I’ve come to talk to you about shaving cuts
I was waiting across the road
right over there
for the light to turn
and you were on the other side
fumbling with change at the newspaper box
don’t buy this one buy this one
pointing to identical newspapers
I cut myself shaving
and both my hands are cameras
do you think that’s why I can’t hold a razor
my feet too are cameras
and my belly
made round by beer
that’s a camera too
a big camera
each of my eyes
they work good in the dark
and my mouth
well it’s not a camera
but when it opens
out comes my tongue
an actual camera
some people have cameras mounted on each shoulder
but each of my shoulders
is a camera
or each are a camera
grammar not being my strong suit
and speaking of suits
look what I done to this one this morning
I was shaving
dad said shave before you get dressed
right after you shower
while your face is soft
but always the rebel
I showered got dressed then shaved
and look what I’ve done to my suit
of course it’s hard holding razors
no matter how soft your face is
when your hands are cameras
have I told you about my hands
Stuart Ross, “I Have Something to Tell You” from Hey, Crumbling Balcony!: Poems New & Selected. Copyright © 2003 by Stuart Ross. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Source: Hey, Crumbling Balcony!: Poems New & Selected (ECW Press, 2003)
- This poem unfolds like a dream. At what point do you know that it is not set in the real world?
- The poem’s tone is funny, unnerving, and even sad. What images make you feel sympathy for the speaker? What images make you laugh? What images make you feel uncomfortable?
- The speaker uses the second person (you) to directly address readers. How does this point of view affect your relationship to the speaker? What about the speaker’s use of conversational language instead of overtly ‘poetic’ language?
- In the closing line, the speaker asks, “have I told you about my hands,” something that he has obviously already done. How does Stuart Ross use repetition to create the voice of the speaker? What have we learned about who the speaker is as a person?
- The poem is written in free verse, structured as one long stanza without any punctuation (except for apostrophes). How might this affect the way that you recite the poem? Where might you speed up or slow down? Would you pause at any point?
- Stuart Ross says that he came up with this poem’s first line, and then “my unconscious probably took over, and I followed the poem where it took me.” What do you think are the benefits of trusting your instincts or unconscious when writing creatively (poetry or fiction), particularly in the first draft?
- Write a poem that begins by describing your typical journey to school in the morning (or any mundane daily ritual that you have). Gradually introduce fantastical or surreal elements to your description, but keep the tone of your speaker casual and conversational, as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Use clear, sensory description for even the most sensational elements. Feel free to let your unconscious mind guide your poem!
Poet Gary Barwin interviews Stuart Ross about his process, techniques, interests, and influences: https://jacket2.org/interviews/stuart-ross-exists-details-follow
Many of Stuart Ross’s poems have surreal imagery or narratives. Watch this video to learn about the history of Surrealism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtPBOwE0Qn0
Watch Stuart Ross read his poems in the streets of Toronto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXAwJoqP8SI