Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Pictorial Record of Recent Events

Readings and launches of the past month and a half were gratifying and fun. Here are some images that capture a fraction of the things that happened.

Sunday June 1st. Punchy/Insomniac Launch at The Main Hall in Montreal:

Stuart Ross took this picture of me in the doorway of The Main Hall prior to the event. We (Dave, Matt, Stuart, I) had just come back from eating at Royal Sub on Bernard. I'm holding a cheeseburger in a paper bag for the sound guy.

The readings this night were fantastic. Sarah Steinberg gave a brilliantly funny and effective reading of a piece about being trained to work at a bookstore from her new fiction collection WE COULD BE THAT COUPLE. Arjun Basu attracted and repulsed the crowd simultaneously with his Larrier than David story about a man's dilemma regarding a beautiful woman with repellant feet (from his new book SQUISHY). Stuart Ross read widely, wildly and brilliantly from DEAD CARS IN MANAGUA, finishing off his reading with the amazing long poem "Itinerary". Pictured here, Stuart in action.

A Corner of the crowd. Among those pictured here: Ian Goodman, Jeffrey Mackie, David McFadden, Colin Martin, Greg Seib, Mike Spry, Jon Paul Fiorentino (who introduced the night), Geoff Lansdall, and David McFadden in phosphorous maroon lounge shirt.

David McFadden's reading was remarkable. You could hear a pin drop in the hall throughout his reading, even when he occasionally paused for half a minute or more in between poems. "Here's a good one," he'd say, and then proceed to prove himself right. The crowd was in awe, the tables were askew, and McFadden was in his natural element, poetry.

Then Puggy Hammer played. My favorite moment was about halfway through the set when I turned back to look at Matt (the drummer) after we'd finished a song, and he said--not quite knowing what he meant by what he was saying, not quite knowing whether he was saying something in defiance, resignation, mourning, or simple documentary observation--he said, "My snare is dead." I said, "Your snare died, eh?" Or something non-committal like that. Dave overheard us sort of non-negotiating about the status of Matt's snare drum and jumped in with slightly more attitudinal clarity than we had shown thus far; he said, "What? Your snare is dead?" The Main Hall, where we were playing, hadn't been used for a show in a while, and it was a big mess. Matt and I had noticed a box of miscellaneous gear, including some drum equipment, and a big ass snare drum in some boxes back stage. So, I called for "Ramblin' Man" by Hank Williams, because the drums can wait a long time before coming in for our version of that song, and I told Matt to "try to get that snare we saw backstage." The snare was ready before the tune was over, and sounded HUGE when he finally dislodged it from the pile of crap it was entangled with, installed it onto his snare stand, and began whacking it. I only wish someone had been videoing Matt scrambling with desperation through the rubbish heap of drum parts while Dave and I sang about something over the hill that we had to see. [Photo by Stuart Ross.]

Next morning, 8:30am, I called David McFadden at his hotel to see what he wanted to do for breakfast. "There are some fine places at the train station," he said. "And, there's this yellow jacket in the window." Don't forget, this was the day before the Griffin awards reading. David McFadden later demonstrated why he felt he needed to acquire a new sports jacket by putting his hands on his shoulders and squeezing the 1980s sized shoulder pads of his to my mind sharp and suave charcoal grey double breasted suit. Anyhow, he wanted to return to a boutique in the underground shopping gallery attached to Central Station and try on that yellow jacket. So, I called Stuart at Steve Luxton's house, told him what was going to happen, picked them up, picked David up, and we all went to the train station to watch David McFadden try on a yellow sports jacket. The jacket fit, and if the jacket fits, you wear it. Following the purchase of a yellow jacket (but not a striped dress shirt), we proceeded to eat breakfast in the train station. I pretended I was in Paris eating breakfast with Steve Luxton, Stuart Ross and David McFadden. In a Gare du Nord café, David McFadden told me stories about English Montreal poetry in the sixties. He mentioned walking downtown. He mentioned artie gold. We drank coffee from styrofoam cups. And it was all very Parisian. [Pictured here, Me, Steve Luxton, and David McFadden, holding a yellow jacket in a bag. Photo by Stuart Ross.]

May 27th, Montreal Launch of The Debaucher at The Word Bookstore:

I could not have hoped for a better venue for the launch of my new book of poems. Adrian and Luci worked their unassuming magic. The place was packed. Adrian's cue-card deadpan introduction was even funnier and cue-cardier and deadpannier than I could have hoped. It is a launch I will always remember. Here I am reading with The Word's poetry section in the background. Thanks to Mary Carpenter for taking this picture.

May 23rd, Reading in Buffalo, NY with Stuart Ross, David McGimpsey and Andrea Strudensky at Rust Belt Books:

This reading was organized and hosted in the most accomplished and effective manner by Alex Porco. Alex brought out the people, organized beer for the reading, and even got an article with pictures of us in the Buffalo Weekly paper ARTVOICE. Stuart gave me a lift from Toronto to Buffalo in his car. Paul Vermeersch came along for the road trip, too. It was a fun drive, including a long, leisurely stop in Grimsby, where we hit the thrift store, and a cafe to do some facebooking. Paul bought a copy of Atwood's Survival (that had once been an elementary school prize); I bought a brown cowboy shirt which I later wore to the June 1st launch. Stuart played some tunes from Ben Walker Sings Stuart Ross, plus some amazing songs by Nick Lowe (among others). Once in Buffalo, we drove directly to the part of Main Street where Talking Leaves Books is. First we ate at a very grill-smokey diner called Amy's. Then I bought some sponge candy at the Parkside Candy Co., the circular candy store that has made people feel like they are inside a wedding cake since 1923. Then, a marathon perusal of the poetry shelves at Talking Leaves. Purchased, among other things, TED, Ron Padgett's memoir in 113 short chapters of Ted Berrigan. Just finished reading that--a great read. What if Ron Padgett's real name were Rod Pagent? Then what? [Below, to the left, Alessandro Porco, host and organizer of the reading. These Buffalo shots were taken either by Paul Vermeersch or Stuart Ross, with Stuart's camera.]

The sign outside Rust Belt, on Allen Street. Those of us who slept over in Buffalo stayed at the hospitable Holiday Inn on Delaware. I'm a priority club member there, and believe me, it pays to become a priority club member.

At the Rust Belt reading I read some high school poems, some 'dirty' poems, some Adios sonnets, and sections 3 and 5 from the title poem, The Debaucher. Reading the poem Côte-St.-Luc, and some things Andrea had said prior to her own reading (which was prior to my reading), reminded me of a high school talent show set list, the set list of the band I played in when I was in grade 8: Rock 'n Roll (Led Zep), Sweet Home Alabama (Lynard Skynard), I Can't Get Enough of Your Love (Bad Company). We were three guitars and one drummer (two grade 8ers--Me and Phil/two grade 11ers--Dougie and David). In each song, each guitarist took a wicked solo. That's nine wicked solos in all. I don't recall any other act in the talent show having nine wicked solos.

May 21st, Insomniac Press/Punchy Writers Series Spring Launch in Toronto. Featuring: Stuart Ross, DEAD CARS IN MANAGUA Catherine Graham, THE RED ELEMENT, and Jason Camlot, THE DEBAUCHER:

Dora K Pub on the Danforth. I was supposed to have Greek food once I was on Danforth, but I didn't. The launch was amazingly well organized and the pub was packed. Paul Vermeersch was a masterful MC, and the audience was there to enjoy the readings. It was great to see some friends and family come out for this: cousins Heather and Marc, former grad students Karen and Veronica, and present grad student Mike. Had a great time talking with Nick and Jeff, very grateful to them for being there, and for the drinks they bought me. Nice, also, to meet some people for the first time, including Evie Christie and former Côte-St-Luc-er Lisa Richter. Amazingly, high school friend Scott Orloff showed up after the readings were well over. He could have gone to see Sammy Hagar, but he came by to see me instead. Thanks, Scott! [Photo by Stuart Ross]

Left: Jason and Stuart after the reading at Dora K. Pub.

Below: Jason Reading at Toronto launch of THE DEBAUCHER. [Photo by Paul Vermeersch.]