18 November 2014

I, Thug, and a big year for publication

At last I am a Thug. This is my recent poetry chapbook from BookThug, In In My Dream. It's a crazy miscellany of poems, and Jay MillAr designed the cover. I am very pleased to have been published by one of Toronto's most exciting little presses, run by MillAr and Hazel Millar.

For a while there, it looked like I'd have six chapbooks out this year, but it's wound up to be three, which is not so bad at all. The other two are A Pretty Good Year, from Linda Crosfield's Nose in Book Publishing, in Ootischenia, B.C., and Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead, from Michael e. Casteels' Puddles of Sky Press, in Kingston.

Been a great year for magazine appearances too. It's the first year in centuries that I have made an effort to get stuff out there. I've had pieces appear (or set to appear this year) in Jubilat, Gargoyle, Fell Swoop, Event, Illiterature, Stone the Crows!, Cordite, and another place or two, I think.

I have a lot happening publishing-wise in 2015, and I'll tell you about that later.

Over and out.

17 November 2014

Happy 400th, Patchy Squirrel!

In late 2006, Toronto poet Dani Couture and I started up a weekly email blast called The Patchy Squirrel. Every week since then, Patchy has sent out detailed listings of literary events happening in Toronto — readings, launches, festivals, fairs, signings, workshops, courses. There would be no website containing the listings: you could only get them by subscribing, which was free, and a plain old texty email would land in your in-box at the start of each week, with listings going from the Tuesday to the following Monday.

Rising to prominence around the same era was Facebook, and this made us even more determined to stick with the old-fashioned email approach. Somehow Patchy has survived for 400 weeks — I sent out mailing #400 today. There are nearly 1,200 subscribers now: people who have asked to be the list and who are interested in literary events in Toronto. The vast majority of the listings come in from event organizers; this is sometimes supplemented by info Patchy finds elsewhere.

Dani worked with me for about a year and then moved on to other things. Eventually another Toronto poet, Carey Toane, joined me for Patchy, but soon she moved to Brooklyn and turned in her badge. I've been Patchy's sole operative since then. (Though Dani has subbed for me a few times when emergencies have arisen.) Patchy is thus named, by the way, because Toronto squirrels are brawlers. It's a tough city for a handsome tree-leaping rodent. But it's been exciting to see Patchy become almost a household word among Toronto literary people.

Now, I moved from Toronto to Cobourg in fall 2010 (with a few months' detour when I was writer-in-residence that season at Queen's University). Since then I've wrestled with the Patchy issue. I don't get a ton of feedback, and I don't get a ton of thanks. Each week, Patchy invites tips — donations — for her volunteer Operative. And occasionally Patchy does get a tip: some people are wonderfully generous and appreciative. And I'm sure there are also appreciative people who can't afford to make a contribution, and that's fine too. Anyway, when I lived in Toronto I went to an awful lot of literary events, and I organized an awful lot of them too. So doing Patchy from way over in Cobourg can be frustrating: I'm helping to publicize events that I will mostly miss. But I feel like I've made a commitment, and for the time being, I'll keep doing it. It usually takes an hour or two a week. Sometimes a little more. It's my contribution to a community that has been very good to me (except for a couple of weasels).

If you don't subscribe to Patchy Squirrel, and you'd like to, just drop a note to patchysquirrel [at] gmail [dot] com and put "Here, Patchy Patchy!" in the subject header. If you want to submit a listing, get it to Patchy by Saturday evening of the previous weekend. Put the event title and date in the subject header. In the body of the email, include: Event title; date & time; venue & address; admission cost; detailed description of event; contact info. No attachments allowed. Patchy reserves the right to edit for whatever reason.

A couple of other features of Patchy: Leaping to Future Branches: this is where Patchy lists upcoming workshops that ask for pre-registration. If you're sending in a listing for something that qualifies, please put "Future Branches" in the subject header. And then there's the Weekly Nutable, which I think was Dani's idea: a little squirrel-focused proverb to help guide readers through their week.

If you like Patchy, please consider making a contribution of any size. The encouragement is thoroughly appreciated. If you can't make a contribution, it's nice to just get a word of thanks, so Patchy knows people are using the weekly listings.

I wish Harbourfront would send in listings. And I wish the Art Bar series would send in listings so I don't have to go to their calendar every week. Sometimes this Operative just doesn't have the time or will to do that. If you know of any event organizers or literary fans who might not be acquainted with Patchy, please send them her way.

Over and out.

16 November 2014

Indie Literary Market inspires Toronto on November 22

We've got a helluva small-press extravaganza lined up for next Saturday (November 22) in Toronto. We being the Meet the Presses collective.

We're gathering togeher a wonderful, hand-picked selection of literary publishers and mags from Toronto, Ottawa, St. John's, Cobourg, Buffalo, Windsor, Erin, London, Hamilton, Victoria, Mt. Pleasant, Kingston and Hamilton. Not bad, huh?

Meet the Presses will also be handing out the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award, with a purse now doubled to $4,000, thanks to our anonymous donor. This award goes to the best poetry chapbook by a Canadian, published in Canada, as chosen by our judges Sandra Ridley and Kevin McPherson Eckhoff. The shortlist is:

Government: Jason Christie (above/ground)
Life Savings: Mat Laporte (Odourless)
pleasantries and other misdemeanours: Christine McNair (Apt. 9)
a fist made and then unmade: matt robinson (Gaspereau)
Oilywood: Christine Leclerc (Nomados)
X: Phil Hall (Thee Hellbox)

I'll be there for Proper Tales Press, with new chapbooks by Michael Dennis, Jason Heroux, and Oded Carmeli (the latter two if I get them done on time). It's Tales' 35th year in existence. I was hoping to have a big 35th birthday party, but I'm so goddamn busy this year I can barely breathe. Maybe I'll do a 36th birthday party next year. I've got forthcoming chapbooks lined up by Michelle Winters and Christine Miscione, but I think they'll be coming out in 2015.

Over and out.

13 November 2014

Ottawa Small Press Fair & all the stuff I bought there

The Ottawa Small Press Fair has been organized for the past two decades by the ubiquitous rob mclennan. For the 20th edition of the fair, he asked me to read at the eve-of-fair reading. He said he invited me because the Ottawa fair was inspired by the Toronto fair, which I co-founded with Nick Power in 1987. And also because my Proper Tales Press is 35 years old this year. Imagine that.

rob and I have had a roller-coastery relationship over the years, alternately dominated by admiration and irritation. But we're entering a pretty good phase. We've exchanged cordial emails over the past year, which is something. So he invited me and I accepted. It was a good night of readings, with strong, emphatic work by Frances Boyle, a moving poetic tribute to dear departed John Lavery by Anita Dolman, a fine, bold reading by a young writer named Jennifer Baker, and a crazed roof-raiser by Dave Currie, who thanked me because he first became interested in poetry as a high school student taking a workshop with me during the Ottawa International Writers Festival over a decade ago. The room upstairs at the divey Carleton Tavern was packed with poetry fans of all ages.

The next day was the book fair in a community centre off Elgin Street. As usual, attendance was middling, but sales were pretty good. It's a tough thing to promote an event that's been going on for 20 years. More signage leading to the venue might help, and maybe providing participating presses with electronic flyers they can email to all their local contacts. But I always have a good time: I meet a handful of cool new people and see lots of old friends. And I did come back with way more stuff than I'd planned to accumulate. Some of it bought, some of it nabbed from the freebie table, some of it foisted upon me.

Here's my score:

Jade Alyssa & Terry Trowbridge, Smiling Drunk Pufferfish (Grey Borders, 2014)
Cameron Anstee, Jeff Blackman, Justin Million, Rachael Simpson, jesslyn delia smith, Five (Apt. 9 Press, 2014)
Arc Poetry Magazine 75 (2014)
Jennifer Baker, Abject Lessons (above/ground press, 2014)
Eric Baus, The Rain of the Ice (above/ground press, 2013)
Catherine Brunet, Change in Their Pockets (phafours, 2014)
Michael e. Casteels, 3 chapters toward an epic (phafours, 2014)
Dave Currie, Bird Facts (Apt. 9 Press, 2014)
jwcurry, BeRzeRker hyPeRgRaPheR (Canadian Small Change Association, 2014)
jwcurry & Rachel Zavitz, tchts (CURVD H&Z, 2014)
Czandra, This Side Up (sitting duck & broken rules presses, 2011)
Amy Dennis, The Complement and Antagonist of Black (or, The Definition of All Visible Wavelengths) (above/ground press, 2013)
Anita Dolman, jwcurry's Map Drawers (above/ground press broadside, 2014)
John C. Goodman, Dark Age (Grey Borders, 2014)
Sanita Fejzic, The Union of 6 & 7 (phafours, 2014)
JM Francheteau, Tiger Shark (In/Words Broadsides, 2014)
Noah Eli Gordon (images by Sommer Browning), Fifteen Problems (above/ground press, no date)
Phil Hall, Eigner (Phafours, 2014)
inwords 13.1 (2014)
Marilyn Irwin, tiny (In/Words Press, 2014)
Marilyn Irwin, vagabonds (CURVD H&Z, 2013)
Nina Jane, Autumn Requiem (In/Words Broadsides, 2014)
Jennifer Kronovet, Semantic Analysis: Ways (above/ground press broadside, no date)
Sneha Madhavan-Reese, Some Things with Certainty (phafours, 2014)
rob mclennan, Acceptance Speech (phafours, 2014)
rob mclennan, The Un Certainty Principle (Chaudiere Books, 2014)
James Millhaven, As Well (Grey Borders, 2014)
bpNichol, Ballads of the Restless Are (CURVD H&Z, 2006)
Ikenna Onyegbula, If You Want to Love Me (In/Words Broadsides, 2014)
Rod Pederson, Obviously Obviously Not What It Seems (phafours, 2014)
Pearl Pirie, from the diaries of Semicolon (phafours, 2014)
Roland Prevost, Singular Plurals (Chaudiere Books, 2014)
Kate Schapira, The Motions (above/ground press, 2014)
Jessica Smith, Cicada Radio (phafours, 2014)
jesslyn delia smith, for ottawa. (In/Words Broadsides, 2014)
Touch the Donkey #1 (2014)
Touch the Donkey #3 (2014)

Over and out.

14 July 2014

Two — 2! — new chapbooks!

I have never had so much poetry accumulated without publishing it. So I've made a concerted push this year to place some chapbook manuscripts. I put out the word on the Evil Facebook that I had many chapbooks' worth of poems available. So far, that has resulted in two very different, and very beautiful poetry chapbooks.

First out was Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead, published by Michael e. Casteels' Puddles of Sky Press this past May. I met Michael in 2010 when I was writer in residence at Queen's University. Michael wasn't a Queen's student, but he came by my office nonetheless and we had several excellent sessions in which I tore his poetry to shreds. Thankfully, he put up with my crap. Like several of the writers I met in 529 Watson Hall that autumn, Michael became a friend and we see each other a few times a year. He's from just near Cobourg, where I live now.

Anyway, Michael was the first to respond to my call on Evil Facebook and I sent him a couple of little sequences. He took almost a whole hour to reject them. I thought that was pretty nervy. I had sent him a bunch of minimalist poems because he'd been publishing a lot of minimalist poems, but he told me, "I've been publishing a lot of minimalist poems, so I don't want more minimalist poems, you moron." Or something like that. I made him wait for a while, just out of spite, and then I sent him a miscellaneous batch of poems: list poems, prose poems, centos, all sorts of stuff. He accepted that manuscript. Michael does beautiful work, and takes a lot of care in designing the perfect format for each of the books he publishes. I'm really pleased with this hand-stitched chapbook. And I like that Michael was willing to do a miscellany. I can't recall when I last had a chapbook published by someone other than my own Proper Tales Press. Giddiness ensues.

You can order a copy of Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead right over here.

The next chapbook to come out, just a couple weeks ago, was A Pretty Good Year, a sequence of mostly haiku published by Linda Crosfield's Nose in Book Publishing. Linda lives in Ootischenia, B.C., just outside of Castlegar. I believe Linda and I met about seven years ago. I was doing a reading in nearby Nelson, and Linda was one of the local writers I read with. We became friends, and we are always sure to visit when I make my almost-annual trips to New Denver. Last year Linda and I read together, for the second time — and this time on the patio of the beautiful home she shares with her husband, Ted. It was an amazing event: about 20 people crowded into chairs, the sun just beginning to set, a cool breeze drifting across the property, the mountains a beautiful backdrop.

I had just the manuscript to send to Linda: a sequence of about 15 haikus (and one haiku + 1) that I wrote during the second half of 2013, while my partner, Laurie, was being treated for a life-threatening cancer. (Laurie's doing really well now, about six months after her last chemo.) It was a very tough period: I used to leave the hospital in Cobourg late at night and come down to the waterfront, which was always empty around midnight, and I'd compose a haiku in my head. Once Laurie was back home, I continued with the cathartic haiku-composing. On New Year's Day 2014, Laurie turned to me and said, "You know, all in all, 2013 was a pretty good year."

I'm thrilled with Linda's design for the book. Like Michael, she took a lot of care. It's a tiny book, appropriate for the tiny poems, and it just might be — for me — the most meaningful book I've published. You can order a copy of A Pretty Good Year from Linda right over here.

Over and out.

30 May 2014

Donkey Lopez performance and CD launch: at last

I better get some sleep. It's nearly 2 a.m. and my knee hurts still, it's been bugging me lately, and I haven't been sleeping enough. And I need energy for tomorrow night because tomorrow night Donkey Lopez finally has its first full performance.

Plus we're launching our first CD, Juan Lonely Night.

So there it is. I designed the packaging; Steve Lederman drew the donkey; Ray Dillard mixed and produced the ten crazy tracks, recorded live during three sessions in his Crush Studio in Barrie, Ontario.

We did a fourth session, but there was a definite shift in our sound with that one, so we decided to save those pieces for our second CD. Which will manifest itself very rapidly.

We play on Friday, May 30, at Arrayspace, 155 Walnut Street, in Toronto. At 8 p.m. Ten bucks gets you through the door.

Also on the bill: the fantastic poet Aisha Sasha John, performing with Bea Labikova (sax, fujara), Raphael Roter (percussion) and Michael Lynn (bass). What will they do? What will they be like? I have no idea.

This will be Donkey Lopez's third performance in front of an audience. The first was in March, at the tribute to Paul Dutton, where we did a nutsoid interpretation of Paul's text piece "This and That." The second was at a surprise 50th birthday party for Steve in early May. He didn't know he was coming to perform at his own party. We did two sets, and a total of four improvised pieces. Steve said he was in shock the whole time. Here we are at that event, in a restaurant on St. Clair West in Toronto. (Photo by the awesome Chloe Lederman.)

I wonder what it'll be like to perform improvised pieces onstage for an hour. I guess I'll find out soon enough. Ray says we should just treat it like we do our sessions in his studio. Only difference is that we won't have the ten- or fifteen-minute break between each piece while Ray does whatever it is he does with our recordings.

I better get some sleep.

Over and out.

25 April 2014

The Ape Play

The Ape Play has been an ongoing project for nearly a decade. I originally created it for Steve Venright's Dream Bazaar at the Cameron House, in Toronto, on December 8, 2004. I created this stupid little "puppet show" consisting of me brandishing stuffed toy apes while sitting with a badly made cardboard house on my knees. The house had a door and on the door was the number "179" — for my childhood home of 179 Pannahill Road in Toronto's Bathurst Manor area.

I believe another performance took place at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2005, as part of RM Vaughan's 40 Tiny Queer Performance. Each performer was given one minute to do their thing.

The Ape Play went over pretty well. By 2008, it had expanded to an impressive two minutes. That meant I had to tape two minutes' worth of monologue to the roof of the house on my knees, because I can't memorize things. I performed this version in Ottawa and Calgary. Perhaps elsewhere. In Calgary, I accidentally left the Ape House in the bar where the performance took place, and all the little stuffed toy apes along with it. I had to build a new Ape House. It was identical to the original Ape House.

For the Meet the Presses All-Star Non-Stop Indie Lit Variety Show, held in spring 2013 at the Supermarket, I created a six-minute version of The Ape Play. Imagine that. I believe there is a video of that performance, but I've never seen it.

I soon began working on what I thought at first would be a 30-minute version, which I hoped to cram into Summerworks or some similar festival, but it turned out to be the beginning of a novel, which is still in progress.

When Ottawa director Fraser MacKinnon wrote me a few months ago, asking to adapt two of my pieces from Buying Cigarettes for the Dog for his stage anthology show Sans Sense, one of those pieces was The Ape Play. I told him it wouldn't be possible, though I didn't tell him why. But I felt proprietary about that piece, and it had become six times longer since the version he was looking at, and it was gradually morphing into a novel. Fraser chose two other stories from the book to adapt.

Earlier this week, I gave a reading at Lillian Necakov's Boneshaker Reading Series, at the St. Clair/Silverthorn branch of the Toronto Public Library. The readings take place in a tiny room, a room that happens also to house a bunch of puppetry equipments. The series usually attracts a modest audience of about a dozen to twenty people. I thought it would be a nice, intimate setting for the six-minute version of The Ape Play.

Here, then, is that performance:

Over and out.