Friday, May 27, 2016

A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent - Stuart Ross (A Buckrider Book/Wolsak and Wynn)

Today's book of poetry:
A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent.  Stuart Ross.
A Buckrider Book.  Wolsak and Wynn.  Hamilton, Ontario.  2016.

These are my words.
                                                                 They existed before I was born
                                                                  but not in this order.
                                                                                       David W. McFadden
                                                                                       "My Words/Hamilton"

Those of you who read Today's book of poetry with any regularity will already know that Stuart Ross and I are the closest of friends.  We've been friends since before most of you were born.

So please take that into consideration.

Now please forget what I just told you -- so that I can categorically tell you without pretense or prejudice, how truly splendid a pleasure bomb Stuart Ross has bestowed on us with A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent.

For many of us Stuart Ross has been the most original and imaginative voice in Canadian poetry for some time.  His wit and ironic palette are second to none.  And now he's gone and done it, Ross has added two new twists to his considerable canon.  Access to his massive and generous heart and a concerted effort to tie into a more direct narrative.

The results are stunning.  Today's book of poetry is convinced A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent is not only Ross' best book, and that is saying something, but one of the very best I have read in years.


And my mother is on the balcony
and my father is making cheese sandwiches
and my mother is writing a letter
that my father will discover
two months later in their bedroom
in Toronto, the morning
we're to bury her

she writes that
she is on the balcony
and he is making cheese sandwiches
and she says she feels treasured
and if ever there are grandkids
tell them she'd've loved them

and in five years my brother
dies in my sobbing father's arms
and my father one year after
and I cannot find the letter
my mother wrote in Pompano
but I remember the word treasured
it's how she felt, she said

     and palm trees sway in the hot breeze
     and butterflies called daggerwings drift past
     and sand skinks swim through millions of grains of sand
     and I - I am a pompano
     I am this fish and I search
     for that letter in my mother's hand
     beyond the Atlantic coast


Make no mistakes, this is still a Stuart Ross book full of unexpected magic and rubix cube logic leaps of faith.  There are poems Today's book of poetry see as political and powerful and brilliant beside intensely personal laments of grief and quiet moments of joyous relief and celebration.  Ross has it all packed in here.

Today's book of poetry sees A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent as far more deeply personally revealing than any of Ross' previous work, there are poems about all of Ross' family, the living and the dead, and a tenderness that will shake your opened heart.  And there are also the usual myriad of resplendent guests popping out of Ross' generous compendium like popcorn.

Virginia Woolf, David W. McFadden, Ron Padgett, Stephen Crane, Boris Spassky, Mark Laba and his entire family, Kurosawa and Dagwood Bumstead too, they are all in here and that is just scratching the surface.

Mentioning Sir David W. of McFadden makes Today's book of poetry think that A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent started one afternoon forty years ago or so when Ross skipped school, spent the afternoon in a library and discovered SAINT DAVID M and A Knight in Dried Plums.

Make Big Monkey Writing Poems

Big Monkey watches over me
as the blistering clouds bang
against my window and I dream
of you again and you are alive.
We are in a snow fort on my lawn
on Pannahill Road and we pretend
we are soaring through space.
The rumble of a 1967 Valiant
station wagon passing by
my driveway is the roar
of a meteor hurtling toward
earth and narrowly missing our
craft. We know now that
everyone will die except us,
because we are in space. Except
our ship has turned into a womb,
its hot, sticky walls pressing
against us until we can barely
move our arms. We are crushed
together like conjoined twins,
and because you are dead, I 
wonder if I too am now dead
and I call out to Big Monkey
but he is bent over my desk,
rolling a sheet of yellow paper
through the platen of my
1952 Underwood, so intent
he cannot see us in the TV set,
our palms against the screen
from inside, and vertical hold
starts slipping.


This morning's reading of A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent in the Today's book of poetry offices was fire-cracking-tear-jerking-awe inspiring-explosion stuff.  About a dozen guests piled through the doors first thing this morning.  Both Milo, our head tech, and Kathryn, our new Jr. Editor, invited friends and family because they both adore Mr. Ross.  They have collected almost everything of the mountain he has published.  The reading was a dazzle as people took turns flashing it all out into the open like fireworks.  There was real snap, crackle and pop.

Stuart Ross has done something marvelous in this astonishing book by giving us almost full access.   Today's book of poetry is enthused by Aaron Tucker's suggestion that this become a poetry franchise, Tucker suggests A Sparrow Still Come Down Resplendent, Keepin it Resplendent, The Sparrow Re-Returns and so on.  We love this idea.  Ross' fertile home planet has sent us a gem.

The Hanging

My grandfather yells his Polish English
as my pyjama top swings
from the banister above
and his sewing machine
is silent in his dark room
and my mother puts her hand
on the back of my head,
tells me, "He saw the pyjama
and thought it was you,
that you had hanged yourself,"
and I went to my room,
gazed out at the snow
blanketing the Nefskys' roof
and pictured myself hanging
my pyjama sleeve tight
around my throat,
my grandfather pushing my feet aside
as he lumbers up the stairs
to eat his lumpy porridge.


Today's book of poetry loves the three poems I selected for today but there is so much more going on in A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent.

Today's book of poetry rarely makes requests but we are making one today, a social experiment if you will.  Today's book of poetry would like each of you readers to repost this blog today, just flip that sucker over.  Why?  Because Stuart Ross is an unsung Canadian marvel as rare as hen's teeth, because Stuart Ross, in A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent has exposed an emotional bridge into Ross world that allows the reader to walk in with ease, once there the dancing starts.

I love Stuart Ross like a brother and have admired both him and his work all these long years.  When you read A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent you are going to want to join my club.

Stuart Ross
Photo:  Laurie Siblock

Stuart Ross is the author of fifteen books of fiction, poetry and essays. His many dozens of chapbooks include Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead(Puddles of Sky Press); A Pretty Good Year (Nose in Book Publishing) and In In My Dream (BookThug). Stuart is a member of the improvisational noise trio Donkey Lopez, whose CDs include Juan Lonely Night and Working Class Burro. He is a founding member of the Meet the Presses collective and has his own imprint, a stuart ross book, at Mansfield Press. Stuart lives in Cobourg, Ontario, and blogs at

"Stuart Ross uses humour as a subversive weapon."
     - Barbara Carey, The Toronto Star

"Ross's book is, among other things, a quite polemic in defense of the miscellaneous, swimming againt the stream and against streamlining."
     - Alessandro Porco, Northern Poetry Review

"What I personally found myself most drawn to, however, were the poems (and there are many) where the imagistic bravado and willingness to play are married to a deep sense of martality and quiet grace.  It takes a special sort of poet to make a reader feel profound empathy for the shattered dreams of a young hamburger, as he does...I Cut My Finger is a strange, beguilling and beautiful book."
     - Nick Thran,

Stuart Ross
Reads three Cobourg Poems
Video:  Wally Keeler



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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