Robert Swereda, re: verbs

2013, BareBackPress, Hamilton ON

$18, 978-0988075054, 136 pages

reviewed by rob mclennan


rain is an electrochemical organ

generating a hailstorm, or simply

interconnecting nerve cells discharged at one time.


scalp records of atmosphere as thunder

and its acoustic effect on activity emanating from

the rain. displayed in the form of rainwaves.

cloud type bulbs (“b)rainstorms”)


It’s always good to see new titles from a brand-new publisher, such as Calgary poet Robert Swereda’s first trade poetry collection, re: verbs (Hamilton ON: BareBackPress, 2013). Swereda’s lines pull at the very edges of language, compiling a selection of eight sections, each composed with different structural concerns. The poems in “b)rainstorms” echo slightly the poems of Calgary poet Nathalie Simpson, the water rushing through the repetitions that don’t repeat, long lyric lines that twist and turn and toil, while the pieces that make up “illegible” echo the works of American poet Jessica Smith, the spread out explosion in which every word is in itself a narrative fragment. A member of Calgary’s filling Station collective, Swereda works a highly intelligent exploration of language and space, constantly questioning what language itself takes for granted in formal shifts in sound, visuals and meaning, and there is something in the collection as a whole that connects a diverse range of Canadian experimental poetics. Unfortunately, the design of the collection, part of one of the first seasons for Hamilton’s new BareBackPress, is awkward and clunky to the point of self-destructive. One might understand that some of the sizing of Swereda’s pieces might make the consistency of margins rather difficult, but it also makes for some extremely uncomfortable lack of margins, nearly to the point of illegibility. Still, this is an entirely strong first trade collection from a writer I would very like to see more of.


when the rain is aroused and engaged in blown over activities, it

generates ocean waves. waves range from 15 to 40 cycles a second

& may line up in a nimbus or rainband, known as a squall line.


a person in active conversation would be in a layer of the troposphere

flows through the making of speech rotating supercells.


walks in the garden often inflicted by downburst winds.

greater amplitude and slower frequency

rising packet of air to cool less than its surrounding air

can’t recall the last five miles, an instability is present in the


the repetitious nature of clouds to form. (“b)rainstorms”)








Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012) and grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). The Uncertainty Principle: stories, is scheduled to appear in spring 2014. An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, 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