Sunday, August 11, 2013

rob mclennan's chapbook, Trace, is reviewed in Broken Pencil #60

Scott Bryson was good enough to review rob mclennan's chapbook, Trace, (2013) in Broken Pencil #60. Thanks, Scott (although the review doesn't sound altogether complimentary...)! Copies of Trace, are still available, here.
Above/ground press publisher, rob mclennan's, latest collection for his own press is a brief one: six prose poems, all but one of them nine lines in length.
    Trace, (take note of that oddly-placed comma) opens with a paragraph borrowed from Cole Swenen's book of poetry, greensward, a collection that Swensen's publisher (Ugly Duckling Presse) remarks is "sometimes poised precariously on the line between sense and non-sense." The author's verse shares that precarious position on the edge of clarity, and it never completely departs from it. Trace, is thus half an observance of nimble wordplay and half an exercise in struggling to locate meaning.
    Reaching a state of understanding with mclennan's text is all the more difficult due to his purposeful overuse and misuse of commas -- it's a model he's employed previously. A particularly obtuse sample from "[dactyls, syllable, your bluesky dress]" reads: "Transmitted, boxwood. Weak, in this noise. Hand-painted ethics, sign."
    It's at least clear that the majority of this chapbook describes tidbits from the history of Ottawa, but after several read-throughs and a fair amount of internet research, it's obvious that complete comprehension will be elusive for anyone who isn't intimately familiar with the nation's capital. One gets the sense that was mclennan's intent, so it's a success in that respect.

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