31 July 2015

Monkey Bars in Banlieue!

Just arrived in Montreal for the Banlieue! exhibition opening tomorrow in Laval at the Maison des arts. The show is curated by Montreal poet and organizer of many things artful and literary Catherine Cormier. The theme of the exhibition is suburbia, and Catherine asked me to be one of two anglophone writers to write a piece on that subject. I wrote a multi-part tale of Bathurst Manor, the Toronto suburb where I grew up. The piece is called "Monkey Bars."

I am a bit terrified of this opening tomorrow because I don't speak French. On the other hand, it's very exciting that my text will appear in full in the exhibition catalogue, and a portion, translated into French by Catherine, will be on the wall in the gallery. There are a ton of artists involved in this show, and I'm excited to see all the different approaches to the subject that will be on display.

I like this link I have to Montreal, and especially to the francophone community. Winning that award in 2013 from l'Académie de la vie littéraire au tournant du 21ème siècle, which led to my co-translation, with Michelle Winters, of Marie-Ève Comtois' second poetry collection, with the English title My Planet of Kites. And now this. I mean, it's tenuous, but it's something anyway. Meanwhile, I am working on my French.

Here's the programme for the day's events.

Over and out.

28 July 2015



I’m trying to eat my hamburger
and people keep posting photos
of this dead lion an American
dentist paid $55,000 to kill
in Zimbabwe. Please pass
the mustard.

Stuart Ross
28 July 2015

Over and out.

14 July 2015

Cobourg house concert featuring Cannonball Statman, Mallory Feuer and li'l ol' me

When you live in a small town, and you want things to happen, sometimes you have to make them happen yourself.

On Friday, I'll be reading some poems as the opening act for two amazing young musicians from Brooklyn. We'll be performing in a backyard a few blocks from where I live.

When I heard that Cannonball Statman and Mallory Feuer were touring the U.S. and bits of Canada, I offered to set up a backyard concert for them here. My friend Mark Donnan agreed to provide the yard and to co-organize the event. I became aware of Cannonball through his mother's postings on Facebook. I loved his thrash-folk approach. Reminded me a lot of Brenda Kahn, whose Goldfish Don't Talk Back is an anti-folk classic.

Cannonball's mom is Katherine Koch, the daughter of the late Kenneth Koch, one of my favourite American poets. Kenneth was a poet/novelist/playwright; Katherine is a painter and memoirist; Cannonball's dad, Mark Statman, is a poet; Cannonball is a songwriter/musician. What an amazing lineage.

Through Cannonball I became familiar with the music of Mallory Feuer, singer and guitarist for the Grasping Straws (though she's performing solo on this tour). She also dips her toes into folk, but with jazz and soul influences as well. And lots of thrashing. Fantastic songwriter and singer.

I'm going to read a few new poems to kick the evening off. If I can manage it, I'm going to steal a song title from each of the artists and use it as a title for a new poem, something I did when I shared a stage with a couple of folk acts at the Hillside Festival in Guelph a bunch of years back. Either way, I sure am looking forward to meeting Cannonball and Mallory and seeing them perform live.

Cobourg is only 75 minutes by car from Toronto, 90 minutes from Kingston, 40 minutes from Peterborough. So come on down for some down-home thrashmusic and thrashpoems.

Over and out.

01 July 2015

A Hamburger in a Gallery — the first review; the last?

I'm grateful to rob mclennan for blogging about my latest poetry collection, A Hamburger in a Gallery. I appreciate that he recognized the broad range of work. That whole book is about eclecticism, perhaps more so than any of my previous books. rob writes: "Ross’ poetics shift from the surreal to the straightforward, from the concrete to the downright meditative and philosophical, as well as through a strange humour, self-aware and even ironic sadness, and sense of deep loss that permeate much of the collection."

This is the first review of Hamburger, and I can't help but wonder if it'll be the last. I've noticed that I've been getting progressively fewer reviews of my poetry books. It might be the fact that there are fewer venue for poetry reviews, especially in print. It might be that my books have become increasingly confounding. It might be that I'm of much less interest than I used to be, when my books were being reviewed in the Globe or the Star. (Though I'm also aware I am very fortunate to have ever been reviewed in the dailies!)

It's been a very strange book to read from. Each time I've presented from it, at a launch or a reading, it's felt like a crapshoot. But last night, for example, at my Cobourg launch, I was amazed at how open (most of) the audience was; they weren't all poetry fanatics, like you might get in a Toronto or Vancouver audience. But they stayed with me as I wandered from one-word poems, to faux translations, to whatever else I found in those pages of this book of experiments.

My next collection, coming out in spring of 2016, is going to be an entirely different animal. It may be my most coherent poetry book yet. It's my attempt at a mainstream collection; I thought that might be a fun experiment. But I'm grateful to editor/poet/friend Jason Camlot and DC Books for kicking my two weirdest collections — Hamburger and Dead Cars in Managua — out into the world.

Over and out.

29 June 2015

Triple launch in Cobourg, June 30

It is true that I now live in Cobourg, even though all the Toronto hasn't been shaken out of me. On Tuesday I'm launching my three new books in my adopted town. I've seen a lot of support for my launches since I moved here, but I'm nervous about this one. Maybe the novelty of a Stuart Ross book launch has worn off. Will anyone show up?

The Toronto launch last week, which featured books by Gary Barwin, Chris Chambers and me, was a huge success. The Supermarket was pretty much full, and we sold a respectable number of books. I really enjoyed reading from A Hamburger in a Gallery, which is a tough book to read from. But I'm figuring it out. And while I agonized over which essay from Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer to read, I ultimately chose a winner: "One Muse Please, With Extra Pepperoni!" Chris and Gary were also in top form that night. It was a good one.

Who knows what'll happen in Cobourg?

Over and out.

22 June 2015

Toronto launch, with Chris Chambers and Gary Barwin, June 24 at the Supermarket

Finally launching A Hamburger in a Gallery and Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer in Toronto! And thrilled to be accompanied by Chris Chambers, with his very long-awaited new poetry collection, and Gary Barwin, with a crazy new fiction collection.

Over and out.

21 June 2015

Road Trip, Southern Ontario, 1999

Father's Day, and 14 years since my father, Sydney Ross, died. Dave Keon was number 14 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don't like sports much, but I used to watch hockey with my dad and my brothers, all of whom were big sports fans. I liked Dave Keon, because he seemed like a nice guy. Like my dad.

I've written a lot of poems about my dad. One of them appears in the current issue of Taddle Creek, a Toronto-based literary magazine. Others have appeared in various books of mine. All my "Razovsky" poems are about my dad, to some degree. Razovsky was the name he was born with.

The poem below appeared in my 2003 book, Hey, Crumbling Balcony! (ECW Press). Ben Walker also turned it into a beautiful song for his CD An Orphan's Song. You can hear a snippet of it right here.
It's about the only road trip my dad and I took alone together, four years after my mom died, a year before my brother Owen died. I am so glad this trip happened.


We drive and drive until
we hit a lake.
At the edge of the lake
is a cairn.
The plaque reads,
“They drove and drove
until they hit a lake.”
My father and I
trade glances.
A cold breeze ruffles
his thin grey hair.
Behind us,
the car idles,
the doors hanging open.
I shiver. He locks my head
in the crook of his arm.
I place my feet on his,
and he walks, giant-like,
towards the water,
carrying me with him.
“Take me to your planet,”
I say.

In the car again,
we are silent. The
sports announcer
says something about
sports. If we had been
born a century earlier,
and in Paris,
perhaps my father
and I would be walking
our turtles along the
boulevard, being silent
in French.

In two years,
my father will be dead.
The car will be mine.
Children will crack
the windshield. My feet
will touch the ground.
Oh, also, I’ll have
one brother fewer. I’ll have
one brother.
When the snow falls,
I will catch it
and put it back.

Over and out.