25th Trillium Award

The Dirty Dozen, with Rob McLennan

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Rob McLennan (photo credit: Christine McNair)

Ottawa writer rob mclennan is in the midst of a number of projects, from poetry to fiction to creative non-fiction. His most recent publications are the poetry chapbooks This, circular tower (2012, above/ground press), a translation of Deborah Poe?s poetry chapbook Keep (2012), and a small collection of short lyrics, The Linden Lea transitions, (Gorse Press, 2012), many of which were composed while housesitting for Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell in spring 2011.

June is an enormously busy month for rob mclennan. He reads in St. Catharines on June 15 with his fiancée, poet Christine McNair, and the following day they participate in the Virus Reading Series Small Press Fair. On June 21, Stephen Brockwell hosts rob and Christine?s wedding fun/draiser at The Mercury Lounge, Ottawa, and they read the following day as the culmination of the Call and Response project at the School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa with Pearl Pirie, Amanda Earl, Monty Reid, Sandra Ridley and Claudia Coutu Radmore. On June 30, he hosts the spring 2012 edition of the ottawa small press book fair, with the pre-fair reading the previous night. Visit our Events page for details.

A frequent Open Book contributor and keeper of his long-running blog, today rob steals a minute to share his take on the Open Book Dirty Dozen — twelve quirky, surprising and unknown facts about the man himself. Read on as rob reveals his experience with Tom Green, raw milk, bingo in the buff and more.


  1. For years now, I?ve been able to relate almost any story or situation to something recalled from The Simpsons. It was a game I used to play more often with poet Andy Weaver, usually begun once I stepped off the train into Edmonton. More recently, I?ve kept up my skills thanks to the lovely Miss Christine McNair.

    This is perhaps related to my somewhat-magpie quality of picking up random bits of information and filing them away, found in a variety of sources highbrow and low (including sounds: I?ve been called quite a mimic). As teenagers, my eventual ex-wife referred to her own quality of knowledge as ?useless,? something we used to both laugh at, for the random things she somehow knew. Now I see it as entirely essential to living and being in the world, let alone for the work that I do.


  3. I was a guest on The Tom Green Show in March, 1995, back when he was still on the local Rogers Cable station in Ottawa, appearing as their ?guest poet? during one of the segments. I even produced an above/ground press ?poem? broadside as a handout for the studio audience. For months afterward, teenagers and early twenty-somethings congratulated me on the street for the appearance, which seemed, to me, even odder than the appearance itself.

    The last time I saw Tom Green was in the bar at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton, after attending a night of readings as part of the Edmonton Writers Festival. A story for another time, perhaps.


  5. I am both adopted, and the McLennan family genealogist, which has since spread further, to Page, Aird, Swain and Cassady/Cassidy families (the Campbell work has already been done). I suppose, as British writer Jeanette Winterson suggested a while back in The Guardian, we who are adopted tend to carve out and create our own spaces.

  7. In my mid-teens, I submitted a (rejected) script to Marvel Comics, a poorly executed idea of an Avengers spin-off mini-series featuring the Eternal/Avenger Starfox and the villain Andromeda, continuing the thread of a particular storyline I no longer recall.

  9. In my late twenties, I dated a woman for nearly a year after falling for her invitation to come over and see her drawings. I really thought I was invited over to see her drawings.

  11. When my mother died on August 19, 2010, she had been sick for forty-three years, pre-dating me by three. This included twenty-two years on dialysis, until her third kidney transplant in 2000. Most likely, many already know this by now. Most of my teens and earlier were spent solitary, looking after a household, including preparing meals, doing laundry and mending my father?s work clothes. The house was mine for long stretches. By ten or eleven, I?d begun to bake pies from scratch, utilizing the wild rhubarb behind the farmhouse.
    Over the past two years, I?ve been deep in the throes of a creative non-fiction work on the subject of my mother?s extended illness and absences, and hope to be finished sometime this year. Then, it?s just a matter of where the hell I might send it.

  13. I grew up on a dairy farm near Maxville, Ontario, a side road the McLennans arrived on for the sake of a land grant in 1845. Through this, I drank raw milk at home until I moved out at nineteen, with little experience with its store-bought processed cousin. Lifting any container of milk now from a fridge, I have still the impulse to shake before pouring, to mix back what time had separated, settled.

  15. I have long considered that the only smart thing I did during high school was take two typing courses, back to back. I use this skill daily, as you might imagine.

  17. Later into my twenties, I stripped down to briefs at Ottawa?s Zaphod Beeblebrox, the nightclub at the end of the universe. It was during an evening of their lounge bingo, Bingo Jet International. It was a slow night for them, with a mostly-unresponsive crowd, so ?Remi Royale? announced an offer of a gin and tonic to anyone who did the most outrageous thing. I removed clothes as I stepped to the stage. I couldn?t think of a single reason not to.

  19. During my extremely brief stint at college (my daughter, at graduating from a two-year program last year, achieved more post-secondary than her parents combined), I performed an Ezra Pound monologue I?d adapted from a Timothy Findley short story, ?Daybreak at Piza.? Where are the birds? I screamed, startling our infant Kate enough that it gave her rather loud hiccups, which filled the empty auditorium.
    My memory isn?t as specific as I would prefer, and most likely the reason I write so much down. My memory isn?t necessarily terrible, but I felt it still held me back from continuing any role on the stage or possible screen. I did feature in a short film in 1992, part of the first years? worth of films produced by IFCO (Independent Film Co-Operative of Ottawa). It was a good experience, but fortunately, very few of my friends have seen it.

  21. I would prefer to purchase a coffee than a series of newspapers I then have to recycle, so I daily open my day at a Second Cup, a routine now more than a decade old. I order my morning coffee, read their copies of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun, and pick up a Globe and Mail that I leave there for the next person. I consider it terribly rude (it really does anger me) when those engaging a public newspaper don?t bother returning it to the order in which it appeared, once they?re finished reading it. It?s as bad as removing sections or articles. If you want to remove parts, and/or refuse to put it back together, buy your own damned paper.

  23. I often have song fragments float through my head, but haven?t allowed myself the time or attention to develop any of them into anything. I can?t do everything.

The author of more than 20 trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, rob mclennan won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and 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, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater. 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.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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