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Poetry Canadian

the book of smaller

by (author) rob mclennan

University of Calgary Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Canadian, General, Family
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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Written while at home full-time with two small children under five, the book of smaller is a collection of short, sharp, incredibly dense prose poems. Created in moments snatched from chaos, these poems challenge the possibilities of language in very small spaces.

Each poem is a still moment, a memory, a burst of observation, suspended outside time and held up to the light as the world whirls around it. Some are intimate, some are public, all are grounded personal, domestic space. With trademark intelligence and daring, rob mclennan uses radical structures to express the concision and disorientation, jumps in sense and mood, the collapse of time and duration, the shattering joy and powerful fears, of full-person, full-time parenthood.

With an unparalleled knowledge of modern poetry and poetic evolution, mclennan breaks the sentence into its most vital pieces, then breaks it further, smashes punctuation out of the expected into spaces of risk and uncertainty, pushing conventions to the edge and then beyond to challenge what writing is, and what a reader can be.

About the author

Born in Ottawa in 1970 at the late lamented Grace Hospital on Wellington Street near Parkdale Avenue, rob mclennan currently lives in directly between Ottawa`s Chinatown and Little Italy neighbourhoods, and was called "Centretown`s poet laureate" by David Gladstone in The Centretown Buzz in the mid-1990s. The author of twelve previous trade poetry collections in Canada and England, he has published poetry, fiction, interviews, reviews and columns in over two hundred publications in fourteen countries and in four languages, and done reading tours in five countries on two continents. The editor/publisher of above/ground press and the long poem magazine STANZAS (both founded in 1993), the online critical journal (with Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell) and the Ottawa poetry annual ottawater (, he edits the ongoing Cauldron Books series through Broken Jaw Press, edited the anthologies Evergreen: six new poets (Black Moss Press), side/lines: a new canadian poetics (Insomniac Press), GROUNDSWELL: the best of above/ground press, 1993-2003 (Broken Jaw Press) and Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets (Chaudiere Books), and runs the semi-annual ottawa small press book fair, which he co-founded in 1994, currently under the umbrella of the small press action network - ottawa (span-o), which he also runs. Fall 2007 sees the appearance of a new poetry collection with Ireland`s Salmon Publishing, a collection of literary essays appears with Toronto`s ECW Press, and a title for Vancouver publisher Arsenal Pulp Press, Ottawa: The Unknown City. His online home is at, and he often posts reviews, essays, rants and other nonsense at

rob mclennan's profile page


  • Winner, Bronze Medal - PubWest Design Award, Poetry/Short Stories

Editorial Reviews

mclennan excels at distilling sentiment into something, if not more pure, at least more extraordinary. In their minimalism, each line of mclennan’s short poems offers syntactic revolution . . . So much scope, in so little space. This is the triumph of mclennan’s collection. His ability to compress meaning makes his lines pop, makes his poems as addictive as bubble wrap.


The strongest work of mclennan's I have encountered.

Nick Thran, EVENT Magazine

From contemporary politics to contemplations of language, all is shared through mclennan’s innovative and bite-sized prose . . . every phrase is explosive and apt to transform the poem, transport the reader, inventory a scene, or abruptly interrupt it by capturing the chaos of a moment.

ARC Poetry Magazine

There is nothing "small" about the book of smaller

The Diagram

mclennan shows us just how much life a paragraph, a sentence, a single poem can hold.

Canadian Literature

There is nothing "small" about the book of smaller

The Diagram

In the book of smaller mclennan shows us just how much life a paragraph, a sentence, a single poem can hold.

Canadian Literature

[mclennan’s] poems are alive with the family’s quotidian, private homelife and the way domestic duties feed or interrupt the writer’s work.

Jami Macarty, The Mirimachi Reader

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