ob mclennan has his fingers in a zillion honeypots. he writes, edits and publishes like mad. bagne, or, Criteria for Heaven is a collection that can only be fully described in his own words:
the resulting text, built in ninety-three interconnected poems, move through history, religion, mass culture, & the immediate "I/eye"; through shifting voices & the unknown "she", ever permanent. taking each title from the last line of another author's poem...& rolling ahead, each new thread pulling against the rest.
that's a pretty good description of what you can expect with this book. i'm not a major canadian poetry buff, so i probably missed 90% of the references. was the book good anyway? you bet. if you know your canlit you will probably revel in what mclennan has to say, his poetry a reflection of learning and commentary on reading.
as i read mclennan's text i kept highlighting little sections i wanted to quote in my review - there were too many, my task abandoned.
mclennan's a funny guy, jotting down strange images and allowing us to view odd narratives.
will everyone like it? of course not. all poetry seems to have a core audience, while the rest of us never quite get it. should you give it a try? by all means.
i would like to say more about bagne, or, Criteria for Heaven, as though i could somehow articulate my vague and hazy impressions. as though i could actually form a complete and coherent sentence after ingesting so much of mclennan's world. this is a good thing, and i'm left feeling content and eager to read more.
will it go down as a landmark of canadian poetry? my uninformed, unread self could not be the judge of that.
ps - it has really great cover art by Tom Fowler.
published by broken jaw press