Friday 8 July 2022

rob mclennan

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, his most recent titles include the poetry collection the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022), and a suite of pandemic essays, essays in the face of uncertainties (Mansfield 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


What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’m slowly working my way through Sheila Heti’s new novel, Pure Colour (2022) and Joy Williams’ Honored Guest: stories (2004), as well as rereading Kristjana Gunnars’ The Scent of Light (2022), which is a reissue of her five novellas—The Prowler (1989), Zero Hour (1991), The Substance of Forgetting (1992), The Rose Garden: Reading Marcel Proust (1996) and Night Train to Nykøbing (1998)—in a single volume. After a winter and spring of working on poems (and a flurry of reviews), I’ve been attempting lately to re-enter my still-in-progress novel. In part, I’m hoping to absorb some elements of tone, and of sentence, from those particular prompts as I write. Perhaps I should just go back to Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter (1976), Dany Laferrière’s Why Must a Black Writer Write About Sex? (1994) or even Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook (1959). I mean, with Gunnars’ work already in-hand, perhaps the smart thing would be to return to further of those original early influences I caught during my formative writing years, while attempting to return to long-form prose.


A book you loved reading at a child.

Amid the plethora of Marvel Comics, some of what struck me included the Narnia series of novels by by C.S. Lewis. Between myself and my mother, my paperback set was reread enough times that the bindings simply gave way. At some point, my mother simply absorbed the remaining copies into her own collection, and wouldn’t let me have them.


A book you have given as a gift / recommended to a friend.

I’ve gone through more than a few copies of Miranda Hill’s Sleeping Funny: stories (2012), and plenty of us are eagerly awaiting her first novel, which is rumoured to be out next year. I’ve also gone through a few copies of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America (1967), if I ever see a copy second-hand. A while back, I gifted my niece, Emma, a copy of Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa’s award-winning short story debut, How to Pronounce Knife (2020), and more recently, I recommended to my pal (and award-winning Ottawa poet) Stephen Brockwell the book On Autumn Lake: The Collected Essays (2022) by American poet and critic Douglas Crase. It really is a remarkable collection.


The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf.

To my immediate left (eye-level): Batman: White Knight to Namor: Visionaries, Vol. 1 by John Byrne. To my immediate right (eye-level): William Hawkins, The Madman’s War and Anna Gurton-Wachter’s Utopia Pipe Dream Memory (2019). Various issues of Brick: A Literary Journal, FENCE magazine, The Capilano Review.


A book you have read more than once.

There are plenty of those! More often, it is authors I reread over specific, individual titles. Books by George Bowering, Rosmarie Waldrop, John Newlove, Pattie McCarthy, Susan Howe, Robert Kroetsch, bpNichol. Timothy Findley’s Stones (1988). Stan Dragland’s Journeys Through Bookland and Other Passages (1984). Sarah Manguso’s Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape (2007). Joshua Beckman’s Three Talks (2018). Read and read and re-read. This can be pronounced in present or past-tense, simultaneously. Reed and re-reed, red and re-red.



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