You have turned the tip-tips and taps/and thump thumps and ba-pa-dumps/of disenfranchised nerdy young men//into something resembling music – Pat Connors*
Reading a Pat Connors’ poetry chapbook is like stepping inside a bar and eavesdropping on someone’s contemplations and daydreams. In fact, the first poem in his first Lyricalmyrical book Scarborough Songs is titled ‘Scarborough Bar’. It makes reference to the clichéd phrase “wildest dreams” and describes the antics of a “gap-toothed guy”, as well as “slow dancing with a beauty queen” and the reality of “places I cannot go anymore”.
The cover photo (with an opened beer bottle between two hockey gloves) sets the tone not only for Connors’ sense of humour but the light and sporty sections of the book. Read on and you’ll also find numerous melancholy images as well as some heavy topics such as politics, faith, destiny, the future and one’s purpose in life.
One of the strongest poems in the collection is called ‘In the House Where I Grew Up’. It uses a table as a metaphor for a dysfunctional family: “Came apart in the middle/Like so many ruined meals/And other realities hard to digest”.
Despite all the references to waiting and dreaming, the 36-page collection ends on a hopeful reflective note, “I will hold out for/The future/And trust in/What it brings”.
Connors’ second Lyricalmyrical chapbook, Part-Time Contemplative, continues with similar reflective themes from the first book. However, Connors’ style as a poet has changed and strengthened. Rather than beginning each line with a capital letter, he starts each line with a mix of upper and lower cases which makes the poems less formal and easier to read. He includes several haiku and short poems and uses more line structure and/or stanza consistency. The language is richer, although at times, it also leans toward abstract thought.
His best work stems from his narrative poems such as ‘Burby’ where he writes, “On Summer days too hot for baseball/or moving the lawn or digging post holes/we sweated and burned in the sun/to gain a small victory or live out a dream.” Sometimes, his poems remind me of a mantra, a prayer or a stream of consciousness. For example, “If I am to become the man I am to be become//I have to stop being the one others would have me be.”
Connors stresses that his poetry is intended for the general public versus an academic audience.
In his dedication, he acknowledges the support of Canadian poet and former Grain editor Mick Burrs, “who has helped me/to become a better poet and person.”
As Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society, wrote in her review of Connor’s latest chapbook, “Pat Connors’ book is the poetry of discovery, finding one is “blessed beyond what I ever believed.” It is the rite of passage, “the sunrise after darkest night”.”
In January, Connors travelled to Cuba as part of the launch of the bilingual anthology The Bottom of the Wine Jar. The Toronto launch of this book will be held this spring. Below are some of his thoughts about his writing and future projects.
Congratulations Pat! Please describe your latest Lyricalmyrical chapbook in a few sentences.
Thank you, Deb! Part-Time Contemplative is very much the sequel to Scarborough Songs, released in 2013 by Lyricalmyrical Press, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. It is the continuation and development of the themes from the first book, as well as my growth and development as a poet and as a person.
Several of the poems from both chapbooks were either previously published or won awards. What is your favourite poem in your latest collection and why do you like it so much?
“The Beginning of Forever” had never been published before, although I certainly tried. People have apparently been offended by the relatively innocuous expletive I use at the end of the first stanza. But it is a warm and inviting and gentle piece aside from that one turn of phrase, which I wrote while going through a very challenging period. The poem didn’t work the various times I tried to change that line. It lost its honesty.
How does your work differ from others in the same genre?
My work is more influenced by dub and spoken word, yet also by rock and roll, than most literary poets. I don’t write for a niche audience, but rather to be read and heard by a wide variety of audiences, including ones which are non-literary.
Would you consider yourself a people’s poet? Why or why not?
I write poetry which I hope the man in the street can appreciate as much, or more, than the literary or academic circles. I read at open mics which are largely musical, or for collectives like Scarborough Arts, or with groups of people who are not predominantly English-speaking, and check to see if my message comes through and rings true.
I write about experiences and themes which I have shared with a group of friends I have known since the 1970’s, and do so in a manner in which they could relate. Robert Priest has described my style as “deceptively plain spoken”. This is something to which I aspire, and have worked very hard to create.
Both of your chapbooks have a spiritual thread. The first chapbook is dedicated to The One who makes it possible, and the one I adore. The second chapbook is dedicated to Canadian poet Mick Burrs. Who are your poetry mentors and/or teachers and why do they mean so much to you?
The One who makes it possible is God. I have nothing without God – no reason, no purpose, no life, no creativity. My poetry is above all a celebration of that relationship.
Mick, as well as people such as Terry Barker and James Deahl, are great mentors and friends, who very much treat me as an equal, yet encourage me to expand myself, to go beyond what I have already done.
The cover of your second chapbook shows a cluttered desk. Describe your writing process including your favourite writing space.
The beginning of the process typically comes far away from my cluttered desk – the distillation of my experiences, the contemplation, the affirmation or evolution of my value systems.
The first draft is almost always with pen and paper. The second (and usually third) draft is done at my desk, when things are – ironically – a little more organized. Then, after a meeting with Mick, or Dane Swan, another great poet and friend, comes one or two more drafts. At least.
What are you currently working on?
I have 18 poems in an anthology from the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance (CCLA) called Bottom of the Wine Jar. The world premiere was in Gibara, Cuba, at the end of January. The Canadian launch should be in late Spring.
What are your future plans?
A full manuscript to be released before my 50th birthday, which is in May, 2019. A chapbook of poetry inspired by Psalm 40. A novella and/or a book of short stories after that is completed. A novel by the time I’m 60.
Wow, you have your writing plans all mapped out. Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
I trust you will enjoy what I write and how I write it, and that you find the products to be genuine. I hope this will inspire you in whatever defines and motivates you. I believe this affects all facets of life, and makes the world a better place.
Thanks Pat for the interview. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Pat Connors first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was published by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. He was literary juror of Big Art Book 2013, a digital project of Scarborough Arts. He has appeared in entities such as The Toronto Quarterly, Zouch Magazine & Miscellany, This Place Anthology, Northern Voices Journal, Poetry’Z Own Magazine, Chrysalis Zine, and was nominated for the 2011 Best of the Net contest. He recently published in: Canadian Stories; Big Pond Rumours; and Sharing Spaces, a joint project of York University and Antares Publications. Part-Time Contemplative is his second chapbook. He is a manager for the Toronto Chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change.