Part Time Contemplative
By Pat Connors
Toronto: Lyricalmyrical, 2016
Review by James Deahl
Part Time Contemplative is the second collection by Pat Connors to be published by Lyricalmyrical; his first effort was Scarborough Songs in 2013. Connors’ poetry has been identified as People’s Poetry by the critic Terry Barker. Indeed, Barker has argued that Connors writes from the Catholic Left tradition and compares him to Joe Wallace (1890 - 1975), finding that Connors presents his ideas in the “highly compact Romantic manner” developed by Wallace. Readers who enjoyed Scarborough Songs will be happy to learn that Connors continues to investigate what might be called the “modern dilemma” — that is, how to live a fully spiritual life in what is becoming an increasingly post-Christian society — from a poetic stance which is at once Catholic and Left.
As a journalist, Connors writes of those who suffer psychological challenges, and it is here that Part Time Contemplative starts. “The Beginning of Forever,” “Panic,” and “Recovery” deal with the struggle against panic attacks/anxiety disorder. This is coupled with a quest for God, clearly shown in “All There Is Is Everything.” This religious search is more powerfully celebrated in “Centre,” the very short, fourth poem in this collection. Indeed, a return to, or a revival of, his Catholic faith is an aid to the process of psychological recovery.
The poet, now well into middle age, revisits his innocent and not-so-innocent childhood in poems like “The Innocence of Youth,” “Burby,” and “What Runs Through.” In general, this is a step forward from his initial Lyricalmyrical collection. The content of these two-dozen pieces is stronger and more tightly focused, and that is a welcome sign.
Far too many poems these days have little, or even nothing, to say to their readers. Too often, poets write simply because they can. They write the same poem over and over with only slight variations. Perhaps because of the influence of the poetry of the Chilean master Pablo Neruda and Canadian Mick Burrs, Pat Connors does not suffer from this problem.