01 January 2017

My New Year poem for 2017

I don't recall exactly when I started my practice of writing a poem on New Year's Day and sending it out to my correspondents. Maybe a couple decades ago? For the first bunch of years, the poem went out through Canada Post in leaflet form. Then I started sending it out by email.

What follows is this year's poem, written early this afternoon. I've rarely managed to get a poem done and delivered so early in the day. I was a little insecure about this one, so I put out a call on Facebook, asking if I could phone someone and do a test-run of it. First taker was Toronto musician Alan Gasser. I read him the poem and we had a good chat about it. Then Jay Miller, a writer who lives in Kingston, volunteered. He was with his friend Lucy, sitting in a car at an A&W waiting for fresh coffee to be made. I got a pretty good response from both of them, and then Lucy dug into her notebook and gave me a rapid-fire reading of a bunch of her poems. It was a nice exchange.

Here's my poem.


Yesterday the newspaper said one thing;
today it says something entirely different.
And all we did to make that happen
was sleep. Today, I looked in the mirror,
and I was unrecognizable! A meadowlark
with a broken wing. The news
is printed on paper while the meadow
is printed on lark, and we focus
our camera (a Filmo Sportster
manufactured 1947 by Bell & Howell)
on it as it zigzags into the air,
carrying just one thing under its bum wing:
a copy of Company, by Samuel Beckett
(published 1979 by John Calder). The pollsters
find that people want to hear seven words
from Company. The meadowlark, although
struggling to remain in flight, complies:
“girdle,” “inkling,” “confusion,” “vertex,”
“mountains,” “hitherto,” and “furthermore.”
Seven words of inspiration! Today
the people are frightened but
tomorrow they will rise up. Imagine
what might be possible! In 1702, when
this poem was written, the author
was put to death: an enemy of the state.
In crafting this translation, I have
striven to maintain the vitality
of the original. In this way, the frightened
people will rise up, probably tomorrow.
Imagine what might be possible!

Stuart Ross
1 January 2017

Conan Tobias, the publisher and editor of the Toronto-based litmag Taddle Creek, has recently made it a practice to have me read my New Year poem to him over the phone, and he then immediately posts it on the TC podcast site. So here I am reading my poem.

Wishing you fine New Year.

Over and out.


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