Domenica Martinello, All Day I Dream About Sirens

2019, Coach House Books, Toronto ON

$19.95 CDN, 978-1-55245-382-7, 104 pages

reviewed by rob mclennan




Mythology is rife with fishy women. Mer for matronly ocean, maid for servitude in clamshells. From the brine came a perfectly curvaceous specimen who swam her way through history and splayed herself lavishly on the jutting rocks of our hearts. Splicing sea monsters with airtight maidenhood has created a staple in questionable storytelling from Ithica to Denmark. What do sirens and Ariel have in common? Tits, tunes, ‘n’ fins! From fish-to fearmonger here are some bewitching examples // high camp // niche // bestselling Barbie // rainbow titillation // underage hair combing with a fork. Here’s the aqueous, the spume, acquiescent, dangerous

female logo.


Montreal poet Domenica Martinello’s full-length poetry debut is All Day I Dream About Sirens (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2019), a collection of finely-crafted lyrics centred around the idea of the mythical sirens, known as seducer/destroyer and male fantasy, and female desire and the male gaze. “All hail the man-made beach,” she writes, in the sarcastically short and sweet “SINGSONG,” a poem that ends: “so plastic and toxically cheap.” Martinello critiques and dismantles male expectation and how women are repeatedly used, utilizing tales from Greek myth to the Filles du Roi, the approximately eight hundred young women who emigrated from France to New France between 1663 and 1673 for the sake of marrying the multitude of single men, to help populate their colony. The poems in All Day I Dream About Sirens push to provide so-called sirens with their own agency, as a response to repeated male expectation and attempts to dominate, crashing ships that might deserve to be run aground. “If you are the siren,” she writes, to close out the poem “ADIDAS,” that sits near the opening of her collection, “over the last forty years we’ve made some changes to that identity. We sell entry to a community of like-minded people, cattle them in, strike at the pulsepoint of the sun. If you are the siren, you will do the rest.” Composing lines and lyrics that are incredibly sharp, Martinello moves through geography and time, through history and myth, from pop culture to the classics, tales of family and poverty, returning regularly to the water, returning to the implication of male stories that are “genetically / identical // a common / man’s odyssey / in a seed’s blow // where ode / becomes episode” (“TARAXACUM”). Or, as she writes in the incredibly sharp “REFRAIN ON THE ROCKS”:


you in Florence with the fine-grained Pietra Serena sandstone


you in the motel on rue Saint-Denis


how can I reconcile my poverty


poetry of a janitor’s daughter

with an iPhone and a degree


my grandmother cut off all her hair

so it wouldn’t get caught in a factory machine


what luxury


to leap into the unknown to leap into water

to leap into the twisted skein to leap into sea

to leap into the mud to leap into silkweed

to leap into the future to leap through your screen








Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019), Household items (Salmon Poetry, 2019) and Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. 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