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Book Review :: The Alta Vista Improvements by rob mclennan

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Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson

There must be an angst category in poetry called urban angst poetry when you realize you live in a city but have been feeling and acting like you are in the countryside. Maybe that’s not the case, here, exactly. More like pandemic angst, which the entire planet can relate to. rob mclennan’s Alta Vista Improvements is a place where such a realization occurs and is one of above/ground press’ unique pamphlets churned out in Canada. Here are a few lines in the titular poem in Section 5, which I loved reading:

[. . . ] this through-line
of patchwork housing, outcrop. A craft

of optimism, ignorance. The internet
equally bears each alphabet.

This is delicious writing! mclennan highlights the loss of the family goldfish through multiple fish, multiple losses; something is wrong in the picture of domesticity. What is it? We don’t exactly find out, yet travel the off-road territory with mclennan and enjoy every moment. In “Summer, pandemic,” as he waits for us in the car, his loyalty goes above and beyond to the complicated:

[. . . ] I perch in precooked car
awaiting our cat, in his follow up appointment
to recent dental extraction [. . . ]

Will life get itself all sorted out? In The Alta Vista Improvements, we sit and ponder (and hope) in all the wreckage.

The Alta Vista Improvements by rob mclennan. above/ground press, February 2023.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua River Basin. Her long poem “Man’s West Once” was selected for Barrow Street Journal’s “4 X 2 Project” and is included in Mezzanine (2019). Anderson also published Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (2021).

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