To the Point
The best poems are written to be read by anyone. Meticulously crafted over a period of time To seem written quickly and simply The best moments in life are the result of years of preparation passing by in a burst causing change even if you are not ready Before you realize they have happened they have happened and stay with you forever.
Whether Patrick Connors is referring to himself or not (I suspect, in fact, he means to address the many, many poets he has helped lift up over his career), this first stanza describes his own work and poetic sensibilities. In the two stanzas that follow, the poet seeds the earth for what is to come: a collection that reads something like a fractured memoir. Stained glass that pulls apart various wavelengths of lived experience, before spilling them on the floor into a prism of living colour.
In the beginning, with some of his closest-to-current-day selections, we find the poet, waking up to a Wednesday that felt deceptively, even disorientingly ordinary.
Hangover The morning after the election which changed the whole world the sun rose faintly. I got out of bed pulled the cord to open the blinds. I slowly made my way to the washroom checked my dry tongue in the mirror wobbled my way towards the kitchen stopped to pick up the paper. Ignoring the news, I opened the sports page. Read about the Leafs latest loss - boy did they lose put together the contents of my lunch laid out my clothes - better wear a sweater had peameal bacon and pancakes for breakfast - just like every Wednesday.
A direct line might be draw from there to when Connors writes:
Don't blame the children. The way of the world is not their fault- it is my generation that has caused this mess.
In this way, Connors has a view not only into the human condition, but a self-awareness grounded in empathy and hope, allowing us to “feel an occasional surge of faith” along with him.
Connors’ faith is also evident as a thread woven through these selections. A quiet, enduring faith that guides both love and hope. Love for others, and a growing and hard-won love for himself, and a hope that the past, both his own and the one we carry collectively, is not binding. That a time will come “when love is the purpose of the rule of law.”
I have several favourite poems from this collection, that connect across time and generations and pages. The one that will remain with me most stubbornly, however, is My Father the Poet, which in these excerpts, captures a 13 year old poet, becoming:
... I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. ... I finished the poem but wasn't done so I wrote another one. When I was finished I cried tears of healing of self-discovery and accomplishment - I felt less alone. I couldn't figure out which poem to hand in I liked them both so much and so differently. So I gave them to my Dad to decide. After all, he was the one I looked up to not as a hero, or role model, or mentor mostly as a demagogue with veto powers. After about twenty minutes, he cursed them both denounced them as crap, worse than crap; he made me burn them in the fireplace. ... When I was 39, I submitted two poems in honour of my first headline reading to a website celebrating my family's ancestry. Venerable Jack, the keep of the domain said in reply, "Ah, young cousin from Upalong, you are indeed a poet, just like your old Dad!" At last, although I had never known I finally understood. ...
Throughout all of the poems in Connors’ The Other Life, we see, almost visually, certainly emotionally, the poet accepting and embracing his nature as a sensitive, caring, progressive and deeply empathetic person. We see a man who has embraced both his masculine and feminine sides, and as such, has overcome the kind of damage that is so often passed down by a society that insists that a man must be a certain way, and must, certainly, not be a poet.
These poems are a testament to human and individual change. And by the end, we know how very possible it is to become more than anyone else may have intended us to be.
The Wonder The years which have led me into middle age unwittingly, unwillingly have yet been kind I have lost 20 pounds I have gained strength, patience. My eyes may not work as well but I see much more clearly. What I used to hate I now love what I used to love I now adore what I cannot change I accept- what I can't accept I try to change. I am not what I will be I am not what I once was- and yet I appreciate everything which has brought me here.
Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press), was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LA Crete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightning), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, an international award winning chef.
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