April 26, 2009

Joe Ross

Joe Ross (USA/lives France)

Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Ross attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where he had intended to study to become a doctor. There he met the poet and fiction writer, Toby Olson, who, in turn, introduced him to fellow professor Douglas Messerli. Over the next few months, a close friendship developed between Ross and Messerli, and Ross focused more and more on writing.

His first book, Guards of the Heart, consisting of four plays written in poetic form was written during this period; and over the next few years Ross continued writing poetry. He graduated from Temple, Magna Cum Laude in Psychology in 1983, and moved soon thereafter with his first wife to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. In Washington, he continued his friendship with Messerli while working as a ticket supervisor at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Ross was extraordinarily active in the cultural scene of Washington, serving as President of the Poetry Committee of The Folger Shakespeare Library Board from 1994-1997 and as the literary editor of the arts bi-monthly The Washington Review. He also founded and directed a reading series, In Your Ear, for the District of Columbia Arts Center.

In 1997 he and his second wife, Laura Wilber, moved to San Diego, where Ross became the Development Coordinator for The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. In 1999, he left that position to serve as Chief of Policy for The City of San Diego Council District Five, and a year later became The Senior Policy Advisor for District One. He was also active in the San Diego cultural scene, serving as a board member of the San Diego Art Institute and co-founding a reading series in that city.

In 1997 he received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for his poetry. He lives in Paris with his wife and two children.


Guards of the Heart: Four Plays (Los Angeles: Blue Corner Books, 1990); How to Write; or, I used to be in love with my jailer (Norman, Oklahoma: Texture Press, 1992); An American Voyage (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1993); Push (Buffalo: Leave Books, 1994); De-flections (Elmwood, Connecticut: Potes & Poets Press, 1994); Full Silence (Los Angeles: Upper Limit Music, 1995); The Fuzzy Logic (Norman, Oklahoma: Texture Press, 1996); The Wood Series (Los Angeles: Seeing Eye Books, 1997); EQUATIONS=equals (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004); Strati (Italian/English) (La Camera Verde, 2007) Strata (Zürich, Switzerland: Dusie Books, 2008); FRACTURES//Conections (Italian/English) (La Camera Verde, 2008); wordlick (Los Angeles, Green Integer, 2011)

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English


Was it you?
There in the new.
Morning is a verb –
fresh outlined
the action.
Sorry, did you say
evasion or invasion?
I can’t quite hear what
turned up
at the outskirts
of lasting. Remembering
peace was a verb too.
A complication necessary
and known not for
its fact but by what
it lacked.
Reprinted from Job’s Horse (2005). Copypright ©2005 by Joe Ross.

from Guards of the Heart

SEMOSA: [Thinking to herself as she sees the old woman in the distance]

The years, bring little pain, yet they add.
Everything builds, somewhere, and takes a toll—
not at crossing or borders or bridges, but
rather, the outside coming in and staying—
too close to the beat, but by the river, pumping
echoes to shore washing upon the ears, ringing—
what the mind reflects through eyes before water—
at a time yet called and stalled, somewhere
in the actions yet to take place
yet remembered, somehow.
Though, not yet—
and was already.
As though time stopped, I look
there me, after befores.
And now.
How? I circle or turn or watch or am
She, there, yes, I remember, not
but feel or rehearse.
All too often, again, yes
there goes I
through time past, colliding forward
never moving
but yet a place, to watch
and call to companions, to look
and fill spaces—
not with bodies or lies or even plans,
but with the simplest of smiles—
arching a plain back to what connects
before we moved in, before we moved
before we.
And she know, not on the edge—
but where it gathers.

( from Guards of the Heart: Four Plays, 1990)

from An American Voyage

The world green blue in ambivalent sound.
The heat pressing down against.
The will of current.
Strings of palm.
Adagio of fish.
A light step into swim
recovering artifice from extinction.
Even the breath blue.
A tongue held in coconut bite,
the skin peeled back.
Raw fruit.
Rare exclamation.
A single purpose.
A lame excuse
limping for the night.
Stars suspended in inverted light.
Something is not right.
Something refuses to listen –
Speak or tell.

( from An American Voyage, 1993)

from An American Voyage

Leaning begins.
A slight sway in iron thought.
The nails painted brittle.
An elegant stretch of hand.
You awake to your own wake.
A memory of miles upon a sandy beach.
The sun so warm upon a naked back.
Each step a print into presence.
A single vision upon an exposed thigh.
The lips red, parted.
Each line, moisture for a searching tongue.
This held in mouth –
savored in wide blue’s spread light.
A tension on the tip of taut.
You freeze –
Let go.


A single lost walk to the edge of dune.
Each foot.
A step into coconut.
Wild wanderings in the wild of stars.
You make a head-spinning turn and stare
Wide open to a density of tropical hope.
Some where a front approaches.

(from An American Voyage, 1993)

White deck sandal and chisel –
A face, from the back, drinking darkness
Each blow is within us –
A spark, a chip to fly.
This easy night, a hammer without repetition.
Its maleness gone.
Bursting upon the ears, each chop.
If ice knew fluid. Blueness let in.
Veins of time.
The callused, colossal, coliseum – no dictionary.
Then stillness.

(from The Wood Series, 1997)

Symmetry in sticks found.
Intransitive as to be.
Each climb. A series.
Parallel to harmony contained.
An open.
One runs with another.
Forested upon a wall.

(from The Wood Series, 1997)

The bark taken off.
Green wood. Buffer.
Shaved. Before sanding.
Back straight.
Perfect shoulders. Muscles diamond between.
Hand callused. Fingers, knots.
The chisel in teeth. Between breasts.
Let free.
In rhythm.
Chips flew. The evidence of process is dance.
This dance. That dance.
Forearms sinewed to the triceps armed.
Ready for en[counter].

(from The Wood Series, 1997)

Wood now to sound settles.
Slight the split opens.
Crack. [Im]perfect.
Musing sap. To speak.
Not of nature apart.
A part


(from The Wood Series, 1997)

MIDDLE: excluded

Plain said and said so. Page down Tuesday.
Oil wells and green field splinters, this year.
Old world poetry and the wasted paper leans upon the in us.
Dance rapid and tight, enough to notice and not care.
But to do and get done, already spent and not providing.
Your pension is our poison. Flowers & bombs at thank you.
Ten performances & awards, medals, honor – your substance, abuse.
We are grafted, held, and fought. Precious and few, on the mend –
torn, tattered, and made to mod. This rising retroaction
upon the spin, uneven, clean & shaven
This is dirty and obscene. A sight of laser light.
Pour that man a beer, shake the top down. Yo
mother fucker, new order hope.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]

ADVOCATE: don’t wear black

My muse these days is a lit spoon. Impossible morning blindness. Cream.
I want to scrape your insides out, add butter, add salt, pull your poles and maybe
Paralyze your Polaroids. Expose your snap shot stops of this life.
Dried time. Only dried time dear. Your make-up make believe, mold pressed vision.
The mundane fission of coming between. Coming between yourself, these sheets.
Like going North to get South. Or funning to the East to fill up your West. Quest on
my hero. Lance me a dragon. Slay me a wizard.

How far out can you go to get in? Go on, try out. Tire out. The little train that could
had a secret about knowing the right track. They never tell you that.
Screw it. I just want to razor cut this rope wound round your neck, sorry.
Sorry for the facts. Sorry for the fate. Sorry the way the cards got dealt.
So, no real big deal. We are we – used to it. Welcome to us.
Post-hype, post-post generation – raised on division. Schooled on revision.
A multi-media blitz of fractured mind. Sample and re-recorded.
We’ll re-write the inside out.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]


A line that comes undone. Here honey your gun.
So sweet, so soft, so stiff. You’re malleable in form.
I ask for butter but will accept lead. Take head.
Your sex excites my mind. Your cheese runs my dog.
For you a thought must be inside out. And act – a divine
scream. Your center hot and melting rage.
I know thinly concealed – welcome to your world.
Now February, think of snow even if your not.
Try to cover in white, recover the not lost. I slip,
hold tight to this shoot.

There are tears in my body. Tears in you.
Tears in your lake. Tears in the world.
Tears on the take. Tears all over and really not a single
drop. Know what I mean? I feel has fell from the inside.
There stays the shell – take aim and launch. A site-on
Your cross hairs in my mouth. My weapon at your brain.
This kind act so.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]


With you all things are possible. Possessed taken and sure.
I cut across the day light and write this. A thank you. A belief
round around the other side. Come with me past mythology.
Beyond the shipwrecks I stick my hand into ashes. Wet earth,
Face fire to cool down. I want to wrap my breath around you.
Your love poem. A flagwave to the ahead. Branded and coming to.
The other half is words. Just words. Silence and full.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]

Is it on Earth? Reached.
My piano monks out to this lived played touch.
The wreck of us here. Religion does equal out.
Interchangeable with each other.
The anguish of being: Is Alone. A wish,
I go through. Human divine.
Help yourself, to our hour here.
Burnt ends crisp, the waiting
Us naïve and analysis, an amazing error.
Worship in the trees, spirit speak –
a place warm and strong leaves
several changes of mind: Food, home.
That’s all – we can hope, for a simple peace.
You watch, this listen –
The way the heat builds.
Pick out the left overs. Credible, sure.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]

All equations equal
Together this
Equation equals equals.
One left
out, out still.
Our us, another.
You equate
You You.

[from EQUATIONS=equals, 2004]


[‘The years, bring little pain, yet they add.”]
Reprinted from Guards of the Heart: Four Plays (Los Angeles: Blue Corner Books, 1990). ©1990 by Joe Ross. Reprinted by permission of Joe Ross.

[“The world green blue in ambivalent sound.’] and [“Leaning begins.’]
Reprinted from An American Voyage (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1993). ©1993 by Joe Ross. Reprinted by permission of Joe Ross.

[“White deck sandal and chisel –“], [“Symmetry in sticks found.’], [“The bark taken off.”] and [“Wood now to sound settles.”]
Reprinted from The Wood Series (Los Angeles: Seeing Eye Books, 1997). ©1997 by Joe Ross. Reprinted by permission of Joe Ross.

“MIDDLE: excluded,” “ADVOCATE: don’t wear black,” “NOSTALGIA: report,” “ADDICTION: bliss,” [“IS it on Earth? Reached.”]
Reprinted from EQUATIONS=equals (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004). ©2004 by Joe Ross. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

No comments: