Friday, June 24, 2005

Stuart Ross’ syd & shirley poetry magazine, issue #1

With years between the demise of his small press ‘zine Mondo Hunkamooga, it’s good to see Toronto writer and small publishing maven Stuart Ross get back into the little magazine game with the first issue of his syd & shirley (named after his parents, with a photograph of them, circa 1950, on both front and back cover). A poetry magazine scheduled to appear three or two times a year, the first issue features work by Lynn Crosbie, Jeramy Dodds and Richard Huttel, as well as an interview with poems by David W. McFadden, as well as the usual heap of reviews of books new and old.

Apart from his own writing, Ross is perhaps at his best as a promoter, whether through his old Mondo issues (get copies if you can; they’re amazing resources to various bits of small press history in Toronto and beyond), or when he was there to help found the toronto press fair in 1987 (an extension to his regular “meet the presses”). Since he stopped producing Mondo, he has been writing a regular column for WORD, but I would rather hear him talk about what interests him (which he does regularly), instead of nit-picking about all the things that bother him (which he also does regularly). He recently collected a number of his columns in a new collection out with Anvil Press in Vancouver, Confessions of a Small-Press Racketeer. Otherwise, you can find a bunch of his old columns here. On top of that, Ross has even recently become a blogger himself, starting with a recent trip to Oslo and Paris.

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Toronto resident David W. McFadden has always been one of my favorite writers, and it’s good to see an intelligent and lengthy interview with him. Considering all the work he produces, and has been producing, I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t get more attention than he seems to.

Secrets of the Universe

You’re waiting for a bus at Ward and Baker
and a woman comes up to you
and asks for a dance.

You tell her you don’t want to dance
for there is too much snow
and not enough music
and she says you didn’t mind
dancing with me last night.

And when you tell her she’s mistaken
you didn’t dance with her or anyone last night
she says oh yes you did
and when you ask her where
she says up there
on the roof
and she points to the roof of Hipperson Hardware.

In fact, she says, as her voice drops
and a shy look comes into her eyes
I’ve even danced with you on other planets
Venus and Mars for example
and then she walks away

leaving you to wonder about the part of your life
that is secret even from you.

Toronto writer Lynn Crosbie has always favoured dark subject matter, predominantly from pop culture, from her novel about the late Playboy model Dorothy Stratten, her novel Paul’s Case, about Paul Bernardo, to her most recent poetry collection, Missing Children. If a fan of her poetry at all, easily her best is the sequence “Alphabet City” that appeared in her selected poems, Queen Rat: New and Selected Poems (Anansi). Karis Shearer explores the piece in the most recent issue of Open Letter in her “The Poetics of Autobiography: Reading Lynn Crosbie’s ‘Alphabet City.’” Included in Syd & Shirley are thirteen pages of a work-in-progress, “Liar (excerpts),” and Crosbie’s bio includes a note that reads “If you like her poems, please send her a drawing of yourself, preferably with a squirrel and tree in the background.”

We moved off of College, just north of all the noise.
You found this place to appease me, and it never appeased me,

the noise of the street replaced by grotesque domestic concerns —

a python-sized worm in the drain of the shower,
the shower that abutted the laundry room where six inches of black
sludge pooled,

the window sill in the basement kitchen an entomologist’s workshop,
where coaster-sized spiders captured platter-sized beetles,

the mushroom that bloomed between the cracks in the blackened parquet tiles,
more viscous and garish each time.

The mushroom grew beside the cupboard that was forever dis-hinging itself,
and we found ourselves there, one day, and you said,

I will never leave you,

and the mushroom’s black cap swayed,

as you held me and I believed you,

it asserted itself, and sounded like a bell.

– Lynn Crosbie, from Liar (excerpts)

As well, the issue includes healthy amounts of the poetry of Chicago’s Richard Huttel, and Ontario-born Jeramy Dodds. I like any magazine where I can get more than a one-off of a poet’s work, so it is possible to get a real sense of what they are doing.

Copies of Syd & Shirley can be purchased by sending Stuart Ross either eight dollars for a single issue, or twenty-five dollars for three issues Canada (US $25 / 3 issues US; US $33/3 issues elsewhere; payable to Stuart Ross; PayPal payments to No unsolicited manuscripts. Money and books / chapbooks for potential review can be sent to Syd & Shirley, c/o 99A Wychcrest Avenue, Toronto Ontario Canada M6G 3X8.

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