29 May 2011

Jewish Toronto, John Lavery, and poem-mutation

Amy Lavender Harris is writer-in-residence at Open Book Toronto this month and she's written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece around my novel, Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew. I like this bit, where she explains the book's title:

And this is the problem at the centre of Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, whose title alludes to three pivotal circumstances that seem to define its protagonist's life. His mother, a young child growing up in pre-War Toronto, pelted with snowballs for being a Jew and eventually seeking vengeance; her son, trembling and terrified of a dragonfly that lands on his knee, his flight seeming to foreshadow a life of passivity and retreat; and the question of his own Jewishness, summed up in an essay written for school, in which Ben writes, "you really have to struggle to be Jewish so you really believe in it."

She talks also about "Holocaust envy" and about other Jewish Toronto books. Always, I am grateful when people spend time thinking about my writing.


On Sunday I'm headed to Ottawa for a memorial tribute to John Lavery, who died earlier this month after, as they say, a long battle with cancer. It's still a strange feeling to wake up in the morning and remember that John is no longer in this world, though he's certainly in the thoughts of so many people. The tribute takes place from 4 to 6 pm at the Manx Pub on Elgin Street, and will be hosted by Ottawa poet David O'Meara. Many of John's colleagues will be there to read from his works, and say a few words about him.


On Saturday, I ran my first writing workshop in Cobourg. A half-dozen of us crammed into a tiny study room in the Cobourg Public Library for a new session I called Walking The Poem. It was a great and eclectic group, with three Cobourgers and two people who drove in from Kingston. I got a lot of writing done, and so did they, and along the way we tried out some really fascinating approaches to poem-mutation.

Over and out.

25 May 2011

The night of 1 million events

Headed into Toronto yesterday to meet with some friends and to catch some evening literary events.

It was a crazy night. Leigh Nash and Ken Sparling were reading in Lillian Necakov's great Boneshaker Reading Series at the St. Clair/Silverthorn Library; Elyse Friedman, Pasha Malla, Michael Winter and Julie Booker were reading short fiction at an Anansi event at Sneaky Dee's; Rachel Zolf was reading at the usually bland and open-mic-plagued Art Bar Reading Series at Clinton's; Paul Vermeersch was hosting the Insomniac Spring launch at Magpie, featuring old friend Stan Rogal, new friend Mike Spry, and a poet named Sam Cheuk; and Jay MillAr's BookThug was launching about three hundred new titles at The Supermarket in Kensington Market.

I had hoped to get to four of the events, and then whittled my aspirations down to three, and wound up making it to two.

Saw lots of great people and one fuckin' dink.

Here are the books I wound up buying yesterday evening:

Dance, Monster!, by Stan Rogal (Insomniac)
Distillery Songs, by Mike Spry (Insomniac)
The Obvious Flap, by Gary Barwin & Gregory Betts (BookThug)
Killdeer, by Phil Hall (BookThug)
I Can Say Interpellation, by Stephen Cain & Clelia Scala (BookThug)
The Coming Envelope Issue 3, edited by Malcolm Sutton (BookThug)
Instructions for Pen and Ink, by Edward Nixon (Cactus Press)

Here are the inscriptions that appear in the books, censored to protect the signers:

"Over all the years, thanks pal!"

"I can say…thank you & best wishes. With admiration"

"With grateful thanks (there is no shuttle bus)"


"Without your support of [censored], I don't think this would have made it into print. Thank you so, so much."

"the osteo pathic flipper thanks Stuart!"

"Thanks for coming to the Launch. All best [censored] with admiration."

"[a drawing of what appears to be a hand poking out of a long sleeve and perhaps with a bullet hole or nail hole in the palm]"

Over and out.

20 May 2011

WALKING THE POEM: A poetry workshop in Cobourg

I'm taking the plunge and leading my first workshop in Cobourg. It's a new workshop, with elements of the Poetry Boot Camp, but an opportunity to dig deeper in the poems and see what can be done with them through various writing strategies.

Saturday, May 28, 1-4 pm
Cobourg Public Library, 200 Ontario Street
Group Study Room (2nd floor)

Stuart Ross leads a relaxed, supportive workshop for poets at all levels, focusing on creating new work and exploring the possibilities of your own texts.

$45 registration required. Write hardscrabble@bell.net

Please pass it on to anyone in the Durham or Northumberland area. Thanks!

Over and out.

08 May 2011

Good night, John Lavery.

31 December 1949 – 8 May 2011

"learn to live without, learn to live within"

06 May 2011

New venue for ECW launch party next week!

OK, so mere hours after the ECW Spring Literary Party was announced a few weeks back, the venue closed down. The party was quickly relocated, over to the brilliantly named No One Writes to the Colonel (I guess they didn't want the word Cholera in their name) on College Street.

Have I already griped enough about getting to read for only three minutes? Probably not. Don't forget, for a modest fee I will also come and do a reading in your living room.

Here's the updated poster for the launch of my novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, plus books by several other esteemed writers who ECW is publishing this season:

Over and out.

05 May 2011

A Renga for Japan

I recently took part in an intriguing project. Twenty-seven poets were asked to contribute towards a renga to show support for the people of Japan and to raise money for Second Harvest Japan.

The project was coordinated by Sachiko Murakami, a member of the Toronto to Japan collective, a fine poet, and a host of the Pivot Readings at the Press Club series in Toronto.

After the renga was completed (I wrote the penultimate lines, and Larissa Lai finished the poem), Sachiko did the almost-impossible and got each contributor to submit a video reading of her/his lines. Here is the result, including lines by Paul Vermeersch, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Carey Toane, Jake Mooney, and many others. It's called Another Spring: A Renga for Japan:

To support Second Harvest Japan, you can buy a broadside of the entire poem. The broadside was designed and produced by The Emergency Response Unit, Leigh Nash and Andrew Faulkner's wonderful small-press publishing house.

Here's the info.

Over and out.