The documentary Heard of Poets by Ben Walker and Josh Massey debuted yesterday at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. There were some good bits; I enjoyed seeing the various styles of Ottawa poetry brought together, from spoken word, sound to more traditional narrative. I enjoyed the outside scenes and person-in-the-street interviews on the relevance or irrelevance of poetry in their lives, the cows in the fields. However throughout the whole documentary I kept wondering ... and ... as I left the auditorium, the only thing running through my mind was where was rob mclennan?
In Ottawa, he is the most active and engaged poet, attending more readings, reading as both a feature and at open mics at reading series. He also is the biggest promoter of Ottawa poetry to the world, to Canada and to other Ottawans.
To Canada and the world outside Ottawa’s literary scene, rob mclennan is Ottawa poetry. His work has been published worldwide; he has toured Canada and the UK. Likely the US too. He engages in dialog and poetry exchanges with poets from all over the world. At the Writers Festival, you’ll notice that every major poet who attends knows rob. His writing is a major contribution to contemporary poetry and poetic theory today.
The documentary wasn’t focussed on how poetry stuff was organized, so it was understandable that event/reading series organizers, publishers, poetry journal editors et al were left out, but it made no sense at all to exclude Ottawa’s most prolific and well known poet. It made the documentary less successful at doing what documentaries are supposed to do: to capture and preserve a moment in time. In the period the filmmakers showed, as is still the case, rob was very involved.
And when I watched the documentary, I noticed that rob was still very much present: his voice was in the Morin firework bit; his broadsheets and poetry books appeared in the background at readings. He is such a pervasive and necessary part of Ottawa’s literary scene that the filmmakers couldn’t succeed at erasing him entirely from the landscape.
[note that there are no links in this entry; that's what happens when i'm royally pissed off]
[go to ottawapoetry.blogspot.com for my entries on the writers fest poetry events; likely entry there on last night's poetry cabaret later today]