I Cut My Finger.


104 pages
ISBN 978-1-895636-79-6
DDC 811'.54






Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


Stuart Ross is a funny man, a kind of slapstick surrealist playing games with language and its supposedly “given” attributes. In I Cut My Finger, he approaches each poem with what might be called “subverve.” Although only some of the pieces here “were written while listening to John Ashbery’s poems,” almost all of them suggest an indebtedness to Ashbery and his brethren in the New York School; although the language games of bpNichol and other Canadian “pataphsyicians also hover ghostlike over these proceedings.”


Many of these texts tell little stories, albeit definitively odd ones, where, for example, “I was just a young hamburger / … / dreaming of a tiny apartment in Paris / while the other hamburgers played football and / fought in the alleys with switchblades, spilling / condiments in their reckless wake.” Not all the poems enter quite such wild imaginative spaces; there are a few to or about his friends that address a simple recognition of delighted presence in a world “pointing / every direction.”


Ross’s take on the world, as expressed throughout these poems, can best be summed up by a natural image seemingly simple in its graceful description: “one glacier / reaches into the sky / the other / into the lake.”


If that were all, it would stand as a perfect imagist poem, but there is the final couplet, and it undermines all representation: “when i turn away / they switch places.”


Actually, Ross tends not to turn away from much, but everything keeps switching places on him anyway, and while his slap-happy persona may be lost in wonder at this bait and switch, his readers will find his and their bewilderment thoroughly entertaining.


Ross, Stuart., “I Cut My Finger.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/26877.