1. How did you conceive your first book?
My first book is an amalgam of the defining factors in my life. I tell the reader about my family, my friends, my religious beliefs, my political views, my love of sports, and a certain special someone. But, it is also about how I tell the reader. I hope to continue the tradition of People’s Poetry begun by the likes of Raymond Souster, Milton Acorn, and Al Purdy. I definitely aspire to a musicality of language and unique imagery, but I above all want my writing to be clear, concise, with something to be appreciated by anyone who takes the trouble to read it.
2. What does it mean/suggest for you to think about your writing as a craft that you can grow as a writer? How do you do that?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote something along the lines of writing being difficult because it is thinking on a page. To achieve simplicity in a genuine way, I have to make sure I am not using hackneyed or cliche language. I can’t pander to the reader, and I have to challenge them. But, I also have to challenge myself. I feel called to portray concepts which might be off-putting to some, while not sounding preachy. Unquestionably, writing about abstractions such as social issues and love helps me to form more complete opinions and stronger character. Hopefully, it also creates a dialogue with the reader.
3. What memorable or formative experience around learning to write springs to mind?
When I was 13, I wrote poems about loneliness, and shared them with my Dad. This is covered in the piece, “My Father the Poet”. He made me throw them in the fireplace. The reader need not be concerned – as traumatic events went, this was a below average Sunday. I moved on to short stories, hoping to become the next Ernest Hemingway, but in a nice way. This helped me form a sense of narrative which is significant in my poetry. Furthermore, from facilitating writing workshops, it has occurred to me that poetry has to be able to pass through the fire. Art is formed in the crucible.
4. What writers (or artists in other forms/media) have been formative in shaping how you write? How?
Mick Burrs led me to passionately love poetry, to need to make a poem better, to obsess about every single word, how it looks, how it sounds, what it conveys in the mind of the reader or listener. Robert Priest taught me how important it is to be unique and self-actualized, and showed me how this can make the words be appreciated. James Deahl impressed on me the need to always be writing about everything, and to be totally immersed and engaged in the writing. Terry Barker forced me to pull it all together and see the “big picture” in my book, and made me revise it again and again.
5. How is your writing practice informed by a sense of writing to or for others? Do you have an audience in mind when you write?
I write first and foremost for myself. I am the very definition of a confessional poet. I have to write. I am not myself when I am not writing or thinking about writing. I write to leave a legacy for myself on this planet, and also to try and make sense of this world. But I also write about the personal in a manner which I hope has universal appeal. If I am writing about my experiences, my feelings, my values, in an honest and effective manner, then I believe the reader will not only learn something about me, but see something of themselves on the page, as well.
6. Have you ever collaborated on a writing project with another writer? Or maybe you’ve collaborated with an artist/dancer/musician/actor? Can you share your experience?
In 2011, I began volunteering at Bloor Lansdowne Cafe, which feeds 150 homeless and/or marginalized people dinner every Wednesday, at least when there is not a pandemic. I have been invited by Terry Sywanyk, the musical entertainment for the dinner, to read at seasonal fundraising events, while he accompanies me on the guitar. I can’t wait to do that again! I once did a 30-minute set at Scarborough Arts with pianist Arlene Paculan and violinist Andrea De Boer. Unfortunately, that event had a very small audience, and was never repeated. I am currently working on a project for which I will need illustrations, and have an artist in mind.
7. What emotions do you associate with writing? Or, differently put, how does writing impact your emotional state?
I am an emotionally charged person. In terms of something I have primary control over, poetry is the most important thing to me. It stands to reason that I have powerful and unique responses to various phases of the writing process. I get excited when I come up with an idea, and anxious to get it down on paper. I am overjoyed for those stages and stanzas which come easily, and frustrated and preoccupied with those that don’t. When the product is finished, I am generally satisfied, relaxed, and appreciative. Sometimes, I am elated almost to the point of euphoria. Then, the next project calls, and the cycle begins again.
8. What is new in the world that you need to capture in your writing?
We are enduring the worst health crisis in over 100 years, yet there are those who doubt its severity, and even that the Coronavirus is real! We also have a pandemic of civil unrest, fuelled by neo-liberalist violence largely committed by entitled people who feel they are at risk, victimizing those who truly are. It is time to stand up and be counted! But, it’s also time to appreciate the things we take for granted: the love of our families; the perspective gained by being grateful for what we do have; the quiet solitude I am enjoying away from my “normal”, ultra-busy life.
9. Can you name a source of inspiration before the age of 12 that impacted your writing in some way?
A few days ago was the anniversary of the following post I once made on Facebook: “Muhammad Ali got me into poetry before Neil Peart and after King David.” The Psalms have always been one of my favourite books of poetry, and the 23rd Psalm sung as a Scottish Psalter has poignant sentiment in my family history. The exquisite lyrics of Peart brought me to understand how his poetry shaped the music of RUSH, my all-time favourite band, and also introduced me to Shakespeare and Coleridge. In between, the dynamic force of Ali’s post-fight interviews, with his confident catch phrases, was even more impressive than his victories.
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 (Mosaic Press, 2021), 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.