April 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My second-ever Cobourg launch happens tomorrow, April 24, at 7 pm at the Human Bean. Once again, awesome singer-songwriter Shannon Siblock kicks off the festivities. I’ll be reading from my new book, You Exist. Details Follow., which has a heap of poems about Cobourg. I’ll read some of those, plus some other stuff, and books will be on sale.
With my last book, the novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, we packed the joint. Hoping for a similar happening tomorrow. I’ve already launched the new poetry book in Paris (Ontario), Toronto, Kingston, and Ottawa. Next weekend I launch in Vancouver, the home of my publisher, Anvil Press.
The book is in stock now at King Street Books as well.
Cobourg is feeling more and more like home to me. In all respects, except when it comes to literary community. Just haven’t managed to find my place here yet. Or to make a place I can fit into. I’ll get to that one of these days. Hopefully this launch will help it happen.
October 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
On October 1, I read with Peter Norman at the AB Series in Ottawa. The venue was Gallery 101, and the host was Max Middle. I read for the first time from my poetry chapbook Cobourg Variations. For this piece, I sort of rip off David W. McFadden’s poem “37 Lines About Horses.”
October 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m getting used to this thing of living in a town where only occasionally do interesting artistic things occur publicly. And then you really embrace them.
Tonight, the music/poetry/video performance troupe Zorras is appearing at Cathy Thomson’s amazing and tiny gallery, 22 Kings, at 22 King Street East. Cathy opened up just a couple months ago, but she’s already enriched this town immensely.
I hooked her up with my friend Sandra Alland, of Zorras, when I heard Zorras were coming from Scotland to do an Ontario/Quebec tour. I joined Zorras on the road for their Kingston gig at the Artel on Tuesday evening, and though I’d seen Zorras on video and heard Zorras on CD, I’d never experienced them live. They were fantastic. Personable, talented, spontaneous, and crowd-pleasing.
Here’s a little email interview I conducted with Sandra this week. Looking forward to tonight’s show! It starts at 8 pm. Previous to the show, Cathy is opening a really amazing photography exhibition by local artist Gary Mulcahey, at 7 pm.
Who is/are/am Zorras?
Zorras make poetry-music-video-weirdness fusion. With megaphones. Zorras are Sandra Alland (me) and Y. Josephine. Sometimes we also collaborate with Ariadna Battich. I compose and read/perform the poetry (and a few stories), and create most of the video work. Y composes the music; she also sings and plays guitar, electric bass and percussion. Ariadna makes some of our videos and assists with technical details.
Tell me about the genesis of Zorras.
Zorras formed in late 2007 in Edinburgh. Basically Y and I saw each other perform at an event and really dug what the other was doing. In December we met in a bookshop to rehearse, and had our first performance at Edinburgh’s Forest Cafe in January. At the beginning, we had the impulse to collaborate but little idea of exactly what we wanted to create. Surprisingly, though, we set the groundwork for our style quite early on. Over the years we’ve worked on better combining different media, so that now we’re creating work that’s more integrated.
How has Zorras enjoyed its Canadian tour so far: Toronto, St. Catharines, Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa…
We have loved every minute of the tour so far. Grey Borders is a wonderful poetry series in St. Catharines at the Niagara Artists Centre — which is a gorgeous gallery with great tech and a lovely staff. We were fortunate enough to read with Aisha Sasha John, Shannon Maguire and Camille Martin. And we were piped in!
Toronto highlights include The Art Bar (after which some amazing guy ran down the street after us and handed us money), Inglenook High School (what a dream school), a secret patio concert with lovely old friends, the ever-fabulous Toronto Women’s Bookstore… and the amazing LAL, who came through for us with their beautiful space when The Ossington kicked out Toronto New School of Writing for a higher-paying customer. Rosina and Murr of LAL also joined us for one of our pieces, which was a huge honour. I also got to teach at Influency at U of T (Margaret Christakos’class). That was my first real experience of having my work studied, wow.
In Montreal we played Casa del Popolo thanks to VInce Tinguely… and the sizzling Gord Disley joined us onstage for one piece (he will again in Ottawa, ye-haw). Last night in Kingston was grand; Artel has another to-die-for space with a huge screen and excellent sound. The audience was small, but a downright dreamy group of people who we wouldn’t trade for a full stadium.
In short, we have been spoiled. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones, getting to experience some new work from old and new colleagues too. Next we rock Cobourg, then Ottawa.
Why Zorras in Cobourg?
Zorras in Cobourg because it’s a pretty cool town. It has bookshops, art galleries, a whole lot of artists and writers, at least one punk band, several tattoo shops, good coffee, a drive-in, a beach, many poodles, and Stuart Ross. And my lovely parents!
We’re really grateful to Cathy Thomson of 22 Kings Gallery for putting us up. And we get to perform near the works of Gary Mulcahey.
What does the future hold for Zorras?
We’re performing at Birmingham SHOUT in November, hosted by Amy Lame. I also have a photography/film/zine exhibition at Midlands Art Centre (Birmingham) for the month of November, in collaboration with the LGBTI Disabled & Deaf artists’ collective “b)other”. Then Zorras run off to Liverpool to perform at Homotopia. Then we sleep for a month. When we wake up, we call Ariadna and plan our intermedia performance/gallery installation for spring 2012 in Edinburgh.
Why, thank you, Zorras. And Hello, Cobourg.
August 10, 2011 § 2 Comments
So I took a very big step: I’m going to have a tent (!!!) at the Port Hope Farmer’s Market Arts Festival this Saturday (August 13). I assume that most of the vendors there will be visual artists, craftspeople, soap-makers and so on. But they let me in as a writer.
My girlfriend bought me a 10-foot-by-10-foot gazebo, her parents loaned me a table, and I’ve been working like crazy on a chapbook of poetry called Cobourg Variations (groany nod to J. S. Bach) so I’ll have something unarguably local to sell. Beyond that, I’ll have my books of poetry and fiction and essays, and a couple of my magazines (including HARDSCRABBLE, named for Cobourg’s 19th-century nickname), and some other chapbooks I’ve published through my Proper Tales Press.
I’ll have my recent novel, Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew (which just got a great review on Free Range Reading!) and my less-recent book of short stories, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. I’ll have copies of my poetry collections I Cut My Finger and Razovsky at Peace, and of my book of rants, Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer. Oh, and the anthology I edited with Stephen Brockwell last year, Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament.
I’ll have some propaganda: pamphlets promoting my writing-coaching services, and maybe flyers for a local poetry workshop I can organize in the next 48 hours. And a sheet for people to add their emails for my long-promised Cobourg reading series!
The festival runs from 9 am till 3 pm, and I expect to sell just about nothing. But it’s all part of my program of integrating myself further into my new home. The new chapbook contains six or seven full-length poems and six haiku, all about Cobourg, most written over the past week or so. I’m also throwing in my column from sub-Terrain, “The Terrors of Tiny Town.” I’m doing everything I can to alienate myself from the very community I’m trying to integrate myself into!
But I don’t care if I don’t sell any books. It’ll be fun. And I’ve never had my own gazebo before. My friend Laura, a great visual artist (Laurajean, Laurajean) who works occasionally at King Street Books, said she’ll help me put up the gazebo.
And then I’ll sit there. What will happen? I don’t really know.
Most likely I’ll watch as people selling twig reindeer and Jell-O birdhouses make millions. I don’t know how those Jell-O birdhouses work. Don’t the birds get stuck to the inside walls?
July 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
So a couple of weeks ago I got an email from James Pickersgill. James is a one-man poetry machine here in Cobourg. He’s involved in the Third Thursday Reading Series at Meet at Meet at Meet at 66 King Street East; he runs a weekend poetry festival in the spring; he puts out a serial poetry leaflet almost weekly that has so far published 7,587 poets from Cobourg and the rest of Planet Earth. It has an issue numbering system that my Grade 10 math doesn’t allow me to understand.
Anyway, his email: my name came up in the nomination process for Cobourg’s third-ever poet laureate. Same thing happened last year. I declined to be considered last year, just as I declined this year.
Cobourg’s first poet laureate was Eric Winter. He was poet laureate for ten years. The next poet laureate was Jill Battson. Jill left her four-year term early when she ducked out of the ‘Bourg after a brief residency here.
How come James Pickersgill isn’t poet laureate? He does an awful lot here in the name of poetry. Or Wally Keeler, of the People’s Republic of Poetry, who once spray-painted “Poetry is Poetency” on every dog in Cobourg? Or how about Richard Greene, who was this year’s winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry?
I realize that Town Council is paralyzed until a new laureate is appointed. Cobourg has ground to a halt. As the “‘go to’ place for poetry,” one where no one seems to buy poetry books from the local bookstores, my adopted town just can’t get up in the morning these days.
I could’ve been a contender. But I chose not to be:
Thanks for the note. It’s very encouraging that my name was put forward again for position of Cobourg’s poet laureate. As was the case last time, I don’t feel I know Cobourg well enough yet, or that Cobourg knows me well enough, for me to take the position. Again, I think there are poets with deep roots here, people who are naturals for the position.
Last time around, when the second laureate was appointed, I received a letter from the mayor’s office thanking me for being a nominee but that someone else got the position. I hope that won’t happen again — it’s no fun being a loser in a competition I didn’t take part in!
Should there be a vacancy on the nominating committee sometime in the future, that position might interest me (depending on my work and other commitments at the time). Meanwhile, I hope to continue making a contribution to Cobourg’s literary life in my own ways, and I look forward to the announcement of the town’s third poet laureate.
And so I retire again into a poetic obscurity of my own choosing. Maybe I’ll sit on my porch and try to sell another book this weekend.
July 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
If I shove the boxes
of books aside, drag
the curtains, crane my neck
just so, I can see the clock
on Victoria Hall. It
chimes twice. My parents
died in another city
75 minutes away. The story
of their lives, as filmed
by Ealing Studios, is screened
on the night sky. Here
it is exotic. Tonight:
the screening. Tomorrow:
the Pulled Pork Festival.
Down below, vines have tumbled
from the brick walls, encumbering
the porch. A green ribbon has
unravelled. I wind it tightly
around my well-sucked thumb.
Copyright © 2011 by Stuart Ross