by rob mclennan
Paperback: 82 pages
Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
publisher's website here
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Good grief! mclennan—in elision of subject, omission of object, in suppression of narrative—has rewritten the grammar of love. He jiggers love radically in suspended prepositions. He newly measures it in hesitations and in the innumberable small moments between comma and semi-colon. Those discretions.
These poems read like the score of grief, driving the song through its musical rests. What rob mclennan makes “visible by loss,” calls us to consider grief’s odd recessions, obsessions, omissions-- its “notes of replication.” Suffering echoes through its landscapes, turns of phrase and among its machinery. Its lovely, excruciating achievement roams and exceeds the pain that the “body learns only to forget.” This poetry sings the ache “further, / down/ as it is human.”
It’s not a poetry to be safely skimmed. It pivots, sidejogs readily such as “endearments, armed/like trees.” Any given word doesn’t go to expected places. It isn’t dodging from somewhere but over somewhere complex, topographically. It dekes at ground level but it runs understanding the terrain from longer vantage point as a mind at work in “turbulence, approach of water, absence/makes the heart grow//fountain/and its architecture.”
There are leaps and abrupt stops that keep the words generating understanding and multiple readings. Can a heart without a water supply be so self-resilient as to build its own infrastructure? It must, musn't it. It's refreshing to see poetry that speaks resilience rather than the romance of sudden lurch papercut endings.
Rather than a poetry that descends from a city planner worldview where everything is set in a grid, insistently rolled into a cohesive symbolic whole where meaning reigns, here’s a reflection of the way life admits boulders and pre-existing buildings. It’s not a topdown opinion, so much as a rigorous observing, working with and in non-sequiturs and uncomfortable extensions. For example in grief notes; supplement the poem moves from realizations of the general — the large scene of jackpine lakeshore, the sense of all of humanity scaled down into the natural universe (without explicitly explaining such being implied but giving reader some credit to understand) — to the specific scale of an individual life, “if people disappear/from earth// ,a lover would.”
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011), kate street (Moira, 2011), 52 flowers (or, a perth edge) (Obvious Epiphanies, 2010) and wild horses (University of Alberta, 2010), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/ garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com), as well as the semi-annual ottawa small press book fair, which he originally co-founded in fall 1994. In 2009, he edited a special Canadian poetry issue of the Swiss pdf poetry journal Dusie (dusie.org). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essay, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com