05 July 2022

Kenn Enns of Shelf Life Books interviews me

In May, my dear friend Kenn Enns, who works for Shelf Life Books in Calgary, interviewed me online about The Book of Grief and Hamburgers. I consider this event my official book launch. It was a great conversation, great to talk so openly about the book. Kenn is insightful and empathetic, and they are also my music whisperer, leading me to a ton of great contemporary bands, like Japanese Breakfast and Slothrust and Hurray For The Riff Raff.



Over and out.

10 June 2022

Sun Cows of the Petrichor

In winter 2021, I had the great privilege of being writer-in-residence for the University of Ottawa's English Department. I wish I could have lived in Ottawa for those four months — that had been my hope — but the Covid wrench insinuated itself into the process and I led my classes from my office basement, surrounded by bookshelves handmade by Nelson Ball and sitting on Barbara Caruso's chair, with a tapestry by Barbara hanging across from my "desk."

Anyway, the school gave me the opportunity to teach the fourth-year writing workshop. I was told I could teach anything I wanted. Both to be unpredictable and because I thought it was more necessary, I created a course called Blowing Up Fiction, devoted to experimental and innovative fiction. The twelve students who enrolled had not previously written experimental fiction, I discovered. But this was the only fourth-year creative writing course offered, so they took it.

The students turned out to be supremely talented writers, and though some might have been a bit reluctant at first, they met the challenge of writing in all the crazy ways I suggested, and they read works by David Markson, Daphne Marlatt, B. S. Johnson, Lydia Davis, Percival Everett, bpNichol, MAC Farrant, Renee Gladman, Raymond Federman, and lots more. They hated some of it, and some of it they loved.

Toward the end of the semester, I came up with the idea of putting together a full-length anthology of experimental fiction by these young writers. (Well, eleven young writers and one old guy like me.) I would publish it through Proper Tales Press. I brought the Russian artist and writer Jenya Stashkov aboard to do the cover graphic. I told them I'd have the book out by June 2021. It would be called Sun Cows of the Petrichor.

But Covid really slowed me down. Until this past spring. And now, at last, the book is out, with very exciting work by Emily Bertrand, Ciku Gitonga, Andrea Guzman, Vera Hadzic, Baylie Karperian, Jonathan Kipling, Jack Lahey, Vivian Li, Lila Ndinsil, Sabrina Papandrea, and David Paré. I was worried that one or two of them would get cold feet during the yearlong delay, but they're a brave bunch!

Is it a book by student writers? Nope, it's a book by writers, most of them being published for their first time.

I'm very proud of this project.

Over and out.

09 June 2022

OWIF — in conversation with Stephen Brockwell about The Book of Grief and Hamburgers

My favourite lit fest — the Ottawa International Writers Festival — is featuring me on their podcast series. I'm in conversation with my good friend Stephen Brockwell, a fantastic and undersung Ottawa poet, whose latest — and best — book, Immune to the Sacred, is out this season from Mansfield Press. I admit I was a bit intimidated, because Stephen is a very deep thinker and a brilliant guy, and I imagined myself withering before his questions. But it ended up being a relaxed — and sometimes emotional — conversation. Please check it out.
Over and out.

28 April 2022

The Book of Grief and Hamburgers — I'm Interviewed by Jamie Tennant of CFMU

Jamie Tennant interviewed me about The Book of Grief and Hamburgers earlier in April. You can listen right here!
Over and out.

21 April 2022

My first thruzzin

I wrote my first poem in ages this morning. I knew it would happen any day now, as I was inspired by an online reading by the great New York poet Charles North on Tuesday night. Then, this morning Laurie read me a line by Virginia Woolf, and I knew I was on my way. A poem was going to happen before I got out of bed.

My poem is 36 lines long, free verse, divided into 12-line stanzas. It's a new form I call a "thruzzin." My poem is narrated by a dead person, who I guess is me. Death is on my mind, as it is so often. The Kingston poet, essayist, and fiction writer Steven Heighton died two days ago. He was only 60 years old. If you knew him, you might that if anyone was going to be immortal, it would be Steven. I met him about 25 years ago, at a house party in Ottawa. I was very, very drunk, and I remember going through the host's linen closet, commenting on towels and sheets, admiring a vintage iron. Steven appeared beside me, perhaps put a hand on my shoulder and led me back into the living room. He took me under his wing so I wouldn't walk off the balcony or make a fool of myself.

After I wrote the last line of my first thruzzin this morning, about 20 minutes ago actually, I added the date of composition and realized it's 27 years to the day since my mother died. It's 27 years and one week since we had our last conversation.

I hear the car tires outside now, rolling down Division Street. I can hear that it's raining. It was raining on the morning of April 21, 1995. Sometime after my mom's last breath, my dad and I walked out of the hospital. The sun was parting the clouds.

SHIRLEY ROSS, February 7, 1929 – April 21, 1995

Over and out.

08 April 2022

Launching with Bruce Whiteman in Cobourg!

Into our third year of Covid it's a precarious time to be launching books. But Bruce Whiteman and I will be doing an in-person outdoor launch in Cobourg on April 10 at 2 pm outdoors at Let's Talk Books (25 King Street East). Complicating matters is that Facebook recently disabled my account (along with thousands of others around the world) for no apparent reason and with no recourse. So much for 16 years of being a good FB citizen! So getting the word out for this weekend's launch has been particularly challenging. Anyway, we will be there. We will read. Books will be sold! Wear a good jacket! Over and out.

12 March 2022

rob mclennan on The Book Of Grief And Hamburgers

I admit that I'm anxious about how my new book will be received. It's garnered about ten readers' comments on Goodreads so far, with star ratings ranging from two to five (out of five). I'm kind of dreading the first one-star review, but hopefully that will be by someone who loves those Shades of Gray books or Jordan Peterson. I find it weird that a couple of the readers there refer to Grief and Hamburgers as a poetry book or poetry collection. It's not. But I hit "Like" on every reader's comments because I am grateful they've read my book and thought about it.

Anyway, Ottawa poetry mobster rob mclennan, as is so often the case, is the first out of the gate, with this very thoughtful and moving look at my tiny book.

Here's a magnificent piece of ceramic art by John A. Betley, my friend (from a Randy Newman list-serv) in Michigan. He made this and sent it to me after my darling dog Lily died.



Over and out.