By rob mclennan
The eponymous first part of mclennan’s new book consists of fifty “gifts” each centred around words, phrases, or “glyphs” of language that initiate and replicate their own fractal transformations: some remain simply found fragments about which other words and phrases ... Read more
The eponymous first part of mclennan’s new book consists of fifty “gifts” each centred around words, phrases, or “glyphs” of language that initiate and replicate their own fractal transformations: some remain simply found fragments about which other words and phrases unfold, some lose themselves into pieces that we forget were once found, some mirror themselves in other forms, others become simply something other in language as it moves both with and away from them, each creating a syntax of meaning that is specific to its own occasion. All are addressed to the poet’s intimates—two dozen are, significantly, valentines—the rest admonitions, remembrances, messages and homages made public by the readers’ acts of witness.
In part two, “incomplete,” we are invited to watch the poet robbed of his intent as unexpected words interrupt his texts, turning declaratives into interrogatives, questions into requests: “would you leave (accidental) behind”—each poem an apparent loop of closure, but one that signifies its “failure” or incompletion by ending, or starting over again, with its first [title] word. In part three, “weightless,” the poet frees the signifier from the weight of the signified. He brackets and strikes through what we think of as “known” in the “real world” that is always outside language, because it is [named].
What unifies or makes these four parts into a book are the personae the poet assigns to the lover: in the first as an intimate; in the second as an interruption of the determinative self—the other that brings us back to the self; in the third as an undefinable and thereby unattainable weightlessness; and finally as the gravitational pull of the landscape itself—all of them “unfinished” at the speaker’s age, as the title of part four implies: “[sex at thirty-eight] unfinished shield notes: letters to g. ”
Born in Ottawa, Canada's glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019), Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022). In spring 2020, he won 'best pandemic beard' from Coach House Books via Twitter, of which he is extremely proud (and mentions constantly). He 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.
“rob mclennan is one of the best contemporary poets in Canada. ”
— Barry McKinnon