14 July 2007

Uncle Stu gets reviewed

Michael Dennis called this morning at an ungodly hour to tell me my new book had been reviewed in the Globe. When a book of poetry comes out, the most likely result is resounding silence, except maybe for when you do readings, or when a friend or other acquaintance comes up and says something to you about it. Other than that, you wait over the course of the next few years for your $500 or so in total royalties to trickle in, usually late, from a publisher who's probably flailing to stay afloat but who means well.

So I'm grateful for this attention. And moved that George quoted the lines that are for me perhaps the most personally important in the book. I'm not sure about this "Uncle Stu" business, though.

For this trio, vive la différence!


July 14, 2007

TIME'S COVENANT: Selected Poems By Eric Ormsby
Biblioasis, 288 pages, $28.95

I CUT MY FINGER By Stuart Ross
Anvil, 104 pages, $15

TORCH RIVER By Elizabeth Philips
Brick, 120 pages, $18

We live in a world of borders separating "us" from "them," and these borders grow wider and more razor-wired every day, forming narrow nations unto themselves, in which difference is treated with suspicion and paperwork. Yet, within the multinational union of poetry, there's no reason three very different books by three very different poets cannot find themselves shelved together, even on one very opinionated reader's shelf.


Torontonian Stuart Ross's I Cut My Finger is his first full-length poetry collection since his brilliant book of selected poems, Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Ross has risen to national prominence over the last decade after many years of street-level activism in the Ontario small-press scene, hawking his (and others') earliest works with a sandwich board hung around his neck. Now considered to be Canada's foremost writer of the surreal, Ross is enjoying some much-deserved recognition and has taken his place as one of the cool uncles of Canadian poetry.

I Cut My Finger continues his obsession with the juxtaposition of odd images and thoughts that work in a collage-like manner to fashion narrative and meaning from apparent chaos. Absurd, surprising, topical, surreal - his new work builds on the mythic significance and brilliance of several career-long metaphors and subjects.

Besides the bizarre poodles and occasional poems to mark the New Year, Ross brings us back time and again to his most compelling narratives, around the character Razovsky, a touching composite of the poet's deceased father and the poet himself (or at least his poetic avatar). Razovsky wanders in a Dali-esque multiverse, his bafflement and glimpses of shrewd wisdom peeking from between a circus of oddities.

In Razovsky in Space, we see how Ross cooks up a poignant moment from the most unlikely ingredients. The protagonist wanders dreamlike through a dusty shop, finds himself suddenly floating in space, and then reaches the back of the shop, only to be strapped into a chair and launched back into space. In the middle of all the laughing, Ross gets us with his melancholy skewer to the heart:

In a photo album somewhere
back on earth, Razovsky stands grinning
in a field just off a single-lane road,
his black hair flickering
in a barely perceptible breeze.
His long coat, too, is black, and his arm
wraps around a woman in fur
who laughs at the camera.

We know this moment is brought to us by the poet's memory, not his imagination, and it is this oscillation that tugs us through.

Depending on taste, one could find Ross slightly aphoristic and ephemeral, but that would be due to the myopia of reading a single book. The only real risk a reader runs with Ross is not being open enough to enjoy the wild ride.


So far, the book has also been reviewed by young poet Nick Thran at poetryreviews.ca and by art-guy Brian Joseph Davis in eye, a weekly I once worked for but left in disgust (most of the offending personnel have since moved on or been turfed, but it's still a corporate entity posing as an alternative).

Anyway, I don't really know what reviews mean, except that one person took you seriously enough to write about you, positively or negatively, and that's encouraging. And maybe they mean an extra nine sales (in this case, $13.50 in royalties). But there are an awful lot of books out there that deserve attention, deserve some response in print, but never get it.

In other news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DANA!

Over and out.


At July 14, 2007 4:35 pm , Blogger rob mclennan said...

very nice, stuart (uncle stu? cousin stu?), congrats! & don't forget my brief little review of same, too, at http://robmclennan.blogspot.com/2007/06/ongoing-notes-ottawa-small-press-book.html

At July 15, 2007 9:47 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats Uncle Stu! Now that you're $13 richer, will you hurry up and hop on a plane to Edinburgh? xoxoxox Sandra A. (p.s. happy bday to Dana!)

At July 15, 2007 1:58 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very glad to see that great review - a nice surprise. I don't expect to see great writing recognized in the newsprint jungle, so it's a happy thing when it is. And can Hazel call you Uncle Stu?


At July 16, 2007 4:12 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. -- Junius

congrats stu! grand review. don't spend all that media currency in one place.

p.s. for those wondering, the above quote is on the masthead of Torono's National Newspaper.

At July 16, 2007 1:59 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one Stu! Really good print. Should be required summer reading.

Hopefully, Chapters will order a copy.

At July 17, 2007 2:40 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Stu:

It WAS nice to open the globe on the weekend & see Murray's review. And how many poets get to have a label that means "I give up!"? 'Cause you never gave up. Keep on givin' 'er.


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