Tuesday, February 1, 2022

rob mclennan and Renée Sarojini Saklikar : Some notes toward the (Canadian) long poem

conversations on the long poem





rob mclennan and Renée Sarojini Saklikar discuss their work in the context of the Canadian long poem.

rob mclennan: Part of what I admire about your work is the enlarged structure you are working with, and the numerous elements you manage to contain within. You are very much working within the tradition of the “Canadian long poem,” but your work doesn’t seem in any way limited or contained by those strictures. How did your The Heart of This Journey Bears All Patterns begin?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar: thank you, rob, for situating my work within the “Canadian long poem” tradition: indeed and with gratitude to the publishers and writers, such as you, who’ve been there on this journey with me.

Over ten years ago, whilst in the middle of editing the manuscript for my first book length poem, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013), which deals with personal and historical trauma, as a restorative outlet, I started a series of free write responses to various long poems.

Included in this practice was T.S.Eliot, both The Wasteland, and also, his Four Quartets, which I read as one long poem.

The more time I spent with the Four Quartets, (to this day, at this moment, a small hard bound Faber & Faber edition, rather beautiful, sits close by on my desk),

the more I was led to epics (all those footnotes to The Wasteland!);

such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, Virgil’s Aeneid and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

And these texts, again, especially Eliots’ Wasteland, led me to the Mahābhārata and other epic cyles which then took me to epic fantasy: e.g. Tolkien and others....

And then (!) I paused, and realized, whoa: I can’t go this deep while I’m also editing children of air india;

and yet this thing I was writing ( this was in 2008) demanded attention and time and space: and so, I just committed to Slow Work Over A Long Period Of Time. And that was kinda hard ‘cause I knew it meant that the number of “slim standard poetry books of about 100-130 pages” sent to publishers would elude me and I’d had to let that go...and face “what are you working on now” sorts of questions, with, well, yay, chapbooks! Chapbook publishers saved me...and helped to keep the work going. So, a huge thank you to the late great Marthe Reed (Nous Zot Press); to Nomados Press (recently closed); and your own wonderful, above/ground press, which brought out two significant THOT J BAP chapbooks, (After the Battle of Kingsway and The Book of Bramah).

The title, THOTJBAP, arose out of those first early sessions with T.S.Eliot. And I love how when I shortened the phrase, The Heart Of This Journey Bears All Patterns, out popped the acronym, THOTJBAP, and I loved how the letters perform as a word that performs as a kind of sly gesture to “eastern/south asian” and yet, is an “Eeeeengleeesh” as you can imagine!

rm: I find that interesting! My first interactions with you and your work were actually you posting a John Newlove poem on your blog, caught up in a Google-alert email to my in-box. You mention all of these influences and formal epic structures, but not how you first began: what first drove you to writing something that was singularly itself, as a “life-long” work? Was it really a matter of the fact that your project was too large for what a publisher would deem a single collection?

RSS: I've always, somehow, for reasons I still don't quite know or understand, been drawn to things in cycles, series, sagas. Could it be some deep almost atavistic remnant of my South Asian heritage? When I first started writing creatively, in essays or essay fragments; in poetry; and in other genres, that's the way things came out in series, in cycles, parts somehow linked to a greater whole...I started reading things like Stephen Collis’ The Barricades Project: I shall send you a picture of a notebook. On the cover, pasted, a torn piece of an essay Stephen wrote, on the life-long poem. I started reading about life-long poems; and about long poems. They just seemed to call to me.

Everything I’ve created in terms of essays, stories, memoir, poetry, is part of thecanada?project...and inside thecanada?project,  is this multi-volume entity, an epic fantasy in verse, THOT J BAP. https://thotjbap.com/

THOTJBAP started as I’ve explained: as a series of free writes in response to my reading of The Wasteland and the Four Quartets.

RSS: Over ten years ago, whilst in the middle of editing the manuscript for my first book length poem, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013), which deals with personal and historical trauma, as a restorative outlet, I started a series of free write responses to various long poems.

Included in this practice was T.S.Eliot, both The Wasteland, and also, his Four Quartets, which I read as one long poem.

The more time I spent with the Four Quartets, (to this day, at this moment, a small, hard bound Faber & Faber edition, rather beautiful, sits close by on my desk),

the more I was led to epics (all those footnotes to The Wasteland!);...”

Here’s a question for you: which if your poems and / or poem sequences, would you consider a long poem?

rm: I would think I spent the latter half of my twenties leaning into the form of the long poem—through George Bowering, Jack Spicer, Fred Wah, Andrew Suknaski, Dennis Cooley, Robert Kroetsch, Margaret Christakos, Anne Carson, Monty Reid, Douglas Barbour and Barry McKinnon, among so many, many others—and my thirties really working a variety of explorations on the form. My second published book was a long poem—Manitoba highway map (Broken Jaw Press, 1999)—composed while working a reading tour through the prairies a year prior for a five poet anthology I was in with Joe Blades, et al, with the lines and rhythms and landscapes of John Newlove, Andrew Suknaski and Dennis Cooley running through my particulars.

Honestly, most of those first dozen poetry collections really explored and expanded my sense of the book as a unit of composition, from singular suites, assemblages of longer poems to actual book-length long poems. I suppose I could make the argument is that all I’ve done is a variation on the interconnected lyric. Everything I write eventually connects to everything else, furthering considerations of structure and tone and content.

Certainly, some books engage with the “long poem” more overtly than others, whether gifts (2009), 52 flowers (or, a perth edge) (2010), wild horses (2010) or Glengarry (2011), a poem that Christian Bök suggested was the best example he’d seen of my writing learning from those original 1960s Canadian postmodernists. There are plenty of further examples since then. I think, in certain ways, my sense of the “long poem” has evolved into the book-length interconnected suite, one that connects deeply to what emerged immediately prior, and to what comes next. Right now I’m in the midst of a kind of trilogy of interconnected poetry titles, working structural considerations of the prose poem and the lyric sentence, from the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022), with a side-jog to the manuscript “snow day,” to “Book of Magazine Verse” to the most recent manuscript, recently completed, “the book of sentences.” I suppose my canvas is simultaneously book-shaped and ongoing, if that makes sense.

RSS: comment: I once was chided by George Stanley, in conversation at a poetry conference a few years ago, prior to doing a reading in Nanaimo, about the need to distinguish between long poems and “The Life-Long Poem” which I thought was fair and also, of course, irritating! Folks will often cite Robin Blaser’s The Holy Forest, or bpNichol’s The Martyrology as (seminal?) examples of the life-long poem.

RSS: What say you?  And...hah, how might you view, for instance, thecanada?project, my own framing of my work, as, in fact, a life-long poem, “and in it, are many things.”?

rm: Well, the notion of form should never be considered one of absolute, yes? I think anyone who attempts any particular form, whether deliberately or otherwise, helps shift or shimmy the boundaries and considerations of that same form. I doubt there’d be any serious reader of poetry who wouldn’t consider Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets (1964) to be comprised of sonnets, although I’m sure there might have been many during Berrigan’s time who felt scandalized by his twist of the sonnet. For any form to remain healthy and even relevant to those of us who write, it has to exist as a living, breathing and adaptable thing.

Stanley was there during those days of the San Francisco Renaissance with Jack Spicer, so his perspective might lean into some of those considerations of form from those days, and the days of the 1970s Canadian long poem, interacting as he would with Barry McKinnon, George Bowering, Sharon Thesen and others, but one can’t know precisely his thinking second-hand. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of poetry books published over the years since Blaser and Spicer first began that would have expanded, shifted and altered the forms they established, and boundaries that exist across form and structure that might be solid for certain writers are fluid for others.

Why wouldn’t your ongoing work be considered a life-long poem? I think, much like Robert Kroetsch working his “Field Notes,” or Blaser or bpNichol (who managed, simultaneously, the “life-long poem” of The Martyrology alongside other compositional threads) or however many others, you’ve managed to assemble a kind of over-arching umbrella structure, beneath which everything you write (to date, at least) manages to fit. Who is he, or really, anyone, to say that you aren’t working in a similar manner? I’d be curious to get a sense of what he considered the boundary between the “long poem” and the “life-long poem,” exactly. bpNichol worked on The Martyrology up to his death, and most of his writing fell beneath that title, but not everything he did. Does that count as “life long”? Every single thing Kroetsch did, poetry-wise, fell under “Field Notes,” which I would argue the same. Why not for yours as well?

Perhaps it is as simple as the difference between what he can see of your published work, against how you see the same project: all the work yet to come.

RSS: So, thinking about this response, which resonates for my own practice; and this phrase, “the interconnected lyric” and this statement, (rob): “Everything I write eventually connects to everything else, furthering considerations of structure and tone and content.”... might you then, consider, your body of work to date, part of, in some fashion, a “life-long poem.”?

As well, another question,  How has the pandemic effected/affected, it at all, your poetry practice, and specifically, your current work, including your recently submitted book of poems and the novel you are working on?

rm: It’s a worthy question. I don’t see any of this “trilogy” of collections in the “long poem” tradition per se, but more as a trio of book-length suites. There is a particular thread that follows through and beyond each of them, certainly, as I’ve been attending, far more, the prose poem and the lyric sentence the past few years. the book of smaller flows directly into the unpublished “Book of Magazine Verse,” with a slight side-jog to the unpublished “Snow day,” and continues into the poetry manuscript “book of the sentence,” a poetry manuscript that ran the length and breadth of 2021. Perhaps my project lay akin to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: a four-collection “trilogy,” with the next collection looming, possibly, there in the distance. At this moment, the onset of December, 2021, I’m more focused on furthering a novel manuscript and completing edits on my suite of pandemic essays (composed across the first three months of initial lockdown). Who knows what might come next through the poems. I’m thinking about it, while attempting to not think about it.

I think there are arguments that my entire body of poetry-specific writing could be seen as a single, ongoing work, although I’d be hard-pressed to articulate the umbrella that covers the whole of it. Those three works (plus one) do feel connected, certainly. Extensions of each other. A suite, perhaps, of works. Not a trilogy-per-se or even a long poem, but a larger, interconnected suite. Which itself, one could argue, could fall under the mantle of “long poem.” Kroetsch’s “Field Notes,” as well, could be described just as well as an interconnected suite of individual long poems as much as it could be described as a singular “long poem,” etcetera. See here, again, the fluidity of these terms, and these ideas. When speaking on form, absolutes become tricky.

I actually think that pandemic has increased my attentions, if that makes sense. The wee children have had a good routine via their e-learnings, with me lifeguarding them during mornings (otherwise hiding out in home office) and Christine via the afternoons (otherwise working in the sunroom, converted into home office). There are less of certain things I’m required to do, including walk them to and from school, so I actually think my stretches sitting at the desk are far more than they were, prior. In terms of content, the poems are certainly more immediate: utilizing the immediacy of home and ridiculous small children, for example. I ended up composing three poems on Rose getting a fish: the first one on the fish-purchase happening, the second an update on her first fish and then her second fish dying, within a matter of days. When her third fish landed and managed to live, I admittedly did feel a bit trapped, as though I had no choice but to compose a third poem, as update. And, as I discussed recently with Stephen Brockwell, I feel as though my poems these days utilize domestic in a certain way, but only as an element of a larger structure and conversation: my poems are “about my domestic” in the same way, I feel, that the novel Coraline was “about a girl who lived in a house.” While technically true, there is something far else and bigger going on. Or, at least, that’s the goal.

The current novel-in-progress, begun in July 2020, works a narrative thread or two that continue from my short story collection (which has yet to land anywhere), which itself furthered a thread from my second novel, missing persons (2009). I’m writing a series of individuals and households, a series of threads that wrap in and around each other, obviously during the time of pandemic. I didn’t want to pretend pandemic wasn’t happening, but it isn’t forefront, either. How the narrative works and how the characters are moving and reacting are very much pandemic-related, certainly. I don’t know what “later” will look like, so that seems impossible (and even dishonest) to write. Same with had I pretended it was still pre-pandemic. So, everyone in this novel is home. It shapes the action and responses of the characters but is not the driving purpose of the narrative.

I should ask you the same question in return: how has the pandemic shifted the ways in which you work, and think upon your work?

RSS: I’ve been reflecting, as promised, on your detailed response to the question: “how has the pandemic effected/affected, if at all, your poetry practice, etc.,” and you, in return, asked, “how has the pandemic shifted the ways in which you work, and think upon your work?”

RSS: Year One of the Pandemic brought so much anxiety and fear: to the point of a near paralysis which alternated with obsessive doom-scrolling on Twitter, a social media form that until 2021 I rather avoided.

So there was this non creative tandem: the jittery anxious state: clicking and scrolling and refreshing  news sites; you know, about things like daily cases counts, surreal!  Versus the fear-induced stasis of everything else, including my Mom in Long Term Care and the worry about my husband who works in healthcare; and my long poem epic THOT J BAP lay in wait as it has for over a decade, the weight of it, sometimes a joy, other times, well, a practice I turn to early in the mornings to work through the anxiety and that was a shift!

The more I just showed up for my morning rituals of journalling, sometimes just a single word scribbled in pencil on line paper; sometimes torrents of Dear Diary Drivel, and so on: just showing up to the page, shifted me back, helped me return, to re-discover my connection to creating and to world -building.

Also, all my local fitness classes were either cancelled in those pandemic early days or shifted on line: and I re-discovered my micro-local- neighbourhood: long daily walks, blocks and blocks of “ just walking”.  I feel guilty for the nostalgia of that early lockdown time : “nothing else to do, no where else to be“  as one of my yoga teachers would say: a comfort and from that journalling and walking practice somehow I found myself returning to writing: I would say:
“try not looking at your phone for 10 minutes and “just write”: and then a second shift occurred: as maybe all creatives know, as anyone with a practice will attest:

the more, I wrote, the more I wrote. In this way, your words describing your pandemic process: rob: “I think the pandemic has increased my attentions” happened also for me

And that’s when another shift happened: the practice of the long poem which, foe me, at any rate, requires a kind of long term patience and concentration that shuts out the clicks, and the taps, and the jittery staccato of social media and it’s as if the world of THOT J BAP said: “ah there you are and here it is the work is here. Welcome Back” see photo attached.

rm: I understand that, fully. My first three months of initial lockdown were spent composing the first draft of what became a one hundred page suite of pandemic essays: I figured if “crisis” was distracting me away from work, why not make such the focus of the work? And I was in the midst of other complications: dear wife who had been slowly returning to work again after seven months off, due to her stroke (and subsequent bout with meningitis), and my regular weekends caregiving for my father, who was eroding due to ALS. On top of that, the complications of negotiating this new, and constantly shifting, normal while attending children and other daily considerations. As I kept asking throughout the essays, titled “essays in the face of uncertainties”: “How does one write in a crisis?”

For me, writing has always been a consideration of sustained attention, as I’ve been writing full-time since soon after my first child was born in January 1991: through both my own personal interest, and the possibilities of daily activity, writing couldn’t not veer into some combination of the long poem, the poem suite, the book-length collection. Not the modernist “cycle” that loops back to the beginning, but the open-ended postmodern, that continues as we do. To paraphrase Michael Ondaatje paraphrasing Jack Spicer in the introduction to his The Long Poem Anthology (Coach House Press, 1979): “the poems can no longer live on their own as can we.”

But I’m curious about the shape of your ongoing life-long poem. bpNichol’s The Martyrology, I would suggest, began, at least out of those first few books, out of deliberately-formed long poems, slowly evolving into a kind of “catch-all” of fragmented-assemblage (Book 7&) that fell, still, under his previously-established umbrella. How do you see this project of yours forming? The first three of your published books: are they to be seen as the first three “books” of the ongoing project? Or simply the first three published elements? Is there an order or progression to the project, or is it far more organic and informal?

RSS: Thank you for your empathy and thanks, too, for your description/evocation of what it looks like, writing in crisis: I’m humbled to think of all you do, given all you had/still have on your proverbial plate. That’s a lot to bear and then to still find your way to your own work. Respect. (and sending heart vibes to Christine and your family).

I love your lineage/genealogy of that quote: “the poems can no longer live on their own as can we.” (rm/Ondaatje/Spicer). Indeed; dovetailing into your thoughtful commentary/questions for me.

It’s good to read again, via our conversation and your comment, about bpNichol’s work:

I’m attaching a photo of an early visual representation of how I saw my “life-long poem”, at the time, in circa 2009/2010, at SFU’s The Writer’s Studio, in Betsy Warland’s class. (next email).

I was writing, in bits and pieces, the “assemblage” to use your word, that I was envisioning as three books. Book One, children of air india; book two, THOT J BAP; book three, a still(!) unpublished novel, The New Douglas Chronicles, a historical family saga about a settler family in an imaginary New Westminster, B.C.

I was slowly grappling with poems and research that would ultimately become, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections, (Nightwood Editions, 2013): the poems in this first book length poem were originally meant to be a kind of chapter of lyric interventions in a memoir, about all the places my family lived, from India to Canada.

The more I worked on both projects, the deeper I went and realized, whoa, air india, is its own ecosphere. And of course, given the traumatic nature of the subject matter, I veered away from it. Didn’t want to write it. Found I stopped writing altogether. Realized if I didn’t get my relationship to the bombing of Air India Flight 182 out of my creative psyche, I probably wouldn’t write at all. Scary.

So…in order to hang on, to survive with the process, I went deep into that book.  In order to get to that point, I pretty much stopped working on the historical novel. Ah, it sits here beside me as I write to you today, characters, place, events, hidden behind the canvas covering of the bag which contains the manuscript, patient and dry as dust.

For fun, during this process, I kept writing little bits of response poetry to T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets, and of course those bits, over the years, merged into THOT J BAP. You can see in the photo, I’d got my vision quest going fairly early on! Hah. Such big ambitions for such a small brown woman with all her imperfections and mis/steps. Still, though, the gift, to keep going.

And all of it, as I think I’ve said, all three books, published and unpublished, and all the other published and unpublished poems, anthologized and in journals, both online and in print; all the chapbooks (thank you, above/ground press!); all the essays, and presentations, and readings (a site of research as I think Wayde Compton said, paraphrasing, bpNichol? someone else?). All of it, I eventually came to see part of the life-long poem, thecanada?project.

note: the ? mark I added into the title to disrupt and re/member my own settler self and what is demanded of us, here on Indigenous land, after a life-changing visit to UBC’s Residential School History & Dialogue Centre.

So, the books as they get published/or not, are usually always long poems if they are poetry; and long assemblages that might take shape as novels or essays or short stories, for instance, such as the short story/ghost story/memoir, Man With Golden Helmet published last year in Pulp Literature magazine are all subsumed, at least for my vision, as part of the life long poem, thecanada?project.

Now, then, back to you! I’ve long been curious about where you write, in your abode?

And about when the devil do you actually sleep, if at all?

Do you divide up your day in some fashion with a very precise schedule so that your own creative work is always in the morning, for instance, and all else regarding your role as publisher, curator, editor and then parent (whew!) and son, is later?

Or does it all happen catch as catch can, depending? I’m curious, eager, in fact to know the secret if there is one, of how on earth you produce so much? 

rm: I’ve been self-maintaining, as it were, for thirty-some years, and spent my twenties building the muscle of daily writing, so I suppose everything fits into everything else. I grew on a dairy farm, watching self-employed father manage and maintain his own days, in similar fashion. There were certain things he had to do daily, some seasonally, some as-they-occurred. There were multiple threads occurring in his farming day simultaneously, so I think the model was there. I’ve said previously, “he didn’t wait for inspiration to milk the cows.” My approach to writing has very much established itself in the working-class daily rise to wake and work, whatever the weather.

Pre-current children, my writing projects were a bit more plentiful: I could work on maybe two large projects simultaneously, ie: a poetry manuscript and a novel. These days, it really is one at a time, although that also occurs with all the other chaos surrounding my working days. Since pandemic, I’ve spent a few days or a week or two working on as many reviews as possible, and then a week or so working on writing—either poetry manuscript or short stories or, these days, attempting to further the novel I started in 2020—before returning to another few days or week or two of reviews. The writing is more of a cycle, now, than anything else, something that began during my weekends caregiving dying father: I knew I couldn’t work at a desk in my usual way, so I’d spend my entire caregiving weekends attending reviews. Once home, poetry or fiction, depending. Until back on the farm.

Back in my twenties, I would spend days in a donut shop writing poems and reviews, and evenings at the pub working on fiction. Those days were more open, and in certain ways, less complicated. I think much of it is just a matter of scheduling. Although I became quite good at getting small bits of work done when the current wee monsters were smaller: I have been the main home-parent throughout, as Christine works (at least beyond the pandemic) outside of the house, so I was home with one year old Rose full-time once that maternity leave ended. Later on, I was home full-time with one year old Aoife and three and a half year old Rose (who was part-time in preschool, by then) once that second maternity leave ended. My “writing day” became what I could accomplish during their nap-time. Some days I had three hours; other days, forty-five minutes. I certainly wasn’t going to waste my desk-time staring out the window. I could just as easily do that while the children were awake. Occasionally, with toddler-Rose, I could fold and staple chapbooks while she was playing on the floor with her toys. She had her toys, and I mine.

I became adept at bringing books and notebook to the park: as the children were on the swings or building sand-structures, for example, I could open newly-received poetry titles and sketch out first-impression notes. Those notes parlayed into eventual reviews. I do a version of the same now, during my morning sessions lifeguarding the children in their e-learnings (Christine takes over for their afternoon sessions): I sit with a stack of books and my notebook (as Aoife needs an eye; Rose requires an ear) and sketch out elements of eventual reviews. Other stretches might see mornings I’m scratching lines on drafts of prose, or poetry.

I’ve always worked on multiple threads simultaneously. I know some writers who won’t work on a next book until the current book is in print, but I was working on what would be my fourth collection by the time my first was published. Years ago, Stephen Brockwell and I discussed how attention might be a factor in how we approach our structures: he has a high-attention job (which he very much enjoys, and doesn’t want to depend on writing for “a living”), and works with the single poem as his unit of composition. My attentions for writing are larger and more ongoing, so I long ago leaned into the “book” as my unit of composition, after a half-decade of chapbook-making. My attentions thread from and through one project to the next in ways I don’t even know if I could properly map out. Everything connects, here and there. I don’t think I’ve the umbrella in the way you’ve worked your life-long project, but I’ve, perhaps, something similar, albeit differently structured. I’m not sure I could explain it. At least, not yet.

I’ve always worked that way. I get up every day and do the work, in the best way that makes sense to me. It was only through the process of publishing and emerging out into the literary work that I realized that apparently my approach is unusual. Often, other writers would offer much unsolicited commentary on what they thought I should be doing or how I should be approaching it all. Writers should have other jobs! No-one should write every day! Etcetera. I always thought it was baffling: how does it affect anyone else how I work? Why does anyone else actually care one way or another?

I never saw the point of putting my best energy into something I cared about secondarily, if at all. So: I wake, and work. And attend the children, naturally. And every time I try to boil the projects down into a singular one, I end up starting three others, so this approach is clearly one meant for my attention span.

RSS: rob, such a pleasure and a privilege being in conversation with you about long poem writing, in this time, this place. Shanti. May we continue for as long as we have—— XRSS

rm: Agreed! You are always such a delight to interact with.






Renée Sarojini Saklikar is a writer and lawyer who lives in Vancouver on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples. Her work appears in many journals and anthologies, and she is the author of four books, including the ground-breaking poetry book, children of air india, about the bombing of Air India Flight 182 which won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Prize; and is the co-author, with Dr. Mark Winston, of the poetry and essay collection, Listening to the Bees, winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award, Environment/Ecology. Renée’s work has been adapted for visual art, dance, and opera, including air india [redacted] with SFU Woodward’s, the Irish Arts Council, and Turning Point Ensemble. (premiered 2015). She was the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey (2015-2018), and she teaches creative writing as well as law and ethics for writer and editors. Renée curates Lunch Poems at SFU and the Vancouver Poetry Phone; and is a member of Meet The Presses (poetry chapbooks and micro presses). She also serves as a board director for the Surrey International Writers Conference. Renée Sarojini works the epic, reclaiming it for climate justice and female heroes in her long poem project, THOT J BAP, The Heart of This Journey Bears All Patterns, an epic fantasy in verse. The first book in this series is Bramah and The Beggar Boy (Nightwood Editions, 2021). For more information on this epic series as well as a statement of poetics, please visit https://thotjbap.com/

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). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics and Touch the Donkey. He is editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. 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

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