Stuart Ross, You Exist. Details Follow.
2012, Anvil Press, Vancouver BC
$16, 978-1-897535-92-9, 120 pages
reviewed by rob mclennan
have you heard of time?
It’s a thing that matters,
like that other thing,
but less. Someone in
the diner said, “Thither.”
Someone else strutted
into the corner, admired
the landscape, an unfocused
golf course. Please write
a thesis about my behaviour –
I mean my grandmother.
If we all shared a single torso,
I would feel more confident
dancing. Have you noticed
the sky? It’s on top of the trees.
The straggling professors of trouble
are astonished by the headlines.
They don’t know who to phone.
They await further orders
from a double-parked sun.
Soon all will be rubble,
heaps of slag. See, I have
a topic. I will tell you
my topic when I’m
better prepared. (“YOU EXIST. DETAILS FOLLOW.”)
Cobourg, Ontario writer, editor and publisher Stuart Ross’ seventh full-length poetry collection, You Exist. Details Follow., continue the surreal examination of mundane details, fantastic impossibilities, responses to other writers and their works, variations on the author/self, and other narrative absurdities. Over the years, Ross’ poetry has become more meditational, while continuing to embrace disjunctive narrative twists and surreal turns. Ross plays openly with facts, something he long-ago borrowed from friend and influence David W. McFadden, the two writers sharing the variation on not allowing whether or not a story is “true” to interfere with the telling. The truth itself, however subjective, simply gets in the way, something any reader of Ross’ work already knows to not let distract from what the poem might actually be saying.
THE GREAT TORNADO
Grandfather put my dead turtle by the curb.
I was older than Grandfather
but kept my teeth in a smaller glass than his.
Father and Mother made soup every day
and I shared it with my school chums.
the day of the great tornado
my brothers pinned me to the garage door.
My red hair rippled.
I had never read a book.
I watched my turtle lift into the wind.
One of the most intriguing threads through Ross’ poetry collections over the past few collections has been his ongoing “autobiographical Razovsky series,” a loose thread that began as a feature in his collection Razovsky at Peace (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2001). Razovsky was the family name that his paternal grandfather was born with, later Anglicizing to Ross; there was a moment when Ross considered reclaiming his previous family name, deciding instead to reclaim as an ongoing semi-fictional character, “Razovsky,” that now runs through his poetry. There are even some interesting echos in Ross’ “Razovsky and the Heron” (pp 32-3) of Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell’s “Karikura” poems from The Real Made Up (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2007). One can only presume that to read enough of these pieces might create a small portrait of the character. And yet, Razovsky lives within Ross’ poetry, but not yet his fiction. Might there be fiction down the road to further explore him, or perhaps even some non-fiction, exploring the fact and the purpose of this semi-autobiographical pseudonym/character?
Where is the boat that Razovsky arrived in?
What was the street that Razovsky lived on?
Where are the letters that Razovsky received?
Who are these people in Razovsky’s photos?
Why did Razovsky decide to leave Europe?
When did Razovsky know they were dead?
What was Razovsky’s favourite music?
Who had Razovsky loved before her?
What were the causes Razovsky would march for?
Why did Razovsky refuse to speak Russian?
What was the last night Razovsky remembered?
When was Razovsky most likely to cry?
Why was the letter signed by Razovsky?
Who put the rock on the stone of Razovsky?
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012) and grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). The Uncertainty Principle: stories, is scheduled to appear in spring 2014. An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com