I Have Something to Tell You

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

I said

pointing to identical newspapers

look here

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’re cameras

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

Dive in
  1. This poem unfolds like a dream. At what point do you know that it is not set in the real world?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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!

Useful Links

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

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Bibliographical info

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)

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