Checking in: With rob mclennan

rob mclennan is reading this weekend at a pop-up poetry book launch: Stephen Brockwell + rob mclennan with their 2022 titles. When? Where? Saturday, August 20, 2022 at Das Lokal, 190 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa from 2-4pm, in the (patio) tent.

As a rob-fan he agreed to have had a flutter book with phafours in 2014, Acceptance Speech.

It is often on the tongues of Canadian poets, “everyone knows rob” but he’s constantly refining himself, his writing and his listening. He does get around, tiredly and tirelessly. He encourages new writers and established ones to keep going. He is a connector, reviewer, editor and publisher of poetry that isn’t mainstream narrative.

rob is a major promoter of Canadian and, increasingly, American poets. He shares the works of others through his various publishing arms, (above/ground, Touch the Donkey, and Periodicities). He is editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. His own poetry, fiction and non-fiction has been published for decades and tops 30 titles. Who better to ask…

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up?

rm: I really enjoyed Johannes Göransson’s latest, SUMMER (Grafton VT: Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2022). There’s something in his diaristic meditations I find envious, and part of me is curious to attempt an echo on the form. There’s also something very ‘a poem as long as a life’ in the work I’ve seen of his, which makes me curious to start searching out some of his earlier collections. 

I’m also really enjoying the new issue of FENCE magazine (Vol. 21 #2: win-spr 2022), which easily ties with The Capilano Review for the journal I find most consistently exciting and engaging.

Stephen Brockwell’s latest, Immune To The Sacred, is an intriguing evolution in his writing; he moves into some very interesting places.

And have you seen the prose poems of Conyer Clayton’s But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. (Vancouver BC: Anvil Press, 2022)?

PP: A lot of leads there. Take note, folks. What’s your life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

rm: I spent much of July re-entering the novel manuscript, set aside since November or so, as I worked on poems, until I had to return to reviews again, where I am currently (my list of titles-in-progress include poetry books by Polina Barskova, Krisjana Gunnars, CJ Evans, Gary Barwin, Nicole Brossard, Laynie Browne, Su Cho, Joshua Bennett, Billy Mavreas, Janice Lee, etcetera).

PP: mentally notes: Nicole Brossard and Billy Mavreas have something new?

rm: Our young ladies had various day-camps throughout July and into August, which allowed me a different kind of attention, so I was attempting to take advantage of that, for the novel. I’m hoping I can spend the rest of August pushing a few weeks ahead of reviews on the blog (and periodicities) to be able to return again to fiction come September, once our young ladies return to in-person schooling (something we haven’t engaged with since March 2020).

I’m also working on a handful of further festschrifts through above/ground press, as well as a variety of other projects in that direction, including a third ‘best of’ anthology to cover the press’ third decade, scheduled for release next fall with Invisible Publishing.

PP: Ooh, you heard it here first, folks, probably.

rm: Otherwise, I’m currently spending weekdays with our young ladies at their outdoor swim lessons, sitting a daily hour poolside with notebook, books and pen at Riverside’s RA Centre, a building I hadn’t actually been in or near before, despite years of driving by. Not long before my widower father died in 2020, I discovered my parents actually held their wedding reception there, so it’s a curious space for me to engage with. A very retro-vibe. Very calming, even despite the array of greenery leans up into the back windows of a government building. Perhaps today I might wave up at them.

PP: That’s a sweet discovery. Funny how places can be memory nodes, not only from direct experience but knowing family was there. Recently I went through Gatineau and passed the point in the river that my ancestors would have boated past to get from Montreal to Shawville and it gave a frisson of connection.

What else literary might be underway or forthcoming? Anything you can tell?

rm: As I said, I’m working a novel, originally begun during that first summer of pandemic-era. I would like to complete it, in part, so I can consider returning to the “Don Quixote” novel I began on New Year’s Eve, 2007, or the book-length essay I’ve been making notes on.

I’ve long been engaged with The Bagley Wright Lecture Series titles produced by Wave Books, especially Joshua Beckman’s THREE TALKS (2018), so would really like to be able to focus my attention on exploring some of the sketched-out thoughts I’ve had on literary citizenship and how poems get shaped.

Otherwise, my suite of pandemic-era essays, essays in the face of uncertainties, is scheduled to appear this fall at some point with Mansfield Press. Composed across those first three months of initial Covid-19 lockdown, I decided that if I was distracted away from work due to the crisis, why not make the crisis my work?

PP: Neat. Something else to watch for. What work can people read right now? Any author site, social media urls or things you’d like to plug?

Well, there’s the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022), obviously:

the book of smaller

Some recent-ish poems for National Poetry Month, and at the blog, at Courtgreen, Talking About Strawberries All of the Time, and Columba Poetry. Also a recent short story at Airgonaut, The Snows of Mount Yamuska

Otherwise, this is the author site.

PP: Super. Interesting as always to talk with you.