I met Ross Robbins in Portland, Oregon at Powell’s Books. We were both sifting through the shelves of the small press poetry section. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to find, but seeing someone else in the same section always leads me to press them for what they think I should be reading. It’s a welcomed conversation in a world where there is a plethora from which to choose, and only a small bowl of knowledge from which I can pull.
He happened to mention that he was a local poet, but before doing so, he pointed me in the direction of several chapbooks and collections that he felt I would enjoy. He told me about a few local readings he would be attending, and then finally said that he had a few of his own chapbooks in the section. Hot Bright Oyster, wasn’t just on the shelf in front of me, but it was also one of Powell’s featured selections. And rightfully so! Not only that, but he was starting his own small press, Bone Tax, and releasing a chapbook, Ticklish Animal, from one of my favorite local poets, Robert Duncan Gray.
As I grabbed a copy of Hot Bright Oyster, Ross made sure to tell me that there were some oddities inside. It was almost like he was qualifying the book before I grabbed it. I knew he was also just being a bit modest, which actually made me want to read it even more. The oddities in this book are many, and after a couple reads, and letting them sink in, I’m grateful that Robbins isn’t afraid to stretch beautiful imagery and cerebral writing. It’s not always straight forward, and that’s a treat, such as this section from “Lonesome Poem:”
My favorite of Robbins’ pieces comes toward the end of the chapbook, a eulogy to himself, simply titled, “#4.” In it, he engages his inner Dylan Thomas, as he posits that while a spark of synapse may race, and rage against the dying of the light, he himself will be engulfed by the world around him. Luckily, if that’s the case, at least we will always have his words.