against the pricks" originally? I'm baffled. Happy for the review, though.

OK, the book has been out fewer than three weeks and there have been reviews in at least five major venues. Why would that be? Is it the great and upstart brand of Freehand Books? Their promo chops (I'm sure having a beautiful ARC musta helped)? The collection's dorky title? The brilliant cover?

Over and out.

10 April 2009

The Walrus walks the Dog, with a nod to Gerry Mulligan

Pleased to find that The Walrus has listed Buying Cigarettes for the Dog one of "Eight Essential Spring Books." Not sure how the other seven might feel about the company; I think if we were on a lifeboat that was starting to take on water, I'd be the one thrown to the sharks. The review is by Mark Medley.

from The Walrus, May 2009


Buying Cigarettes for the Dog
by Stuart Ross
Freehand Books (2009), 200 pp.

Stuart Ross’s first book of short stories since 1997 is a daring collection. These twenty-three bizarre vignettes leap from the straightforward to the experimental and back again. his fiction is often bold, sometimes infuriating, and always rewarding.

Ross is a documentarian of the absurd. “Me and the Pope” imagines the pontiff as an annoying house guest eager to rob a convenience store; in “Shooting the Poodle,” a man needs a bodyguard to protect him from his dog. There are sobering moments as well: “Elliott Goes to School” concerns a young man who takes sixty-three children hostage, while “Three Arms Less” explores the fallacy of war without coming off as preachy. An underlying anger courses through these stories: one senses Ross wants to shake the world by its collar and make it aware of its idiocy.

Economically written, the book is full of delightful flourishes: thin white legs become “ostriches pecking for food,” and fleas on a dog in Guatemala “re-enacted various Latin American revolutions.” Nonetheless, in some stories form trumps function, while others have quirky set-ups — “Cow Story” is about a bovine invasion, “Bouncing” centres on a man who cannot stop tumbling head over heels — that ultimately fail to pay off.

Through poetry boot camps, small-press book fairs, self-published chapbooks, and literary zines, Ross has fashioned a unique career in Canadian letters. He’s a tireless, and some would say shameless, self-promoter, and he bolsters his reputation with this book. Like the man himself, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog demands attention.

— Mark Medley

In other news, I received, unsolicited, a fantastic lit mag in the mail recently. It's the "Number Zero" issue of Gerry Mulligan, edited by Ben Tripp out of Red Hook, N.Y. It's about 100 letter-size pages stapled down the left margin between a couple of sheets of white cover stock. The look is reminiscent of the old mimeo and photocopy mags that came out of New York City and elsewhere in the 1960s through 1980s.

It contains great work by some writers I'm familiar with — Tom Savage, John Wieners, Lydia Davis, Bill Berkson, Trevor Winkfield, Charles North, Clark Coolidge, Sylvia Gorelick, Anselm Hollo — and wonderful introductions to writers I hadn't heard of: Emily Greenley, Wade Savitt, Ann Stephenson and a lot more. There's no one aesthetic ruling these pages: Tripp seems wide open to whole lot of approaches, which makes this magazine a lively read and a lot more fun even than most anthologies (especially Canadian ones).

Sometimes a magazine just excites me so much I wanna put everything down and start up a new one! Then again, I could work on Issue #2 of Syd & Shirley. It's only been four years since #1.

(You can inquire about Gerry Mulligan's availability from tripp.benjamin@gmail.com.)

Over and out.

09 April 2009

Reviewed in my other former employer

A couple weeks ago, I got reviewed in NOW Magazine.

Today I got reviewed in Eye Weekly, by Brian Joseph Davis. Here it is.

Many years ago, I worked at NOW as a proofreader. That was after I spent 3.5 years as a proofreader then a copy-editor at Harlequin Books, and after I spent 1.5 years at the Ministry of Transportation as a technical writer (a.k.a. Globe & Mail crossword-puzzle solver). Anyway, I really liked working at NOW; there are a lot of really good people there. But then Eye came along and made me an offer I couldn't refuse: production editor. That ended up being the most enjoyable job I'd ever had, and I stayed a few years … until the Great Putsch. I stuck around a month or two and then moved on, finally finding my feet as a freelance editor.

Anyway, it's really nice to see my new book reviewed in Eye and NOW. I await reviews from Harlequin and the Ministry of Transportation.

Over and out.

08 April 2009

Readings in Montreal and Kingston

Travelling to Montreal and Kingston next week to launch Buying Cigarettes for the Dog in a couple of local reading series. I love both those cities and I'm very excited about reading with the writers I'm reading with!

Here are the details for the Montreal event:

Matrix magazine, the QWF, and Pop Montreal present
a mid-April Pilot

Elizabeth Bachinsky
Stuart Ross
Michael V. Smith

& guests
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The Green Room, 5385 St. Laurent

doors @ 8
readings @ 9

About the Readers

Elizabeth Bachinsky is the author of three collections of poetry, Curio (BookThug, 2005), Home of Sudden Service (Nightwood, 2006), and God of Missed Connections (Nightwood, 2009). Her work was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 2006 and the Bronwen Wallace Award in 2004 and has appeared in literary journals, anthologies and on film in Canada, the U.S., France, Ireland, England and China. Elizabeth is an instructor of creative writing at Douglas College in New Westminster where she is Poetry Editor for Event magazine.

Stuart Ross is the author of six full-length poetry collections, four works of fiction and a collection of essays, and is the editor of Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence, poetry and fiction editor for This Magazine, poetry editor for Mansfield Press and a regular columnist for subTerrain. He is a founding member of the Meet the Presses collective and has led his Poetry Boot Camps across Canada. Stuart's latest book is the story collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog (Freehand Books, 2009).

Michael V. Smith is the author of the award-winning novel Cumberland. His new poetry collection, Body of Text (BookThug, 2009), created with photographer David Ellingsen, is a concrete poetry flipbook. A writer, performer, filmmaker and occasional clown, Smith teaches at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Visit www.michaelvsmith.com.

And here's the guff on Kingston:

The Chameleon Nation presents

Elizabeth Bachinsky
Jason Heroux
Stuart Ross
& Michael V. Smith

Saturday, April 18, 3 pm
Chameleon Nation Creative Emporium
112 Princess Street

Jason Heroux is the author of two full-length poetry collections — Memoirs of An Alias and Emergency Hallejulah (both from Mansfield Press) — and several chapbooks. His work has appeared in anthologies and magazines in Canada, the U.S., Belgium, France and Italy. Jason lives in Kingston.

See bios for Bachinsky, Ross & Smith above.

Please help spread the word about these events!

Over and out.

07 April 2009

A leetle interview

Goofy little interview about Buying Cigarettes for the Dog with the Broken Pencil blog right over here.

Cigarettes may be unhealthy for your dog. Please don't try this at home.

Over and out.

03 April 2009

The launch, and me in the Post

The launch went real well. Clinton's was pretty packed, and Sarah was a great host, and Heather and Steve both did great readings. Charlie from This Ain't the Rosedale Library sold over 70 copies of Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. Also a bunch of Steve's book, Floors of Enduring Beauty, and Heather's new Proper Tales chapbook, 2 Stories, her first stand-alone publication.

There were people from every era of my life: from some of my oldest friends to many of my newest. One great surprise was the poet George Miller, who was one my earliest mentors, from back when I was like 16 years old. Man, it was great to see him there.

Within minutes after the reading (I read "The President's Cold Legs," "Language Lessons … with Simon and Marie!" and "So Sue Me, You Talentless Fucker," which got a distinctly energetic response), people were clustering around to get books signed, and so the next 90 minutes were an insane blur of the usual interrupted, stunted conversations and the signing of books. I'm so lucky to have so many friends who came out for me, and so many strangers too.

Meanwhile, I'm a poet again. Over at the National Post, there's this.

Over and out.

01 April 2009

Today: Cigarettes launches in Toronto - and I haven't seen it yet!

OK, somewhere on the 401 is a truck containing three boxes of my new book, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, headed towards This Ain't the Rosedale Library. It will arrive. It will. But those colours up there, those are not the colours of my book cover.

The book contains 23 stories. Among those stories are "The President's Cold Legs," "Howie Tosses and Turns," "So Sue Me, You Talentless Fucker," "Shooting the Poodle," and "Language Lessons … with Simon and Marie!" It's a very strange book.

Anyway, tonight is the launch, hosted by my publisher, Freehand Books.

7:30 pm. Clinton's Tavern, 693 Bloor Street West (near the Christie subway).

I'll be reading from my new book of short stories for the first time. And there will also be readings by two dear friends and excellent writers: Heather Hogan and Steve Venright.

I hope that trucker's got some good tunes going.