What are you working on right now, rob mclennan?

Anytime people call me productive, I scoff and point to rob mclennan….

Although I tend to write rather quickly, my projects tend to last months, if not years. Some of the main ones I’m in the midst of these days include a second collection of short stories, a wedding essay, a fourth novel, a memoir and a collection or two of poetry. And of course, the constant stream of reviews and short essays that never seem to clear entirely off my plate.

After five or so years, I managed to send out a collection of short short stories out to publishers last fall, and have since started a collection of stories that each run about three pages in length. Over the past seven months, I’ve started nearly a dozen, and so far have completed five that I think I might even be pleased with. The bulk of my prose work over the past couple of years is less a matter of adding lines than removing or altering words, boiling the prose down as much as possible. It’s a long, tedious process. The manuscript for a third novel has been making the rounds for about a year, and I’ve been buried underneath a fourth, a reworking of Don Quixote I’ve been dipping into since New Year’s Eve, 2007 (an essay I wrote on Don Quixote appeared online last year in Rain Taxi). I’ve been working to focus more of my attention to Don Quixote since last fall (after having completed a number of other projects), but it still goes far slower than I’d like. It’s a big thing to wrap my head around. In my mind, the entire novel is about perception, and that’s something I’m very much interested in. Some projects take their own time, it would seem. I’m also two years into my post-mother creative non-fiction project, “The Last Good Year,” being mere days past two years since my mother died. I’ve been posting fragments on the blog as work progresses. Some days it progresses quickly, and other days it cuts too deep, and I have to put it aside.

Really, the biggest thing I’ve been working on these days is the wedding: Christine McNair and I are to be married on September 29, 2012, which is entirely distracting (in a good way). It’s been in the planning stages long enough (since our engagement at the end of last November) that I think there’s a part of each of us anticipating the day itself, so we can move on to whatever comes next. Since the engagement, I’ve also been working on a lengthy creative non-fiction essay on wedding traditions, contemporary poetry, the epithalamium and fragments of memoir (so far titled “Notes on (a) Marriage: epithalamium – an essay in eleven parts –”), as well as occasionally dipping into a poetry manuscript that incorporates elements of the engagement/upcoming wedding and my father’s recent (second) cancer scare, a collection of prose poems titled “Life sentence” (I’m fully aware that Eli Mandel also used the title, and am working to incorporate small elements of his into mine).

I also recently completed a couple of essays on the prose poem – focusing on American poets Norma Cole and Lisa Jarnot – which most likely conclude a collection of essays I’ve been adding to over the past couple of years (although I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing with the manuscript, since literary essays at best are a difficult sell). I’ve been very taken with ideas of the poetic sentence and the prose poem over the past couple of years, and the form has been steadily creeping further into all of my projects, it seems. I think I’m working my way up to a lengthy essay on the Canadian prose poem, very distant from its American cousin that I haven’t yet figured out the hows or the whys. Perhaps over the coming months it might clarify.

I’ve also been spending much of the summer preparing boxes of literary archive for the University of Calgary, having sent off some thirty-plus boxes so far. I’ve re-discovered a number of things I’d managed to forget, over time. There is far too much paper in our small apartment. I’ve still a long way to go.

Ottawa ON

August 23, 2012


Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press (which recently celebrated nineteen years), Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He is also the co-founder and organizer of the ottawa small press book fair, which celebrates eighteen years this fall. 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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