17 January 2017

1,000 Bird Poems By Necakov: A PEN Fundraiser Marathon

Here's a thing I took on organizing that I didn't have time to take on organizing! But, hey, it's happening tomorrow, and while it feels like a bit of tightrope-walking, I think it's going to go great.

A fantastic lineup of readers — poets and others in the arts world — reading the 1,000 poems Lillian Necakov posted on Twitter during 2015-16. It's a remarkable work. And money raised is going to a remarkable cause.

Over and out.

03 January 2017

Finding support for writing

Last spring, I decided to create a Patreon campaign to find out if there were a few people on earth who admired my writing, and/or my literary activism over the past 35 or so years, and would be willing to support me in my endeavours on a monthly basis.

My hope was to have a modest bit of extra regular income to make things easier and give me more time to write. In exchange, I'd offer some perks: poetry leaflets and chapbooks, online readings and workshops. Plus a monthly writing challenge and exclusive peeks at various works in progress.

Since I left Toronto in 2010 and moved to Smalltown, Ontario, it's been tougher to get work (I'm not in Canada's publishing/writing centre and shmoozing all the time) and to get read (ditto).

I really wrestled with the idea of asking people to support me beyond buying my books. After all, most everyone I know is a writer, and many of them are struggling as well. But I considered my own contributions to the literary community: decades of organizing readings and other events, ten years (probably 600 or 700 volunteer hours) of the free Patchy Squirrel Lit-Serv, publishing mags and chapbooks at great cumulative expense, supporting others' events, mentoring, advising, literary matchmaking, some pro bono editing, and more.

So I figured I'd go for it. It's been an honour to discover nearly two dozen people have been willing to help me out with anywhere from a buck a month to $50 a month. It's taken some pressure off, and is likely one of the reasons I've had a pretty productive 2016.

I still welcome new supporters, and I'm open to hearing about the kinds of perks that might make such patronage feel worthwhile.

You can find my Patreon campaign right here.

Over and out.

01 January 2017

My New Year poem for 2017

I don't recall exactly when I started my practice of writing a poem on New Year's Day and sending it out to my correspondents. Maybe a couple decades ago? For the first bunch of years, the poem went out through Canada Post in leaflet form. Then I started sending it out by email.

What follows is this year's poem, written early this afternoon. I've rarely managed to get a poem done and delivered so early in the day. I was a little insecure about this one, so I put out a call on Facebook, asking if I could phone someone and do a test-run of it. First taker was Toronto musician Alan Gasser. I read him the poem and we had a good chat about it. Then Jay Miller, a writer who lives in Kingston, volunteered. He was with his friend Lucy, sitting in a car at an A&W waiting for fresh coffee to be made. I got a pretty good response from both of them, and then Lucy dug into her notebook and gave me a rapid-fire reading of a bunch of her poems. It was a nice exchange.

Here's my poem.


Yesterday the newspaper said one thing;
today it says something entirely different.
And all we did to make that happen
was sleep. Today, I looked in the mirror,
and I was unrecognizable! A meadowlark
with a broken wing. The news
is printed on paper while the meadow
is printed on lark, and we focus
our camera (a Filmo Sportster
manufactured 1947 by Bell & Howell)
on it as it zigzags into the air,
carrying just one thing under its bum wing:
a copy of Company, by Samuel Beckett
(published 1979 by John Calder). The pollsters
find that people want to hear seven words
from Company. The meadowlark, although
struggling to remain in flight, complies:
“girdle,” “inkling,” “confusion,” “vertex,”
“mountains,” “hitherto,” and “furthermore.”
Seven words of inspiration! Today
the people are frightened but
tomorrow they will rise up. Imagine
what might be possible! In 1702, when
this poem was written, the author
was put to death: an enemy of the state.
In crafting this translation, I have
striven to maintain the vitality
of the original. In this way, the frightened
people will rise up, probably tomorrow.
Imagine what might be possible!

Stuart Ross
1 January 2017

Conan Tobias, the publisher and editor of the Toronto-based litmag Taddle Creek, has recently made it a practice to have me read my New Year poem to him over the phone, and he then immediately posts it on the TC podcast site. So here I am reading my poem.

Wishing you fine New Year.

Over and out.

Toronto Poem

Over and out.