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rob mclennan
rob mclennan

The Daily Review, Wed., May 12

Heavy horsepower Add to ...

a small sums of insecurity, & loss a wave of designating fact & some familiars discerning, if at all why, if the sky more crisp why, if leave the leafy trees come autumn described, as evidenced by things between them is immense I would recall a critical of coin & breath - "& if all the rest is dross"

A prodigious body of work in his 40-years-young wake (including 20-plus poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction volumes as well as appearances of same in 14 countries), Ottawa-born rob mclennan's just-published Wild Horses represents the full-steam ahead bulwark of his consolidated output during 2007-8, the year he spent writing in residence at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Arguably his generation's finest practitioner, mclennan's myriad strengths predominantly lie in his life-long quest to stay afloat in language's slippery straits, its treacherous depths, its perilously heady spindrifts where polyphony's the aim and compression's the game. New readers step into the flux, the flow, the undertow of a mclennan "poem" in much the same way landlubbers brave an ocean's waves on a wing and a prayer: Half the challenge involves conquering each cresting onslaught, the other half resides in coming safe home to common ground (buttressed by the notion the captain's skill knows no bounds).







Now, here, mclennan's crash-splash and panache pull together the horsepower of a mind that - to riff off Hugh Hood's unforgettable axiom, readers cannot step into the same river once, let alone twice - proves itself, particularly when it comes to going the lyrical distance, especially when it all culminates in "a map of the mists / that came up off the floodgates // the green river snakes" ("map of Edmonton, [Prelude]rdquo;).

But, those wild horses? At the edge of prairie, there are no secrets: Because "riding horses / from the mouth of the stain . . . would you know yet to run / or as simple a thing / as come in from the rain" ("my life as a dead north-west explorer").

Despite its apparent lyrical engagement with the heartscapes of our irresistible underpinnings originating in our not-so-wild west, mclennan reclaims history for the future, offers his readers a glimpse into an extraordinary imagination haunted by horses, heartbreak and, paradoxically, hope. Set down with clarity and longing, with love and languor, combining and recombining notions of what matters and makes a difference in this post-cultural universe, mclennan's latest proves his value and worth.

In other words? Gone those mildly irritating tics, those once-trademark tricks with schticks:

Here, in all its beautifully designed and resigned miraculous splendour, ranging from despair to ecstasy and the heart-achingly tender, the once-apprentice in the workshop of spatialization and poetic variation made manifest in his ever-expanding view of one worldmind holding back nada, pounding out its wild-horse thunderous wisdom, the novitiate readers once knew celebrating love, home, family and history, rewarding the magpie-minded with lucid estrangement, besting things both unfamiliar and variously resplendent with the belief in the truth and beauty of the only known art that shall imbue its creators with the now, the next, the solace of the new?

The poet, cut loose from the moorings of experimentation, finds his voice and articulates a valorous vision (almost) too good to be true:

". . . a dream / to get nowhere . . ."

Contributing reviewer and In Other Words blogger Judith Fitzgerald lives in Northern Ontario's Almaguin Highlands. She is completing her 30th work, a poetry collection slated for release come autumn. A collegial acquaintance of mclennan over a couple of decades, she lays her full-disclosure cards on the table.

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