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?