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Posted By Sandra Alland

Tonight in Toronto is the launch of Crisis Book: An Anthology Thing (press press press). Get directions and info on this awesome new book here. Y Josephine and I both have new poetry in Crisis Book, and Zorras will be present for the launch via video. Also featuring bill bissett and many others you will dig. If you're in the UK we can get a copy to you without pricey international shipping costs. Just email us (

Zorras are playing with Manchester's Ste McCabe and Atlanta's Stella Zine on Saturday at 7:30pm at Edinburgh's A.C.E. Entry by donation, BYOB, accessible. And spooky! Come by before running off to your Hallowe'en parties...

In other news, Toronto elected an asshole for mayor again; this one is called Rob Ford. I read a fascinating blog post by Hans Rollman on Facebook, about how the biggest problems with Toronto's voting system are racism and the resulting disenfranchisment of residents. A large portion of Toronto's residents cannot vote because they're not citizens. Here's a great quote:

"But wouldn’t it be ridiculous to just give non-citizens the vote? Well actually no. Until World War II, half the US states extended voting rights to non-citizen residents; it was the combined effects of the Civil War and then the Cold War that fueled the wave of anti-immigrant hysteria which led to more restrictive voting laws in that country. Today, however, more and more countries are realizing how outdated and backward it is not to allow all residents an equal vote. Belgium, Austria, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, and dozens of other countries have opened up municipal elections to non-citizen residents. A growing number of other countries – including Chile, Portugal, Sweden, Uruguay and New Zealand – allow non-citizen residents to vote in national and regional elections too. If Toronto is indeed the world’s most multicultural city, it’s time for it to stop being at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to public policy and basic rights for its multicultural population."

As Emma Goldman used to say, "If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal."

Posted By Sandra Alland

I have some beefs about the treatment of artists by editors, organisers, and ahem, other artists. No one's perfect, but if you're still doing this shite after years at the job, it's time to rethink your tactics.

1. Advice for Event Organisers

Planning an event is no easy feat. We can't always afford to pay the big bucks, especially after renting a venue, printing posters and facing the uncertainty of an audience. But here's a few ideas for next time you host something...

a/We don't ask the kitchen staff to volunteer, why do we ask artists? If you're charging money at the door, you damn well better pay your artists something. At the very least pay them a split of the door (if you think you can't afford it then find a free venue so you can). If a split of the door is less than 10 quid, don't pay yourself.

b/Don't guilt poor artists into performing for free for the "love" of it.

c/If you're charging not only the audience but also the poets competing in your poetry slam, there damn well better be hefty cash prizes. Shit from the Pound Shop and a cheaply engraved plaque do not count.

d/If you're going to pay your artists in drinks, don't. Pay them whatever drinks would cost. Many people don't drink, or at least not when they're onstage. And as the wonderful Naila Keleta Mae says, "Try paying your landlord with a bottle of Colt 40."

e/Don't say you're going to pay a "fee", then pay 10 quid between 3 artists who have travelled from another city. £50 is the lowest amount that can qualify as a real fee. £3.33 is not a fee.

f/Don't ask people to perform for free and then tell them their friends cannot take their photo or video but that you will take their photo and video to use as you want to promote further shows of your own.

g/Don't discuss the order of events in front of an artist in terms of when is a crap time to "go" (i.e. 2nd in a line-up of 6) then tell that person a few minutes later that they'll be reading 2nd "because it's great to follow the first act with a high-energy performer".

h/Don't tell an artist they have 30 minutes, then cut them to 15 a day before the show, then 8 right before they go on. Also, don't tell artists they have 8 minutes, then read your own work for 30.

2. Advice for Publishers

If you publish a magazine or journal, you'll have to reject people. Writers and visual artists are generally quite used to it, so don't panic. However, certain behaviours annoy even the thickest-skinned among us...

a/Don't advertise your editorial services when rejecting someone.

b/Don't ask the person you rejected to become a subscriber and don't automatically add them to your mailing lists.

c/Don't send form letters to people you know, or at the very least add a personal yet professional touch. Especially don't ask someone you know to send more work then send them the same form letter again.

d/Inform people directly if you're rejecting them. Don't send them a link to a page that has the names of the people who've been accepted; it's kinda like having to go to the list on the wall in high school to see if you made the team or got the part. It encourages nasty feelings... You know who you are.

Posted By Sandra Alland

Tomorrow night is the last instalment of Cachín Cachán Cachunga! for a while... Zorras will be presenting a new film and two new poetry-music performance entities. Also featuring the fabulous Miss Leggy Pee, K Anderson, Evan Greer and Lily. More info here. We're sad we might be saying good-bye to our beloved Cachín, but the times they are a-changin'... please join us for the party!

In other news, I wanted to say some nice things about Nick-E Melville and rodney relax's Throat Cuts Not Bonus Cuts at the Roxy on 7 October. These two poets are among Edinburgh's most interesting (and consequently, most ignored). They both gave fab readings, as did guest Jim Ferguson (one of Glasgow's best and most ignored poets). Performances by Wounded Knee (who creates amazing layered sound pieces) and Shellsuit Massacre (the high-energy poetry-music-video duo of Melville and relax) were also stellar. The night was lacking in women (it was just us Zorras) but overall was one of the best poetry-based events I've been to in ages.... down to the posters on the walls by amazing (and less-ignored) Scottish poet Tom Leonard, and other visual contributions from the newly-formed and intriguing Zoo Station. It was inspiring to see so many artists who are engaged politically and *also* making fascinating and challenging art.

Coming soon... Things I Can't Stand About Most Poetry Readings and Journals, or How Not To Treat Artists.


Posted By Sandra Alland

It was divine to see old friends and family, but Toronto had a certain emptiness about it. Mainly because of recent major losses both personal and public (and also because of the incessant gentrification of some of Toronto's best communities):

Selected Losses:

1. Tracy Wright... I flew in two days after this friend's memorial and flew out two days before her new film, Trigger, opened -- bad timing that intensified the lack of her that keeps slapping me in the face. I wandered around Kensington Market, past the place we lived together, and just could not believe that one of the nicest souls and best actors on the planet had died. She was only 51.

2. This Ain't the Rosedale Library... One of Toronto's best and oldest bookstores was forced out of its Kensington Market home by a greedy landlord this summer. I worked at This Ain't for three glorious years, and am still reeling at its passing (after that of Pages and many other long-standing independents). This loss is compounded by the fact that independent bookstores are closing all over the world (a trend that started in the 90s but has been receiving extra nails in its coffin in the past few years, especially now that Amazon has moved into Canada and its Kindle e-books are becoming the rage everywhere). There are many losses here, like lack of choice and lack of promotion for independent and activist writers and presses (This Ain't used to hand-sell the books of many writers). Indigo only keeps most books for a maximum of six months, and This Ain't was one of the only places to keep me and other Canadian poets and small-press/avant-garde/queer/lefty/of-colour writers in stock (even though this often meant the store suffered a loss in income). Who will fill this gap, and how will the remaining small presses survive?

3. Will Munro... I didn't know Will personally but attended many of his events, and the one time I met him was struck by his sweetness. Will was my age and died of a brain tumour... Toronto lost one of its best artists and upstarts when Will checked out. On an up-note (because we definitely need one by now, dear friends), there *is* a feeling that Will's legacy is being carried on by many of his friends and peers.

4. A General Feeling of Dread Around G20 Fallout and Community Organizing in General... I attended a panel discussion at Ryerson University, called Strengthening Our Resolve, which was at times brilliantly inspiring, especially the appearances by a trio of First Nations women and Harsha Walia. Yet there was a palpable fear in the air. It was not paranoia, it was a well-founded reaction to the status quo after police brutaliy at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and this summer's G20, and other out-of-control and illegal crackdowns on communities of resistance. One of the speakers, Alex Hundert, was followed to his home that night and re-arrested on the bogus claim that he had violated the "no demonstration" part of his bail (he is charged with various counts of "conspiracy" and other such ridiculousness). The criminalization of dissent in Canada is horrifying. The next day at a small protest against The 519 Community Centre's collusion with police (including their recent decision to allow recruitment in this LGBT centre without dialogue or notification of the community) there were police everywhere, too. I applaud the amazing community organizers in Toronto and elsewhere who struggle every day to retain what rights we have left, and to gain rights for their communities.

More positivity next post...




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