08 January 2021

Warren Dean Fulton reviews 70 Kippers

West Coast poet Warren Dean Fulton just posted a wonderful review of 70 Kippers on Facebook. I wish Michael could have seen it. Michael did get to see rob mclennan's fine review, which I'll link here and repost later. Warren kicks off an exquisite corpse reference, followed by the book's back-cover copy, and then gets into his review.

70 Kippers: The Dagmar Poems
Michael Dennis & Stuart Ross
(Proper Tales Press, 2020)

Reviewed by Warren Dean Fulton
"Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau."
("The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.")
70 Kippers
Two pals.
Two very different poets.
One kitchen table.
Several bottles of wine.
6 writing marathons over 3 years.
122 collaborative poems.
70 kippers.
A book of poetry.
An act of love.
Stuart Ross and his long time friend of 4 decades Michael Dennis, collectively composed the poems within this marvellous little book. A melding of minds, a vitamix fusion blender of whimsy, a swirling virtuoso circle of hybridization, resulting in this fishy gestalt creation, high in nourishing omega 3 fats.
Mayakovsky, Popeye, Raymond Carver, Bill Murray, Johnny Cash, Bukowski, Annette Funicello, Heidegger, Bobby the squirrel, Ginsberg & the gang from Riverdale, all make guest star appearances in these poems.
A revolving door into halls of mirrors.
But wait! There's more!
You’ll also have a sprinkling of some past presidents of the United States, Mickey Mouse, Frida Kahlo, Trotsky’s trousers, Red Skelton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackson Pollock, Elvis, William S Burroughs, Wayne Newton, Dick Cheney, and such brilliant quotations as "I’ll have a mani-pedi and a Mork & Mindy”.
The collaborative process of these two very different writers spawned some weird and wonderfully diverse juxtapositions. Their camaraderie shines throughout the poems, and reading these aloud adds an even fuller appreciation of their affection for poetry and one another. Playful back & forth, thrusts of images, words, phrases, duelling spent Christmas wrapping-paper tubes playing Luke Skywalker & d’Artagnan. Some of these pieces swing seamlessly, an Abbott & Costello comedy routine of Dada poesy, presented to psychiatrist, others like elementary school one upmanship or double dares. 
A cloud resembling Yo-Yo Ma
got its trousers from Mayakovsky
It craved an audience, but
the Politburo said nyet to stifled boos.
“I eat my good armchair,” it howled,
chocking on fabric, spitting out nails.
A river resembling the cloud
flowed through the veins of his uncle
Tom’s cabin, nestled beneath a cliff.
Not the Cliff of despair, but the other one,
the happy cliff! Soon the samizdat
told us the news. Free balloons were coming
to free the balloons that were trapped.
We were all very happy about that.
Our country was shaped like a tutu. 
It was time for the rain to stop
and for day to switch places with night.
They’d done it before.
The arsonist loves the flame,
the olive loves the martini
but ends up swallow just the same.
Back in the caveman days
when the bats left their caves
the cavemen looked for the bats’ diaries.
Cavemen hated when bats hid
their innermost thoughts,
dreamed sonar futures
and invented the wheel.
My webbed fingers ached in the rain. 
I’ve read through the book cover to cover once already, laughing here, groaning at times, doing a silent uh huh when a line really rang true, also some moments of grief as Michael Dennis has just passed away December 31, 2020, and within are some clues to thoughts of mortality.
Some of these poems, to me, read like Buddhist koans, challenging me to meditate, to think upon them, unravel hidden truths tied up like knotted shoelaces.  
In another country no one would complain
about the conditions under which dogs
dreamed like cats, saved like squirrels,
barked like llamas, under the billowing
animal cracker cloud sky.
Things couldn’t be better
or worse, he complained. 
he wanted truth and hope
this is how delusional he was
he still believed he had a chance
he built a ladder so tall
the last person he sent up hadn’t come down
and when the drapes fluttered open
a red cardinal smashed into the glass
the sky went black 
I highly recommend this book. 
I also advise one to conduct a collaborative poetic experience over a bottle or two of red wine with a close friend.
If I were to give it a Siskel and Ebert rating, it would be

Over and out. 

04 January 2021

New Year's Poem

Each year, I write a poem on New Year's Day. I've been doing this a long time. For five years now, Conan Tobias of Taddle Creek has asked me to record the poem on January 1 so he can post it on the mag's website. That was a link just now, a link to me reading the poem below.

Although the poem was written on New Year's Day, I'm a little late in posting it. Everything has moved for me like molasses since Michael Dennis's death on the afternoon of December 31. This poem isn't for him, and it isn't about him, but I know that he is in it, because my beautiful friend has occupied my brain and heart this past fall. I hope you'll read his poems and carry them with you.

When I sat down to write on January 1, all I could think of was air.

Wishing you all a better year, good health, the warmth of friends, even if distant.



There are creatures in the walls.

We hear them scurry and scratch,

gnaw on the insulation

and maybe the electrical wiring.

At night they write poems

on tiny typewriters

about how they hear creatures

outside the walls. They

hear us using our blenders

and pencil sharpeners and various

other contraptions whose purpose

they could never conceive of

and neither could we if no one

had invented them. Another


thing there is is air. There’s so much

of it. You find it between the leaves

of poplars and in the tunnels of ant hills

and bobbing on top of lakes and rivers.

Let’s go breathe some air. Let’s paint

a picture of it. If you don’t get the angles

just right, it doesn’t judge you. The creatures

in the walls mistake the word “poplar”

for “popular” but the “u” doesn’t judge them.

Everything makes mistakes. I have made

twenty or twenty-one of them. Tom Clark

wrote a book called Air. Page 20 has

“A small / black worker ant / moving


diagonally” and Page 21’s got

“A moon in the blue morning.”

The moon is surrounded by 

infinite sky, which we’re

connected to by dollops of air.

Perhaps if I wrote a book called Sky

I’d become more poplar.

Stuart Ross
1 January 2021


Over and out. 

01 January 2021

Michael Dennis: 1956 – the last day of 2020

Michael Dennis, a very dear friend and a swashbuckler of a poet, has died in Ottawa, on the afternoon of December 31, 2020. Michael was the author of several dozen books and chapbooks. He was a great supporter of visual artists. The best doodler who ever walked this earth. A deeply loyal and honest friend. And, beneath a gruff exterior, a sweet, sweet man.

Deepest condolences to his love of nearly 30 years, Kirsty Jackson.

Photo by Bruce McEwen

Over and out.

31 December 2020

My new book — in Spanish!

Well, a dream of mine has come true for me. At last. A book of my poems has appeared in another language.

Translators Sarah Moses (a very fine poet herself!) and Tomás Downey, along with the very fine folks at Socios Fundadores in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have brought into existence Sos una sola persona, a bilingual edition of about 25 of my poems.

It was launched in Argentina a couple of weeks ago, outside in a park. Hopefully there will be an online event I can participate in, sometime soon.

I am thrilled with the whole thing. And I love the cover. And I can't wait to hold a copy in my grubby manos.

You can read all about it here.

Over and out.

15 December 2020

rob mclennan reviews 70 Kippers: The Dagmar Poems

So pleased to see this review of 70 Kippers: The Dagmar Poems, the new collection of collaborative poems by Michael Dennis and me! I like how reviewer rob mclennan, the Ottawa-based literary energizer bunny, delves into our collaboration as an act of friendship and a plunge into each other's approaches.

Photo by Alexander Monker

Over and out.

03 December 2020

Nelson Ball Prize Shortlist

The judges of the inaugural Nelson Ball Prize, Beverley Daurio and James McDonald, have now released their shortlist. The $1,000 prize, made possible through the generosity of many of Nelson Ball's friends, family, and fans, goes to a Canadian poetry publication — book, chapbook, ephemera, etc. — that features "poetry of observation," a key interest in Nelson's own work.

Nelson Ball was a much-loved Canadian poet, publisher, and bookseller. He died on August 16, 2019, at age 77. Nelson began publishing in the 1960s and produced an astonishing body of work, actively writing until his last months. He was married to the painter and writer Barbara Caruso, who died in 2009. Fans of Nelson's poetry can expect a few more books to emerge over the coming years, as well as a first full-length collection of poetry by Caruso.

Photo by Kristan Aronson LAbbé

Over 110 publications published in 2018 and 2019 were submitted for consideration for the 2020 Nelson Ball Prize. Here, in alphabetical order by poet's name, is the shortlist:

Cameron Anstee, The Book of Annotations (Invisible Publishing, 2018)

Mike Barnes, Braille Rainbow (Biblioasis, 2019)

Susan Gillis, Yellow Crane (Brick Books, 2018)

Thomas King, 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin (HarperCollins, 2019)

Mark Truscott, Branches (Book*hug Press, 2018)

The winner will be announced in the next two weeks.

Over and out.

13 November 2020

Threefold: a poem by me/a video by Amelia Does

I have always dreamed of being a playwright. I liked the idea of creating a script and then passing it along to a team who would interpret it and surprise me. The idea of letting go of my own work and letting happen to it what happens to it is appealing.

The only play, though, that I ever wrote that made it to the stage was my own The Ape Play, which was originally commissioned by RM Vaughan for the 100 Tiny Queer Performances night he curated for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. He asked for a one-minute performance. I later expanded the play to two minutes, and eventually to six minutes. I performed it myself, in all its iterations. So no one has ever interpreted a play of mine.

Well, here is a variation on that dream. I commissioned my friend Amelia Does, a writer, filmmaker, and performance artist currently based in London, Ontario, to create a video for one of my poems. I did audio recordings of a couple of my poems and sent them to her. She was free to use those recordings or not. She could do what she wanted visually.

I'm a big fan of Amelia's video work. Especially those in which she herself performs, like this one. I had vaguely suggested to her that it would be interesting if no people appeared in the video. But she surprised me by performing in the video herself. This creates an interesting contrast/tension with the male voice that reads over the images.

The poem is "Threefold," a pretty bleak triptych that appears in my 2019 poetry collection, Motel of the Opposable Thumbs.


Over and out.