26 January 2024

AISP, the poem (by request)

 Back in May of 2010, I attended a reunion of students from my Toronto high school, AISP — the Alternative Independent Study Program. I don't know how I would have survived the school system without that place.

Someone on social media this week asked to see the poem again, so here it is. 



Did I ever tell you about this school

a school made up entirely of initials:


Apples In Silver Purses

Astronauts Integrating Small Pandas

Ask In Sequence Please

Agatha Ivanov Speaks Portguese


It was a free school

and we were free

to create our own learning

to call our teachers by their first names

to hang a parachute from the ceiling of the Common Room

(until a fire marshal told us otherwise)


We were free to rebel

to make super 8 films

to scream sound poems in the hallways

to make Xerox art in Dorothy’s office

to make comic books instead of essays

comics books about global domination by Venus fly traps


We were free to invent our own courses

skip classes walk out of classes sit in on classes

that we weren’t even taking

free to take the side of Mao Tse-Tung


Did I ever tell you about the initials?


Actively Irrigate Subtle Plantations

Anything Irritates Shirley’s Piano

Abe’s Integers Smoke Pot

Angels Illuminate Soryl’s Pecadillos


We were free to get beat up less than

at Jeffreys, MacKenzie, Fleming

to read any goddamn book we wanted to

I mean truly weird shit

to take three courses a year, or fifteen

and write revolutionary communiqués

to hang a parachute from the Common Room ceiling

I’m serious

because it meant we were alternative

and we were independent

sometimes we studied

and we were never programmed


we ate French fries at Dairy Freeze

fried liver and onions in the cafeteria

Carl ate cookies in his office

and then he brushed his teeth

thus providing a lesson


Have I mentioned the initials?

Always Investigate Snoopy Parents

Armadillos Invest Snappy Premiums

Africa Israel Switzerland Poland

Asia Istanbul Spain Peru


On torn sofas

in the Common Room

we argued sports and politics

under an actual parachute

that hung from the ceiling

a ceiling

a parachute

a fire marshal


We were free from beating each other up

free from conveyor belts

sausage education

particle board learning

We were free from Catcher in the Rye

if we wanted to be

free to take a class with a teacher

who’d fold our poems into paper airplanes

and fly them across the room


plus we had a parachute

a Common Room

a ceiling


have I told you about the parachute?





27 May 2010

Stuart Ross

Over and out.

Did I mention that last year I won the Trillium Book Award?

I haven't been keeping up with things on this blog. Blogs being an almost-thing-of-the-past. But it's worth documenting that in June 2023, I won the Trillium Book Award for my memoir, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers, published in 2022 by ECW Press.

Back in 2000, I was shortlisted for the award for my second poetry collection, Farmer Gloomy's New Hybrid. I didn't expect to win then, and I didn't, and I didn't expect to win this time. I figured they just put me on the shortlist when they needed a book with a stupid title.

But The Book of Grief and Hamburgers is a very important book to me. It was painful but cathartic to write. I wrote it for myself, and for my dear friend Michael Dennis, the Ottawa poet, who didn't have long to live in fall 2020. I didn't intend to show it to Michael, but I did show him the dedication, which is to him. With an epigraph by him: "We are the lucky men." He said that to me in the last month of his life.

Here I am giving my acceptance speech. My editor at ECW and friend Michael Holmes is holding my award. Man, he and ECW have stuck with me through seven books and I am so grateful.

And here I'm signing the placard for my book on the big night.

Oh yeah. This is the moment when my name was announced as the winner. As you can see, I really didn't see it coming. Paul Vermeersch caught my expression in this photo.

Here's a letter the mayor of Cobourg addressed to me to mark an evening in my honour at the Art Gallery of Northumberland. It was a pretty lovely occasion, organized jointly by the gallery and our local indie, Let's Talk Books. The brilliant Katie Cruel was my musician of choice for the night. And I was introduced, really beautifully, by Cobourger, writer, and former MPP David Tsubouchi, who has always been a great champion of the written word.

And here is my winning book. This gorgeous cover was created by my friend the London, Ontario, artist Angie Quick.

No book of mine has brought me as much response (or money!) as The Book of Grief and Hamburgers. As I said, I wrote it in part for Michael Dennis, but it was a tribute to all the important people in my life who have died. And one important dog.

Miss you, Lily.

Over and out.

01 January 2024

My 2024 New Year's Poem



When I wake
It will be the first day
Of something new 
That tiptoes along a telephone wire
Catching fragments
Of conversation
And writing them down


I was snoring
My leg was in a weird position
It remembered a joke
About a calf who mooed
But it was a leg calf


My teeth were grinding
My enemies
Into something
I could live with


The brownshirts chase me
Up the stairs
Soon I have
No more floors to escape to
I shove open my eyes
Reach over to the night table
Sip some water
The brownshirts screech to a halt
They mutter
Scratch their heads
(One head per brownshirt)


I yawn while sleeping
My stomach growls while I eat 
 I write a poem while someone reads one of my poems


The digital clock
Beside the glass of water
On my night table
Throws a red 3:26
Across my still face
The spider dangling
Above my head
Double-checks its watches


I was sleeping
I was not a hummingbird
I was not a can opener 
I was not a wisp of campfire smoke
My head lay on a pillow
And a dream snuck out of my skull
Curled itself into a ball
Went bouncing off the walls
And out the window
Into the dark sky 
Into the cold night
Into the broken world
Where it fixed everything

Stuart Ross
1 January 2024

Over and out.

27 October 2023

New York, here I come

This has been one of the busiest years of my writing life. And I haven't blogged since January 1. Maybe I'll catch up a bit. Maybe not. But I am going to New York, at the invitation of Charles North, one of my favourite poets, and I figured that was worth posting about. I'll be reading at Pace University with the poet RK Fauth, whose work seems pretty brilliant. So exciting to go back to New York…
Over and also out.

01 January 2023



On the first day, I woke
in the dark. The wind howled
like Allen Ginsberg, rattling
my windows and my eyeballs.
I invented the electric light
and turned it on. Another me
appeared on the floor,
like a crime-scene outline
drawn in black chalk and
filled with dark. I introduced
myself and invited him
for dinner. He had never tried
Chinese food, so that’s what
we ordered. My doorbell rang.
Bags appeared. We arranged
the cartons on the table.
My shadow said so much
depends on the egg rolls
drizzled in plum sauce
beside the orange chicken.
I thwacked him on the head
but my hand went right
through him. This is a poem
about tragedy. I’ll start again.
I dreamed I was visiting
Opal and Ellen Nations,
and we ordered Chinese food. Because
it was New Year’s Day, the food
took so long to arrive that
Opal kept eating slices of bread
with Cheez Whiz while Ellen
showed me the linoleum tiles
she’d chosen for the kitchen floor.
Nothing is more interesting
than when someone shares
their dream with you. Suddenly,
a shard of sun slips between
the curtains and enters my eyeballs.
I inflate. I drift out the window
and into the morning-lit sky.
It’s all so beauti— I deflate
and plummet to the ground.
A pebble is lodged in my shoe.
The breeze ruffles my thinning
hair. The shadow of my hand
caresses my unshaven cheek.
We people on the pavement
looked at me. Everything
I’ve told you here
is remarkable. A burst of
the present plunges into
your outstretched arms.

Stuart Ross
1 January 2023

Over and out.

05 July 2022

Kenn Enns of Shelf Life Books interviews me

In May, my dear friend Kenn Enns, who works for Shelf Life Books in Calgary, interviewed me online about The Book of Grief and Hamburgers. I consider this event my official book launch. It was a great conversation, great to talk so openly about the book. Kenn is insightful and empathetic, and they are also my music whisperer, leading me to a ton of great contemporary bands, like Japanese Breakfast and Slothrust and Hurray For The Riff Raff.

Over and out.

10 June 2022

Sun Cows of the Petrichor

In winter 2021, I had the great privilege of being writer-in-residence for the University of Ottawa's English Department. I wish I could have lived in Ottawa for those four months — that had been my hope — but the Covid wrench insinuated itself into the process and I led my classes from my office basement, surrounded by bookshelves handmade by Nelson Ball and sitting on Barbara Caruso's chair, with a tapestry by Barbara hanging across from my "desk."

Anyway, the school gave me the opportunity to teach the fourth-year writing workshop. I was told I could teach anything I wanted. Both to be unpredictable and because I thought it was more necessary, I created a course called Blowing Up Fiction, devoted to experimental and innovative fiction. The twelve students who enrolled had not previously written experimental fiction, I discovered. But this was the only fourth-year creative writing course offered, so they took it.

The students turned out to be supremely talented writers, and though some might have been a bit reluctant at first, they met the challenge of writing in all the crazy ways I suggested, and they read works by David Markson, Daphne Marlatt, B. S. Johnson, Lydia Davis, Percival Everett, bpNichol, MAC Farrant, Renee Gladman, Raymond Federman, and lots more. They hated some of it, and some of it they loved.

Toward the end of the semester, I came up with the idea of putting together a full-length anthology of experimental fiction by these young writers. (Well, eleven young writers and one old guy like me.) I would publish it through Proper Tales Press. I brought the Russian artist and writer Jenya Stashkov aboard to do the cover graphic. I told them I'd have the book out by June 2021. It would be called Sun Cows of the Petrichor.

But Covid really slowed me down. Until this past spring. And now, at last, the book is out, with very exciting work by Emily Bertrand, Ciku Gitonga, Andrea Guzman, Vera Hadzic, Baylie Karperian, Jonathan Kipling, Jack Lahey, Vivian Li, Angelica Malpica, Lila Ndinsil, Sabrina Papandrea, and David Paré. I was worried that one or two of them would get cold feet during the yearlong delay, but they're a brave bunch!

Is it a book by student writers? Nope, it's a book by writers, most of them being published for their first time.

I'm very proud of this project.

Over and out.

09 June 2022

OWIF — in conversation with Stephen Brockwell about The Book of Grief and Hamburgers

My favourite lit fest — the Ottawa International Writers Festival — is featuring me on their podcast series. I'm in conversation with my good friend Stephen Brockwell, a fantastic and undersung Ottawa poet, whose latest — and best — book, Immune to the Sacred, is out this season from Mansfield Press. I admit I was a bit intimidated, because Stephen is a very deep thinker and a brilliant guy, and I imagined myself withering before his questions. But it ended up being a relaxed — and sometimes emotional — conversation. Please check it out.
Over and out.