28 March 2014

The first review of Our Days in Vaudeville

Here is the first review of Our Days in Vaudeville, appearing on rob mclennan's blog in early January. Who knows — it may wind up being the only review of Our Days in Vaudeville. So kudos to rob for taking on this project! rob does a fascinating inventory of other poetry collaborations in this country — some realized and some that never saw print.

One quick correction to this review: the poems in the book are not from the past couple of years — there are collaborations with Gary Barwin that date back about two decades. I'd say most of the pieces in the book, though, are from the past five or six years, though I admittedly did a mad burst of collaborations in the year leading up to publication.

It baffles me that collaborations aren't taken more seriously. I agree with rob that literary collaboration is largely viewed as a "parlour trick." Is it because they're, well, more fun to write? I'm curious to see if Our Days in Vaudeville gets any more reviews — every one of my previous books of poetry have received at least four or five reviews.

I'm immensely proud of Our Days in Vaudeville. I'm proud of my collaborators for agreeing to appear in such a strange book. I hope to do more volumes of collaborative poems.

Meanwhile, this Sunday, I'm leading a daylong workshop in Toronto on collaborative poetry. Trying to spread the gospel.

Over and out.

19 March 2014

In Collaboration: A Workshop

Here's the goods on a workshop I'm offering in Toronto on March 30. There are still some spaces available.


Sunday, March 30, 10 am – 5 pm (45-minute lunch break)
Christie/Dupont area
$95 includes materials and snacks
Spaces are limited: register now by prepaying. Write razovsky@gmail.com.

My latest book, Our Days In Vaudeville, contains poems written in collaboration with 29 other Canadian poets. Writing it was an exhilarating experience, because collaboration means taking part in poems that you could never have written on your own — and becoming part of a fused consciousness!

In this workshop, we will explore at least a dozen different methods of collaboration. We will write in pairs, as a group, and we will even learn how to collaborate with ourselves. This promises to be a lively day in which you may cooperate in one poem, and then do battle in another — but it is also a day in which you have total license to experiment and explore.


"Atmosphere is generous, open, light-hearted — great workshop! And a wonderful way to spend a Sunday."

"Really good at sparking off ideas and learning techniques for generating new poems and moving forward."

"The atmosphere was completely relaxed & enjoyable, yet completely focused on the activities. Really enjoyed it & found it extremely informative."

"Permission to experiment, acceptance, support. Thank you for an inspiring day — much appreciated."

"Great fun. Great atmosphere. Thought-provoking."

"An excellent assembly of techniques & lots of time to try them…"

"Constant writing — generating a lot of new material. Strategies that incite me to turn things upside down."


Stuart Ross is a writer, editor, and writing coach who has been leading workshops for two decades across the country. His most recent books include Our Days In Vaudeville (w/ 29 collaborators; Mansfield Press, 2013), You Exist. Details Follow. (Anvil Press 2012) and Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew (ECW Press, 2011).

Stuart has been shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award, the Alberta Book Award, and three times for the ReLit Prize; his story collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog (Freehand Books, 2009) won him the coveted ReLit ring in 2010, and his novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew took the Mona Elaine Adilman Award for Fiction on a Jewish Theme as part of the prestigious J.I. Segal Awards. In 2013, his poetry book You Exist. Details Follow. received the only prize given to an Anglo writer by l’Académie Litteraire au Tournant du 21e Siècle.

Stuart was Fiction & Poetry Editor at This Magazine for eight years, and is editor at Mansfield Press, where he has his own imprint. Books he has edited have been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize (twice!), the Governor General’s Award, the Toronto Book Award, the Trillium Book Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. He was editor of David McFadden’s What’s The Score?, which won the 2013 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize. Stuart lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

Over and out.

18 March 2014

Further Confessions … but first some chapbooks and a couple of south-of-the-border mags

Look for something called something like Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer coming out in spring 2015. The contract is not signed yet. But details follow when it is. Further Confessions (or whatever it'll be called) is a book I've been both dreading and eager for.

In the meantime, I so far have four chapbooks scheduled to come out this year in Canada, and I'm really excited about them — from Jay MillAr's BookThug (Toronto), Linda Crosfield's Nose in Book Publishing (Ootischenia, BC), Warren Dean Fulton's Pooka Press (Vancouver), and Michael Casteels' Puddles of Sky Press (Kingston).

The BookThug and Puddles of Sky chapbooks will be miscellaneous collections; the Nose in Book chapbook will be a sequence of haiku (plus one non-haiku); the Pooka Press chapbook will be two 10-poem sequences.

It'd be nice to see six chapbooks happen in 2014. Any takers, apply within.

Also this year, I have poems appearing in two of my absolute favourite American literary magazines: Gargoyle and Jubilat. A dream come true. One poem in each.

Over and out.

06 March 2014

The birth of Donkey Lopez

I was on FB a couple months ago and someone had written as their status update, "If I had a band, it would be called—" Well, I don't remember who it was or what their band would be called. But I wrote a new status update: "If I had a band, it would be called Donkey Lopez."

Within a few hours, my musician friend Steve Lederman, aka Gongadin, wrote to me and told me he had enlisted his friend and percussion mentor Ray Dillard, and we three were now the trio Donkey Lopez. Could we get together and rehearse in the next week or two?

I met Steve in the early 1990s, when a band called the Angry Shoppers were scheduled to appear on some cable TV variety show, and their lead singer and guitarist had just quit. The band's horn player, Rick Bordolotti, who I knew through my friend Kevin Connolly, asked me if I would front the band for this TV appearance. We got together for a couple of rehearsals, during which I adapted four of my poems to their music — or perhaps they adapted four of their tunes to my poems — and then we went on the show. It worked out pretty well. The drummer was a guy named Steve Lederman. Our rehearsals took place in the basement of his parents' house. Steve reminded me recently that I had arrived at the house, looked around, and said it looked like a place my mother, Shirley, who was an interior decorator, might have decorated. Well, it turned out my mother had done the interior decorating there, and she and Steve's mom, Marilyn, were good friends.

The Angry Shoppers never performed again, in whatever form, but Steve and I continued to work together sporadically, doing an improvisational duo at the El Mocambo, recording a bit in Steve's attic, and then working a couple times with bassoon player Jeff Burke, guitarist Andrew Frost, and dancer Norma Araiza for a festival called Figure of Speech.

It was at Steve and Jessica's son's bar mitzvah last year that I was seated with Ray Dillard, and we talked music, and sound poetry, and eventually, when Steve came around to shake hands at all the guests' tables, he decided that he, Ray and I should play together someday. Here's Ray performing a couple movements of John Cage's 4.33.

So it came to be, and we've had a couple of improvisational jam sessions in Ray's basement in Barrie, Ontario. When I was invited to take part in a tribute to my dear friend Paul Dutton, one of the world's foremost sound-singers (he doesn't like the term "sound poet"), I thought that maybe this could be Donkey Lopez's public debut.

For the performance at A Tribute To Paul Dutton At 70, which brought together about 20 sound and literary artists at The Supermarket in downtown Toronto on March 4, and about which I'll write more another time, we did a trio rendition of Paul Dutton's prose text "This and That."

It was a fast and frenetic interpretation. As soon as it was over, I had almost no memory of what we'd done. I did recall, though, that about a minute into it, I blacked out for a split second, regaining consciousness to feel myself falling backward before recovering and continuing. I better work on my breathing.

This is that performance:

We have another engagement scheduled for Toronto at the end of May — an hour-long performance about which I'm far less nervous. We might even get a quick-and-dirty CD ready for that. Ray records all our jams, and instantly engineers them after we complete each improvised piece, then sends them to Steve and me via Dropbox later that night. Those guys tend to love everything we do, while I mutter critically about many of my own contributions and suffer from impostor syndrome.

Over and out.