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Razovsky at Peace

by Stuart Ross

Long known to the alternative literary community for his prolific chapbooks and for his role as founder of Toronto’s Small Press Book Fair, Stuart Ross garnered mainstream attention when his book of poetry, Farmer Gloomy’s New Hybrid, was shortlisted for the 2000 Trillium Award. His quirky, accessible writing style makes him appealing to many different audiences, even those with little interest in traditional poetry.

In his latest collection, Razovsky at Peace, Ross explores the deep, or sometimes superficial, connections that create relationships throughout life, and, in some cases, death. This collection may come as a bit of a surprise to fans of Ross’s work. Still brimming with comically surreal images, Razovsky introduces a new tone of melancholy and nostalgia that circles around the theme of missing loved ones. Perhaps the spectre that most obviously haunts this book is that of Razovsky himself, who figures as a stand-in for all of the lost men in Ross’s own family – but particularly for Ross himself.

There are more tears in these poems, more longing and sighs, than previously: “The shadow/of your lips against my neck,/the shadow of your breath … the shadow of/your heartbeat against my chest.” But true to his signature style, Ross never allows the serious tone to completely displace the laughter. In the midst of a collection haunted by the ghosts of death and loss, he will interject his irreverent humour with such lines as, “Most ghosts eat toast.” Ross never places so much emphasis on mourning that, in the next poem or even the next line, the reader can’t help laughing. “I wonder what love is/while eating my/eighteenth bag/of potato chips./Each chip provides/a piece of the answer./My stomach/will sort it out.”