25 January 2014

Cobourg launch for Our Days in Vaudeville

I'm going to launch my new book of poetry, Our Days in Vaudeville (Mansfield Press), in Cobourg, which is where I live. The book is actually written by me and 29 other Canadian poets. Here I am reading a few poems about Cobourg.

I asked Richard Greene, who also lives in Cobourg and who is the 2010 winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry, if he wanted to launch his new book with me. His new book is Dante's House (Signal Editions). Richard said yes. He and I once went for beers together in Cobourg, which makes him one of my best Cobourg friends! Here's Richard winning the GG.

Then I asked local singer-songer Ellen Torrie if she'd like to open the evening with a musical set. Ellen said yes. I've seen her perform a few times around town, and she's amazing. What a voice. Plus she's a teenager, so she brings the average age of performers at the launch down to 41. Here is Ellen Torrie performing.

The launch will take place on February 3 at 7 pm at Impresario Artisan Market, at 37 King Street West in Cobourg. Admission is free. Impresario is one of my favourite places in Cobourg — a one-of-a-kind store with a gallery in the back space. Owner Rebecca Baptista is doing amazing things for the arts and literary community here in Cobourg! Here's Rebecca taking the Oath of Allegiance to Poetry.

If you are in Peterborough, Brighton, Durham Region, Belleville or Trenton, Cobourg is less than 60 minutes away by car! This is going to be a very fun night.

Over and out.

24 January 2014

"I am a sensitive manatee…"

So this past Monday I took part in a fundraiser at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto for the Al Purdy A-Frame. I read, along with Paul Vermeersch and Jim Smith.

The event was a great success. Lots of people. A respectable amount of money raised. A really good feeling in the room. And the great Karen Solie gave a short, unscheduled reading of two wonderful new poems, then announced the A-Frame's first resident poet, Katherine Leyton (who also read a few great poems).

Before the event, I spent many hours putting together a poem that would take me about two minutes to read. This video explains it all.

Over and out.

22 January 2014

Dave McFadden's dad, Bill, turns 100 today!

David McFadden's father is 100 years old today. Born the same year as Nicanor Parra, who is also still alive and vital down in Chile.

I've met William McFadden just three times, and all of them memorable: at the 70th-birthday Festschrift for his son Dave at Mansfield Press's office in October 2010; at the wedding of Dave to Merlin Homer; and at a small private launch party Mansfield threw in the Hamilton home of Gary Barwin and Beth Bromberg to celebrate Dave's 2013 book, Mother Died Last Summer, a journal of a 1992 trip to Europe he took with his dad a year after his mother died.

Bill wrote the introduction to that book. At age 99. And on a manual typewriter. That makes him the oldest writer I've ever worked with editorially! In this video, taken at the Hamilton gathering, Dave reads Bill's introduction to the guests (family, close friends, some local press, the Mansfield crew, the mayor of Hamilton, as well as writers Nelson Ball and Jim Smith), as Bill listens along.

I'll tell you — Bill is about as charming as they get! He is funny, sparkly-eyed, tender — and he also gave me excellent road directions when no one else in the car could figure out exactly where we were in Hamilton. In a booming voice, he also read to the launch guests a brief and lovely thank-you note that he drew from his the inner pocket of his jacket and carefully unfolded.

I wish William McFadden a very happy birthday! I understand it's a cake-and-ice-cream kinda day, with four generations of McFaddens congregating at his home.

So beautiful.

Over and out.

10 January 2014

Al Purdy A-Frame funder stars Smith, Vermeersch & me

Very pleased to be reading for a great cause in Toronto on January 20 — the Al Purdy A-Frame in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County, just a short drive from my home in Northumberland County. I'm joining two of my favourite poets — and two very good friends — Jim Smith and Paul Vermeersch. The funder, called Purdy Drinks, will also feature live music, plus the announcement of the first writers-in-residence at the A-Frame.

Over and out.

08 January 2014

Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith is one of my favourite prose writers of all time. The Ripley books of course — all five of them — but especially novels like Deep Water, This Sweet Sickness, The Cry of the Owl, People Who Knock at the Door, The Glass Cell, A Dog's Ransom, Found in the Street, The Tremor of Forgery. Every one of her novels is profound and harrowing. When I enter into them, I panic, become almost short of breath at times, but at the same time feel a kind of vertiginous comfort. Is that even possible?

She's one of the few novelists whose books I re-read. I'm a slow reader, and time is limited.

I'm less enthusiastic about her short stories, although the collection Eleven is one hit after another. What is so fantastic about Highsmith is becoming increasingly immersed in the heads of her protagonists, who are often murderous sociopaths, and the stories don't really last long enough for that dark pleasure to take place.

Here's a tiny still-photo documentary about Highsmith by Alexander Roman, with a wonderful voice-over of the author herself.

Over and out.

07 January 2014

A poet I admire reads some poems: Jim Smith

Here's my dear friend and poetry hero Jim Smith, in my messy study, reading some poems a few years ago. He's reading from Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems, which was his return to poetry after he ditched it for a decade to study and practice law. He's still a lawyer. But he's a poet again, too.

Over and out.

06 January 2014

Mansfield and I

I joined Mansfield Press in 2006, when Denis De Klerck asked me — as an experiment — to bring to the press a book or two to publish. He had read an essay of mine in Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer in which I implored some publisher — any publisher! — to make me poetry editor, or at least let me put a book through the press.

The first publisher to take me up on that, in 2002, was Bev Daurio, who then ran The Mercury Press. I brought her Mark Laba's first full-length poetry book, Dummy Spit. Which was hell to wrench out of Laba. I practically had to threaten him to get the poems from him. So Bev published that book, and it likely sold very few copies, but I think it's one of the most exciting, original books in Canadian poetry.

Anyway, a few years later, Denis at Mansfield was willing to experiment with me too. I'd bring him a book or two a year (and later a book or two a season), and we'd see how it goes. Eventually, I got my own imprint at Mansfield, "a stuart ross book."

Here are the books I brought to the press and edited, up until 2013. I'm proud of them all. (There are a couple books here I brought to Mansfield after I got my imprint, but they didn't fit what I'm doing with the imprint, so they are under the broader Mansfield umbrella, and I edited them jointly with Denis. I've marked them here with an asterisk. And Jason Heroux migrated to my imprint after his first book was published by Mansfield before I joined the press.)

Nelson Ball, In This Thin Rain (2012)
George Bowering, How I Wrote Certain of My Books (2011)
George Bowering, Teeth: Poems 2006-2011 (2013)
Stephen Brockwell, Complete Surprising Fragments of Improbable Books (2013)
Stephen Brockwell & Stuart Ross (eds.), Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Government (2010)
Alice Burdick, Flutter (2009)
Alice Burdick, Holler (2012)
Jason Camlot, What The World Said (2013)
*Sarah Dearing, The Art of Sufficient Conclusions (2012)
Paula Eisenstein, Flip Turn (2012)
Jaime Forsythe, Sympathy Loophole (2012)
*Sara Heinonen, Dear Leaves, I Miss You All (2013)
Jason Heroux, Emergency Hallelujah (2009)
Jason Heroux, Natural Capital (2012)
David W. McFadden, Be Calm, Honey (2009)
David W. McFadden, Mother Died Last Summer (2013)
David W. McFadden, What's The Score? (2012)
Leigh Nash, Goodbye, Ukulele (2010)
Lillian Necakov, The Bone Broker (2007)
Lillian Necakov, Hooligans (2011)
Peter Norman, At the Gates of the Theme Park (2011)
Peter Norman, Water Damage (2013)
Natasha Nuhanovic, Stray Dog Embassy (2010)
Catherine Owen & Joe Rosenblatt, with Karen Moe, Dog (2008)
Stuart Ross & 29 collaborators, Our Days in Vaudeville (2013)
Marko Sijan, Mongrel (2011)
Jim Smith, Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems (2010)
Jim Smith, Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra (2012)
Robert Earl Stewart, Campfire Radio Rhapsody (2011)
Robert Earl Stewart, Something Burned Along the Southern Border (2010)
Carey Toane, The Crystal Palace (2011)
Steve Venright, Floors of Enduring Beauty (2007)
Tom Walmsley, Dog Eat Rat (2009)

You can order any of these books through your local bookstore, through online booksellers, or direct from the press.

This spring, I'm shepherding new books by poets Gary Barwin, Dani Couture, and David W. McFadden through the press. I'm mighty grateful to Denis for giving me this amazing opportunity. And grateful to all the writers who have trusted me with their work.

Over and out.

01 January 2014

My 2014 New Year poem


For your information, when
you eat things they go into you.
I learned this last year.
This year, however,
I cannot write a poem. I just
can’t do it. My dog skids
around on the ice outside,
I’m bleeding the radiator
with fifty leeches, seismologists
curl at the foot of my bed,
episodes of F Troop are shot
in my living room, guppies
do tricks in the depths
of my teacup, plus:

confusion is the basic unit
of all living organisms. It has
been dubbed the building block
of life. A single confusion
divides to produce two daughter
confusions. Let’s pack a lunch,
pile into the station wagon
and sit in the driveway.

In closing, then:
Blank sheets of paper
scribble poems on me.
A lamp throws a shadow
into the wastebasket.
The radiance of the night
is just about endless.

Stuart Ross
Wednesday, January 1, 2014