Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Exist. Details Follow. - Stuart Ross

Today's book of poetry:  You Exist.  Details Follow.  Stuart Ross.  Anvil Press.  Vancouver, British Columbia.  2012

A DISCLAIMER:  Everything I am about to say must be digested with the reader knowing that I personally believe Stuart Ross may be Canada's most important poet.  Stuart and I have been friends since the 70's, there is no poet I admire more.

You Exist.  Details Follow. is Stuart Ross's 32nd book and it mines territory familiar to anyone who has had the opportunity to read Ross before.  Classic, seat of the pants, surrealism and a brace of reason, blended with a deeply caring humanism.

Why Must There Be Such Suffering?

Dear book,
do you have
the time?  are
you divine or
grey?  Marvellous
or a shipyard?
I bristle whenever
I see them kiss,
but also whenever
I bathe in a birdless
sea.  Butterflies and pork
strap themselves into
my 1997 Honda Civic.
Why can't I read French?
Why can't I come down the staircase
with burning boys in my furnace
of hair?  Stay with me,
stay silent, stay male
or female.  The dog has run
away with my slippers
and your eggs.
Oh, demented roar
of innocent babies!
I wanted to be daylight,
but it rained.
A part time Campfire Girl
was a dictionary,
alone and suffering.
The wind romped
right over her.


Ross could be called a "narrative surrealist" but that, like most labels, does not adequately capture the gymnastic feats of construction he employs.  At his best Ross combines images and emotions with the same alacrity of a Max Ernst or Salvador Dali.  The literal is a sheer curtain that surrealists drape like a fabric or a fold in time.  Ross gives a master class in almost every poem in the delicate art of balancing truth from fiction, what we imagine from what we know to be real.

Cobourg, Night

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.


Stuart Ross is a senior poet who has honed his craft in the best way possible - a life dedicated to writing, and you can see it in every poem, every book.  Ross's poems are those of one of the truly unique voices we have in Canadian poetry.

Somehow Ross continuously taps into our unconscious with his breathlessly funny and crisp wit, observational bon mots and pretzel logic leaps of faith.

Pop. 18,5000

in winter
at night

there are
eighteen thousand
four hundred

the beach

i stand
in snow
and stare

into the silent lake
i cannot


And sometimes the candid realist in Stuart Ross takes centre stage and his unbridled humanism just dances right out there.  There is almost always some humour in Ross's work but that is the sugar, the kiss on the cheek as he whispers in your other ear the secrets of the universe and the codes to deconstruct the present.

I would like to offer in the face of my obvious bias, the following:  Stuart Ross is a small press King.  His Proper Tales Press, editorial work, tireless work on behalf of countless other writers, including his new imprint with Mansfield Press, A Stuart Ross Book (which has already produced a number of excellent titles), are only a small hint at the contributions Ross has tirelessly made on behalf of many of us in the poetry world.

For me, there is no poet as entertaining as Stuart Ross and very few as smart.  Ross builds a new universe with You Exist.  Details Follow. and we get to travel in it like explorers entering a new dimension, luckily it comes with instructions and a guide map for home.

Stuart Ross looks at the world through a different lens, how extraordinarily lucky we are that he shares that view with us.


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