rob mclennan


I can’t translate myself into language any more.

—Alice Notley, Culture of One


Plot leads the mind into a particular direction, and often turns. The twist.

Weekly until my daughter turned seventeen and started working, we saw a new feature-length film in theatres, followed by a late lunch. Each opening Saturday, padded seats nearly empty at the noontime showing, starting lineups with 4 p.m., or 6. Why wait?

We watched movies. We watched them unfold. Overloaded with popcorn, but exclusively without butter. She didn’t like her hands dipped in oil.

After a decade of watching films, I asked what she saw first: story, setting, dialogue. She said, everything.


I can’t explain the depths of my disappointment with the third film of the Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions (2003). It veered enough from the path set by the first two that it contradicted.

For centuries, it was said, the Chinese didn’t record their history, believing it to be cyclical, where every point would return. Is this what the Architect meant, when he gave Neo that choice? Implying that Neo wasn’t a blip in the system but built-in. That he wasn’t the first to be allowed the non-choice, to walk through the door he was offered and re-start the human colony with a small group of his choosing. Begin again. It was the choice he was built for, a system reboot. When he wouldn’t follow direction, would the system self-destruct?

Which leads to the question: who made the previous choice? Zion’s Councilor Hamann, who offered advice, and visible restraint. What he may have been forbidden to tell.

What are facts but stories that have been repeated often enough to turn to stone?


A memory: my daughter takes photographs. Twelve years old, she caresses the digital camera, a weight in her palm. Holds it up like an orange, prized.

She stands in the yard. A few considered minutes to set up each shot in her head, turning and stepping aside. Each shot captured, she studies the screen. Memorizes. I watch her look at the garden, look through every angle. In the space of an hour, she takes eight photographs in and around the tiger lilies, tomato plants.

A wonder to behold.


An argument about culture that suggests the most pervasive way to affect culture in the 1890s was through the poem. Within a couple of decades, it had shifted to the novel. By the 1960s and 70s, it had become film, before shifting to television. Now, one might say, it would be through video games, but cable networks might be in the running.

Is freedom, really, the possibility of isolation?


The Matrix Trilogy, set in an undesignated future, when all but a few are enslaved by intelligent machines. They, in turn, fed and fueled by human energy, human resistance. They thrived on conflict. Structures implanted so deep, beyond conscious choice into nature, for machine, human and program populations. That there would be but One, or could be.

After the end of the second film, Neo broke not the chain but direction. There would be Another. To be replaced by his unborn child with Trinity, and thus, would be, briefly, three. Her dual nature, divided in two.

One and Another, neither of whom could exist side-by-side. To end the unbreakable chain.

Like Moses, he would have to die so the rest could reach the Promised Land.


Overheard in the pub: I loaned him a dozen movies, and he still hasn’t watched them. Why read the book when you could just watch the movie?

In the men’s washroom, a patron has abandoned the newspaper, again.


Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith. An insistence of ego.

A friend’s anger at the scene of the communal dance, more sexually charged as the scene progresses. A slow scene in a family movie, suddenly akin to an orgy.

Rain: the water branches, coils. Heavy rain. This is where stories begin.


Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives there. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics ( and the Ottawa poetry .pdf annual ottawater. 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