photo by Dave Giesbrecht
a bit of history
Steven Ross Smith began writing and publishing as Steven Smith in the early '70s. In 1971 he saw and heard the (Four) Horsemen (sound and performance poetry ensemble – bpNichol, Steven McCaffery, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton) perform. This was a watershed event. Following, he met the members of that group and began to explore sound poetry, notably in a workshop with McCaffery. Smith soon began to hang out with other Toronto writers, inside and outside an energy 'cluster'. Among these writers were Richard Truhlar, Michael Dean, David Penhale and Brian Dedora. By the mid-seventies Smith also became friends with bpNichol, and later with Paul Dutton. The influence of this (informal) 'Toronto school' set in, and an interest in innovative poetics took hold. In 1975 Smith, along with Truhlar, Dean and Penhale, formed Owen Sound, a group dedicated to sound and performance poetry, and collaborative composition. Among their influences were The Horsemen, Sean OHuigin, Bob Cobbing, and other sound poets. Owen Sound began in earnest, a series of performances in and outside Toronto. They also collaborated with other poets and musicians in public performances such as: Cabaret Voltaire 1 at A Space Gallery in 1977; appearances at the 10th International Festival of Sound Poetry in Amsterdam in 1977 and the 11th International Festival (1978) at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto; and Cabaret Voltaire 2 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1978.
rehearsal for Cabaret Votaire 2 (Toronto, 1977)
l to r: Paul Dutton, Sean OHuigin, Steven Ross Smith, Richard Truhlar, Michael Dean, Don Naduriak
Smith was a founding member of the original editorial collective, Underwhich Editions in 1978.
All along, he was writing and performing his individual work. In 1978 he published his first solo chapbook white cycle (poetry); in 1983 Turnstone Press published his first book, Ritual Murders, a collection of short and cryptic fictions. In and around 1985, he was involved with Toronto "pataphysicians in several writings, performances and events, including L'Affair "Pataphysique a celebration by several Toronto artists and writers of the spirit of pataphysics. As well as contributing to the performances, Smith took the role of Media Res (aka The Minister of Propaganda) the publicity point man for the event.
In 1987 he moved lock, stock, and clock to Saskatoon in search of a low overhead and a high time budget, to enable a focus on writing poetry and fiction. He continued to write and publish. In 1990 he gathered a group of musicians interested in improvisation and collaboration - Roy Sydiaha (percussion), Bettina Grassman (violin), and Gilles Turcotte (clarinet) - and formed DUCT, a synthesis of voice and instruments. The group gave monthly performances for nine years mostly at AKA Gallery in Saskatoon. Through its life, the group also embraced Ed Pas (violin), Lia Pas (oboe, other instruments and voice), David Grosse (bass), and Wilf Tucker (violin). When this group faded out, Smith began collaborations with Grosse, and then formed aBANDon with Grosse, Lia Pas, and Chris Cawthray, to perform scripted and scored pieces which also allowed room for improvisation. They performed in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
In 2000, Smith returned to Toronto for a reunion performance with Owen Sound. Michael Dean and Richard Truhlar and Smith re-connected and rehearsed, and appeared with a 'blast-from-the-past' performance at The Scream in High Park. It was a blast!!
Artist-particpants at L'Affair"
Pataphysique, in front of The Artculture Centre, Queen St. W, Toronto
l to r: back row: Brian Dedora (aka Adrian Fortesque), unknown, Michael Dean, Deinse Bertrand, unknown, Nick Power (as a potato), John Hahn Riddell (aka Lleddir Nhah Nhoj), unknown, unknown, unknown. Front row (kneeling) Whitney Smith, Janine Mather Dean, Steven Ross Smith (aka Media Res)
By 2000 Smith had published eight books, and appeared in a variety of other media and formats including CD recordings.
Smith has also performed sound poetry solo on many occasions, as well as giving more than one hundred and seventy-five readings from his written poetry and fiction.
Smith served as Executive Director of Sage Hill Writing Experience from 1990 to 2008.
In May 2004, Smith performed as a reader and panelist at V Encontro Internacional de Poetas; 5th International Meeting of Poets in Coimbra, Portugal.
Pliny's Knickers a 2005 poetic collaboration with Saskatoon writer Hilary Clark, and rendered into chapbook form in collaboration with designer Betsy Rosenwald won the bpNichol Chapbook of the Year award.
Three more books have been published in his multi-book series Fluttertongue : Fluttertongue 4: adagio for the pressured surround, (NeWest Press, 2007) Fluttertongue 5: Everything Appears to Shine with Mossy Splendour (Turnstone Press, 2011). Emanations: Fluttertongue 6 (BookThug, 2015.)
In 2009 his libretto Flown written for American composer Wang Jie was performed in Brooklyn. (www.wangjiemusic.com).
He was Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre from 2008 to 2014, where, among many other things he curated the program In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge, and managed Banff Centre Press. There he served as Editor of Boulderpavement: Arts and Ideas, the on-line multimedia arts and ideas journal from 2009 to 2014. The site was hacked and disappeared in 2014.
As of the fall of 2016 he is at work on new poetry and fiction projects, sound poetry recordings, and has embarked with Michael Dean and Brian Dedora on a book project that they hope will capture the vital energies of the art scene they inhabited in the 1970s & '80s in Toronto.