31 March 2010

David W. McFadden's Collected Long Poems

In 2007, I had the thrill and honour of editing Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden for Insomniac Press. There I was, working on a Selected with the guy whose poetry changed it all for me when I stumbled on one of his books in a library at around age 15. Why Are You So Sad? was shortlisted for the Canadian Griffin Prize for Poetry.

Then in 2008, it was just as exciting working with Dave on a new collection of sonnets for Mansfield Press, where I'm the poetry editor. The book was brilliantly titled Be Calm, Honey. It got shortlisted for a Governor General's Award, McFadden's third such nod.

This past year I worked with Dave on the companion volume to the Insomniac Seletected. This one is called Why Are You So Long and Sweet? Collected Long Poems of David W. McFadden. It's a brilliant, insane, eclectic book. And, as with the previous two books, I learned a huge amount working with Dave, watching his revisions to poems he wrote years ago.

Here's the cover, featuring a very young Dave (photo by his father, William).

The book launches in Toronto on May 11, at the Magpie.

I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with my Canadian poetry hero three times. So far.

Over and out.

26 March 2010

Alberta, Jim, Memoir


The voting for the Alberta Readers Choice Award continues until April 30. If you like my book Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, you can vote for it right here. Every day. I'd be very grateful. Going to post another story from the book in the next few days.


Jim Smith is one of my literary heroes. I don't think there's anyone in North America doing what he does in poetry. His work is complex, accessible, visceral, funny, political, personal. You can read a nice little interview with him right here. And then go out and buy his new book, Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems. I'm thrilled that Jim is back in the literary world after a decade-long absence. In Toronto, you can find it at This Ain't the Rosedale Library. Perhaps at some other indie bookstores. If you can't find it via that route, you can order a copy direct from Mansfield Press.


Still a couple of spots available in my memoir-writing workshop tomorrow in Port Hope, at Furby House Books. Noon till five, $60, lots of fun. Let me know if you wanna get in on it. Details in the previous posting.

Over and out.

20 March 2010

Memoir workshop in Port Hope

Next Saturday, I'm leading a memoir-writing workshop in Port Hope, just an hour outside of Toronto. Here are the details:

Saturday, March 27, Noon - 5 pm
Furby House Books (upstairs), 65 Walton St., Port Hope

In this relaxed and enjoyable workshop for both beginning and published writers, we’ll explore the forms and possibilities of memoir and the personal essay. We’ll look at memoir through fiction, poetry, letters, the postcard essay, and other forms. We’ll tap into secrets, lies, and dreams. We’ll also discuss some exciting questions: Who am I writing for? What’s worth writing about? Do I have to tell the truth? Is this paragraph any good? Could I publish this?

To register, email hardscrabble@bell.net

Over and out.

15 March 2010

A City, Some Rain (and please vote for my book!)

My short-story collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog (Freehand Books, 2009) is one of five finalists for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award. Now the public votes. Daily, even. Here's the link to vote.

Below is the second in a series of excerpts from the collection. "A City, Some Rain" was originally commissioned by ArtSpeak, a Vancouver art gallery that was looking for something text-driven to accompany their Toni Latour catalogue. Toni does a lot of performance stuff in which she imitates critters, so I thought I'd explore critterdom



At the bus stop, in the misty rain, early in the morning, a chill wind skidding along the sidewalk, a tussle broke out in the queue. Bob was fighting his way to the front, to the gaping door of the bus. Inside the bus, nearly spilling down the few steps towards the door, were more and more of the lumpy bipeds, some with large suitcases clutched in their right hands, hands that barely poked out of glistening plastic rain sleeves. “Let me to the front,” urged Bob. “I am the numbat, the banded anteater.” He pushed forward, but was shoved back, and curses rose from the small cluster of bipeds gathered round the open door of the bus. “For god’s sake,” cried Bob, “I have fifty-two teeth — no other land mammal has fifty-two teeth! I have a tooth for every card in the deck!” One of those queuing broke free from the mass and got a foot onto the first step in the bus. The cold rain began to pelt harder. Bob was certain he could hear each individual drop hit its target. “My ears are prominent!” he shouted. “I eat termites!” In the back of the bus, the silent back of the bus, oblivious to the commotion outside, another biped stood, making herself as thin as possible in the crush of her fellows, one hand gripping an overhead rail, the other holding a paperback book just inches from her gently quivering snout. In the book, the tip of a sword cut swiftly through the laces of a corset. Passion would ensue, as it always did. All was calm in the back of the bus, the rain streaming along the windows in soothing rivulets.


Sarah lay on her back in bed, listening to the rain pummel the skylight above her, watching the ectoplasmic shadows the rivulets threw onto the walls of her bedroom. Beside her lay another biped, unshaven and childless, mucus fluttering in his nostrils with every sleep-breath. Sarah rose towards the ceiling, into the darkness, and began to glide through the treetops, sniffing out the nests of birds. I am an egg-eating snake, she thought. I produce no venom. Each time she slithered to a nest held high in the branches, she swallowed the eggs whole. They passed through her mouth and were ruptured by a row of teeth that descended from the roof of her throat, and she swallowed the contents. As for the shells, she compacted these within, and launched the ivory balls out through her mouth. Good god, I’m efficient, she thought. I can only marvel at myself. She shifted, pulling the covers more tightly around her shoulders and off the hirsute figure that lay at her side. It felt like years since she had crawled into bed beside him, years since the glass had smashed against the wall in her living-room.


The water rushed along the gutter towards the drain, washing over Henry’s face. He was motionless, remorseful, lying in the street on his side. A tie was knotted loosely around his neck and his shirt was unbuttoned partway down his chest. He was only dimly aware that it was cold in the gutter, that his dark hair waved like seaweed in the flowing stream. His skull throbbed. Two passing bipeds stopped and knelt to lift Henry out of the water. “A remora,” one of them said. “His dorsal fin has become an enormous oval sucker. He’s travelled the warmest seas on the planet, fastened to the undersides of larger host fishes. He is kind, considerate, grateful. He doesn’t give his host any trouble, but occasionally disengages to eat other fish. This one’s big — they’re rarely longer than a metre.” Henry began to cough, and water dribbled from the corner of his mouth. Back at his house, Tammy sat shivering in the dark at the kitchen table, her eyes on the clock, a mug of cold coffee in her hand. She knew she shouldn’t have left the party early. The doorbell rang, and Henry’s gerbil ran faster on its little wheel.


It was so goddamn early in the morning, and Luc couldn’t remember if he’d just arrived at work or still hadn’t left from the night before. He sat at his desk, his sleeves rolled up, listening to the rain play on the window behind him. A phone rang on his desk. He looked at it, lifted the receiver, paused, then placed it back in its cradle. He peered across his office to the opposite wall, where years ago he’d hung a large acrylic painting of a startled bear in a dark forest. Luc longed to take shelter behind the painting, in the little crevice between the picture frame and the canvas. Or perhaps up there, by the ceiling, behind the curl of peeling wallpaper. He picked up a pen and slid a pad of sticky memo sheets towards him. I am a tiny black thrip, he printed carefully. I flutter my narrow fringed wings and suddenly I am in your hair, in your eyes. Winter approaches, and I shall hibernate in your house, in any available crevice. Luc leaned towards the potted plant on the far corner of his desk and sucked of its juice. A wrecking ball crashed through the window behind him, and Luc flew from his brown leather chair.


A colourful blur of bipeds pressed by in both directions, some holding soaked newspapers over their heads, others wielding umbrellas or tugging hoods low on their creased brows. Sheltered from the clamour, in the doorway of a boarded-up shop, Lisa stood with her eyes nearly closed, her hands hanging loosely at her sides. Her mottled, brownish-black coat glistened. “I’m not used to this,” she murmured. “I long again to scuttle through the hot desert, where chuckwallas belong.” She closed her eyes and became aware of her breath. “A plump lizard, I inflate my body with air and thus am wedged between these rocks. I cannot be dislodged. I cannot be dislodged.” A taxi skidded to a halt at the curb opposite her, and a face appeared at the back window, squinting through the pedestrian traffic. “Lisa? Is that you? The guy on TV said —” “I cannot be dislodged.” The rain fell harder now, splashing up from the sidewalk like fireworks, and Lisa felt safe, felt cleansed.

Copyright © 2009 by Stuart Ross

14 March 2010

Alberta Readers' Choice Award: voting starts March 15!

I don't know how the voting is going to work. But Buying Cigarettes for the Dog is in the shortlist of 5, culled from a total of 225 books published in Alberta last year.

If you feel like voting for my book, I'd be mighty grateful. Unless there's another book on the list you'd prefer to vote for.

Here's the website. I assume instructions for how Albertans can vote will be posted in the morning.

Other stuff has been happening. Tons of it. The Rogue Stimulus launch tour. A trip to NYC. More on those later.

Over and out.