Reviewed by Jeevan Bhagwat
In his debut poetry collection, The Other Life (Mosaic Press, 2021), Patrick Conners takes us on an introspective journey that seeks to find meaning and purpose in the sometimes mundane aspects of everyday life. Following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Al Purdy and Milton Acorn, these poems unfold in a language and style reminiscent of the People’s Poetry tradition and wrestles poetry away from the hands of academia to give back to the general pubic. This is aptly demonstrated in the poem ‘A Guy Like Me’ where Connors writes:
“Have you heard of Al Purdy?”
“Yessir, I have”. Mr. Harrison smiled,
“I always thought you could write like him.
“He writes in a way
that a guy like me
These poems enable us to accompany Connors on a quest towards the apprehension and comprehension of truth as revealed in his life experiences, familial relationships, politics, and personal beliefs. They’re at once both referential and existential in that Connors continually searches for a meaning that not only helps him to understand his own personal evolution as a human being, but also his spiritual evolution. In the poem ‘Open Ending’, he writes:
“I want to be where I am and
Be here more fully as always myself
Ready to grow and follow the journey
To go wherever this will take me”.
It is this overt curiosity and zest for life that compels readers to reflect inwards to uncover their own truths. By employing an economy of words and touching on themes that resonate with each of us, Connors strips away the gaudy veneer of our everyday lives to get at the underlying beauty that connects us from a physical and spiritual perspective. In this respect, the simplicity of his straightforward approach effectively conceals the profundity inherent in his poems.
When we examine the poem ‘The Beginning of Forever’, we become privy to Connors’ realization that although life doesn’t always seem to make sense at times, it is only by surrendering oneself to a faith that things are the way they are for a reason, a purpose beyond our understanding, that we are able to truly let go and live wholly.
“Trusting in the power behind it all
when I cannot make sense of it for myself.
I let go of all preconceived notions
and feel an occasional surge of faith”.
Connors’ trek, like each of our own, is a continually evolving one. Although we may take different paths along the way, our journeys inevitably lead us to a shared understanding that we are all seeking the same thing – truth. In The Other Life, Connors helps us to realize this through poetry that is courageous, accessible, and above all, honest.
Jeevan Bhagwat lives and works in Scarborough, Ontario. His poetry books include The Weight of Dreams (2012) and Luminescence (2020), both published by IN Publications. He is the co-founder and co-facilitator of The Scarborough Poetry Club and the recipient of the Monica Ladell Prize for Poetry (2003, 2005) and the Scarborough Urban Hero Award for Arts and Culture (2015).
Patrick Connors has been a mainstay of the poetry scene in Toronto for many years. His contribution and his commitment to the poetic life of the GTA and beyond is well known. Finally, The Other Life, his first collection of poems, establishes him as an original and distinctive poetic voice. His considerable reputation is already well established and this volume will be read, enjoyed and cherished by his many admirers.