The Other Life, by Patrick Connors. A Review by Darcie Friesen Hossack

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.

The Other Life @ Amazon.ca
The Other Life @ Goodreads
The Other Life @ MosaicPress
The Other Life @ Chapters.Indigo.ca

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.

Return to Journal

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, 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 LaCrete 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 Lightening), 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, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

2 thoughts on “The Other Life, by Patrick Connors. A Review by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Leave a Reply to anjum wasim dar Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: