Thursday, 15 March 2012

rob mclennan

Emergency, (a faux-sonnet,

Relatively small, and spoken. Let the empty page
and box of envelopes. A shutter, tarmac.

Hands had to move so fast, we
singled out. Disappearing plastic valve.

If we navigated telling, could this
measure. Jacket, wall pegs, scarf.

Nations, if they do some good. Sharper,
as it glimmers. Still alive.

Current, rides these frequencies. The wound
of meanings, bloodlet fingers.

Stay with me, reason. Tactile,
auditory clues. Divulged, but rarely spoken.

A noble lie, compassionate. Before this
moment, choices. Corner of an eye.


TSTmpj:  From the information you shared with me when you submitted, it seems that you are a prime mover in the Ottawa writing field. Could you share with readers something about one of your ventures?

rob mclennan:  For international audiences, the most obvious ventures become the online ones, including a blog I post to regularly ( with book reviews, essays, notices, interviews with authors and other pieces. Since 2005, I’ve edited and published an Ottawa poetry pdf annual, ottawater (, which appears every January. Recently, the fourth issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics ( appeared online, which I edit/publish, as a replacement to the original site that Stephen Brockwell and I co-edited for eight issues. I’ve been working to explore various poetics, opinions and writers through soliciting materials for the journal, including essays, interviews, new poems and manifestos. Fewer and fewer venues, it would seem, provide critical consideration for what has already appeared, making it more difficult to comprehend what has been made, holding up the possibilities of what might happen next. The journal works to further conversation, therefore furthering comprehension, discussion and response. There is so much yet unexplored.

What else can I tell you? I do this alongside the other work I do as a writer, editor, publisher and everything else. To explore and follow the blog, for example, will provide many more details of what else I’ve been up to, if anyone is interested.

TSTmpj:  You use the compound word “faux-sonnet” in the title of your poem. It’s not a traditional lyric; it’s what I would term an objective lyric. Remembering T.S. Eliot’s resuscitation of the objective correlative is now over ninety years old, where to from here? Be an Alvin Toffler of twenty-first century poetics, and, on the basis of what you perceive now, make a prediction or two for us.

rob mclennan:  Only yesterday, I was at a talk at Ottawa’s AB Series by American poet and blogger Ron Silliman, and he predicted that there are so many threads of English-language poetry at the moment (he suggested 20,000 publishing English-language poets currently publishing within the United States) that, in a few years’ time, various threads of what is self-called “poetry” might be completely unrecognizable from each other. I think it’s already happened, with varieties between what even Canadian poets Lisa Robertson, Karen Mac Cormack, Margaret Christakos, Christian Bök and derek beaulieu have been producing, against the work of writers such as Stephen Brockwell, Tim Lilburn, Ken Babstock, David McGimpsey and Karen Solie.

Art is a living culture; it has to move, and move it does, to remain alive, and vibrant. Who knows where it might end up? Part of the appeal, as writer and reader both, is simply not knowing where it might, it could or even should. We want to be surprised; we want to be amazed.

TSTmpj:  Your poem resonates, among other things, a European sensibility to me. Ingeborg Bachmann comes to mind. Would you agree? Have you spent much time in Europe, and if so, what do you see as contemporary similarities between, say, a northern European country’s poetry and Canadian poetry?

rob mclennan:  European? Interesting. I know so little of European writing and writing traditions that I wouldn’t feel close to comfortable commenting on such. I’ve read a number of French works of prose-poetry in translation over the past few years—predominantly works produced by Burning Deck, translated by such as Norma Cole, Keith Waldrop and Cole Swensen—that have provided enormous inspiration, but not directly to the poem posted here. For most of my twenties and into my thirties, my influences were predominantly Canadian, with a shift over the past few years into more and more American works, including the translated works mentioned above.

But I revel in Milan Kundera. Why can’t he go back to writing novels?

About a decade ago, Stephen Brockwell and I did some readings in Ireland, returning a couple of years later to read in London, England and Cardiff, Wales. It’s as far as I’ve been east, so far.

Bio Note

Ottawa writer/editor/publisher rob mclennan is the author of 26 trade collections of poetry, fiction and non-fiction.


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