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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

j/j hastain reviews Glengarry (Talonbooks) and C. (little red leaves) on Turntable + Blue Light

American poet (and above/ground press author) j/j hastain reviews my trade poetry collection Glengarry and poetry chapbook C., alongside Jennifer H. Fortin’s Mined Muzzle Velocity (see the original review here). Thanks, j/j!
rob mclennan’s Glengarry

rob mclennan’s new book Glengarry (Talonbooks) is both visceral and concrete. Glengarry appears as a three section wonder that in my reading of it, I experienced as a triptych. Not just three-fold but held together by hinges. The two hinges that held the triplicate together for me were place and body, and they allowed the whole of Glengarry to be a sort of art for me. I will speak about both place and body in a blended way throughout this review. My intent is to reveal how these two hinges work together (enacting Glengarry) in a communal way in order to hold the book together from the inside out.

Part of the triptych feeling certainly came from the aesthetics of the poems. Dripping from themselves--but in a clear and calculated way. Like rain dripping from an aerial gutter that has just reached its max. Addition of drips making drips leak. It is raining right now as I write this. Rain that makes the sky look like a shadow. I think about apparatuses that can fill to a max. That have an end point. I think about what it is to extrude beyond an end point. Is Glengarry just such type of apparatus? Does it have an end point? Or is it the extrusion beyond an end point? What is it for an it to spill over from within itself? Is it possible that spilling over can be an activism? Oh “many-splendoured” wake!

To spill over                        as an activism.

In this book there is something that emerges from what feels to me like a gestural admixing (on the part of mclennan) of the details considered to be history. Prior to reading this book I thought of history as something fixed--as frustration. As site that would always indelibly remain past tense. However while reading through Glengarry’s sections (glengarry: open field, “whiskey jack” and avalanche”) I was struck by the way that through continual threading of the materialities of mclennan’s history (“beyond the darkening side of trees/ beyond the county line”) into other aspects of that history’s materiality (“the junkyard alive”) what emerged was a different (torqued?) site (not necessarily past tense “push of seasons; on,/ unending”) from which to proceed in the considerations and meditations. For perhaps “if you know where the history, happened” you can begin to unravel how to hone that history into home.

Perhaps it is engagement or method (threading) that turns history into home. By way of a process of honing? What generally are the differences between history and home? Does one or the other emancipate us more? Destroy us more? Make us more mute to ourselves? Add to our vividity?

Glengarry often made me wonder about how to be a conduit for transductions of (or conflations of) place. How to be part of an obsession regarding history and home but to do so by way of an awareness of the unavoidability of fractured frames? I see Glengarry’s poems themselves as fractured frames. I see some of the lines in the book as fractured frames (“to become one/ a hardened break” or “think you/ in my standing stall/ a testament/ to all the weather we lived”)—fractured in that they do not enact any singular image—fractured in the way that they move rhythmically. With hard jolts of consonants against smoother mouth and ear shapes (the smoothness of “to become one” against the hard “k” in “a hardened beak”) or how the inner workings work with slanted rhyming (“in my standing stall” to “a testament/ to all”).

“I sometimes talk about my home, my point of origin, as though it isn’t there anymore.” Perhaps this is what we must do if we want to galvanize any given (birth or context) origin for a more animate and current version of origin. This current version--no doubtedly one that we would have to have our hands in. Hence the gestural admixture I see mclennan enacting (mentioned earlier in this review) as one of this book’s main strengths.

I feel that in this book home is “a resolve marked by passion.” A commitment. A shifting and a staying. A site where mclennan and his characters (“partner”, “children”, “her”, “our grandma”, “ex-wife” “the very taste of iron you”, etc.) can interact and interject. Can deepen the myriad landscapes for the sake of a reversal of “can you ever go home again?”--for some sort of guarantee that we are in fact in a home that is our own.

In the multiple times I read Glengarry, I kept thinking of calculated leakage becoming solid flow. I felt Glengarry materialize itself in the ways that “a river is always certain.” A river that is actually capable of never stopping. This river mixes. It reconfigures. It flows over cracks, crags, boulders--borders.

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Creative Engagement with rob mclennan’s C. (LRL, 2011)

mclennan’s new LRL chap “C.” is a masterful blend of mysterious motion and non-normative meta-narratives of the quotidian (“the lights in human form”). With subtle repetition of objects of human sentiment (“figs […] artichoke hearts”) which roots us in the physicalities of planar existence on Earth) as well as with a sort of slipping in of philosophically and compositionally profound phrases (“I wanted change/ to not break; narrative,/ thick and strange” / “titled; sad/ phonetics”), we are taken by this book’s gentle whirling.

It is as if, for a time, we are enacting dervish-spins around unforeseeable derivatives (“a spherical notion/ sometimes a great theory/ of untuned strings”) and that act, motion and location is how we find our relation or home here.

What could be more inductive of connection between the quotidian and mystery, than a “constant renovation”? mclennan takes us into “combined reflection”—a place where there do not seem to be ultimates but instead, so much upturning (“threadbare/ caked in ash”). Here I feel like we are digging up “symbols [] to turn [] angles/ to action” finding ways to “live/ beyond each limit.”

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