hosted by Monty Reid
Friday, April 22, 2011 at the Carleton Tavern
233 Armstrong (at Parkdale), upstairs
7pm doors, 7:30pm reading
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan was raised on a family dairy farm near Maxville, in Glengarry County, returning to Ottawa the year he turned nineteen. His father and sister still live on the dirt road his family has occupied since 1845. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Japan and England, he has published work in over two hundred trade journals in fourteen countries and three languages, and performed in Ireland, England, Wales, the United States and across Canada. His most recent titles are the poetry collections 52 flowers (or, a perth edge) (Japan: Obvious Epiphanies, 2010), kate street (Chicago: Moira, 2010), Glengarry (Vancouver: Talon, 2011) and wild horses (Edmonton: University of Alberta, 2010) and a second novel, missing persons (Toronto: The Mercury Press, 2009). In 1999, he won the CAA/Air Canada Prize for most promising writer (in any genre) in Canada under the age of thirty, and spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com. In 2008, ECW Press released a collection of his literary essays, Subverting the lyric: essays, the same year Arsenal Pulp Press produced his expansive tourist guide, Ottawa: The Unknown City. In 2012, Ireland’s Salmon Publishing will be producing an as-yet-untitled selected poems.
“How away is away” rob mclennan asks in the lyrical, drifting lines of Glengarry, his exploration of the home place. In the big myth of language, where identity and counter-identity jostle for space, Glengarry carves out a geography of the possible, of secrets and toothfairies and baler twine, one that is still habitable. Like the rest of us, paused in our own history, he can’t decide whether to throw himself into it, or to escape as quickly as he can. And so he balances, in language that is sometimes precarious, sometimes generous, always humane, and he never falls. And we never fall with him.
rob mclennan guides his reader through vast billowings of history and geography as well as their “the delicate erase and ease.” Within deeply felt poetic sequences, mclennan navigates, employing all necessary pleasure and patience, the intimate silence of his land and mindscape. Traversing the ineffability of time and space, this poet measures any absence by the depth of its roots, “in the hollow that forms on knowing.” mclennan’s poetry discloses how generations of familiarity, of labor in collaboration with landscape, can still open onto a new field, a site of earthy reverence. “Wonder” is a word that recurs from poem to poem, that “stain of landscape/I would let you empty/& refill.”
Elizabeth RobinsonComposed in three sections, Glengarry is a return in writing to the landscape of rob mclennan’s youth and a headlong rush into the fractures, slippages and buried surfaces of what the text leaves undisclosed to him.
In “glengarry: open field (a postscripted journal)” the poet discovers that “the earth remembers every scratch & scar & step ever took, if you know where to look, how to ask in the way of assembling,” and to ask those questions of the emotional and physical landscapes of one’s youth is to discover that “history is written by everything that history forgets”; is “to half-open a story of what no longer exists”; to beg the question, “is this memory or romanticism”; to run the risk of becoming lost in the very attempt to reconstruct the elements of our past: “there is always the fear here of looking more back than ahead.” What mclennan finds on this quest is nothing more than “a portable violence of heritage & secrets.” What he discovers here, however, is that “we all live in imagined boundaries,” and that “if the story exists, i am living the language of it.”
The short reprise to his memory poem, “whiskey jack,” leads mclennan to ask: “what am I filled with, this quiet / conspiratorial talk, this body / of open wilderness, painted trees / & a history that functions / without markers / save seasons.”
Finally, in “avalanche,” the answer to mclennan’s rhetorical question, “where are you, heart?” appears in both its lyric and its epic voices: “the names of all my broken hearts are only names again” and “there is eventually a silence / there is history.” Amidst this “aesthetic of wonderful destruction” each new poem is “an illusion against destructive slide,” because “what else is human hope but momentarily borne.”
Link to Nathaniel G. Moore's review of Glengarry/interview with mclennan here;
Link to "the green wood essay" included in the collection here;
ISBN 13: 9780889226623 | ISBN 10: 889226628
6 W x 9 H inches | 160 pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Frontlist | Poetry | Bisac: POE011000, POE000000