Life Sentence,

rob mclennan


ISBN 978-1-949966-52-7        74 pages           $15.00

The Self as a Flowing Thing: A Review of rob mclennan’s Life Sentence,




PRISM international

Contemporary writing from Canada and the world



rob mclennan maps a territory where punctuation drifts and changes the relationships between words: “, a storm; what opens; notes” the way time and distance change how we relate to our family, friends, acquaintances, language, our own memories. What begins, once interrupted, continues perceptibly changed belying the fact that no true path exists, no correct words in a specific order reveal truth, rather history or fact contain the results of their interruptions in their interpretations. The poems in Life Sentence, admit space where words should appear, with lines that seem to end without punctuation, causing us to leap to connect the next word and assemble our meaning, to give thought to what we conjoin, how we cobble our sense together, how we manufacture our personal narratives. We are invited into fragility, to witness vulnerability, poems composed in telling, history built one moment to the next, in those most intimate spaces between life and death: the sentence begins and ends with applause translated into a shadowy gesture beckoning us to walk into the unknown, to stay and become vital, familiar.

   Jason Christie, author of Cursed Objects (Coach House Books)


In daybook rhythm, rob mclennan’s Life Sentence, positions us as subjects to our tidal environment—continuous but vulnerable to our anticipations. He reminds us we have no control over life’s undiscerning, jerky switching of gears. Blending the personal with the process, Life Sentence, is a powerful comment on our parallel life with language. It offers a glimpse into the continuous architecture of change in our bodies and our language. This image rich, sonorous text suggests the word is as impermanent as we are.

   Hailey Higdon, author of Hard Some (Spuyten Duyvil)

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include How the alphabet was made (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) and A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. 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