If you’ve been paying attention at all, its been obvious that Ottawa poet Wanda O’Connor has been writing increasingly interesting poems over the past six to eight months. At the ottawa small press fair on June 18th, I picked up her most recent chapbook, So you’re thinking of reproducing (ImPress). A six page poem delivered in small fragments, it begins:
these are the slender points
sneaking in with dirty magazines, repeating
things we weren’t taught to say
fastened by teeth, it begins like this
you fled from
and it was close, too
you were a boat then
an angry thing, forming after your
rallying for salient kisses
O’Connor works through love and need at the same time she writes of resisting it, moving from "They say Jean Shrimpton ("the shrimp") dressed / like a bag lady. She invented the mini / skirt. It was scandalous." to a few lines later, writing "Don’t marry a rodeo superstar. / They will only break your heart." (n.p.). How to have all this want when you know it might not be good for you, as she writes of "an escape plan / enough music to drown in // my heart is an anchor" (n.p.).
A romantic at heart, she has been working a series of love / broken love lyrics for some time, slowly working out into the larger world. The small chapbook ends with this, the strongest fragment in the collection:
America we’ve been informed of your
America we are in love.
Your calcitrant hues of red and golden
the anticipation of opposites
is what we love.
America you have beautiful legs.
With her poetry increasingly informed by the work of Robert Creeley, Lisa Robertson, Anne Carson, Robert Kroetsch, Daphne Marlatt and Barry McKinnon (see my brief piece on her contribution to the "sex at 31" phenomenon), you can see the shifts as they develop in her line breaks, over the course of the poems she’s been publishing intermittently on her blog. Some move as breath, and others, as variations on the breath. It has been interesting to watch her move.
Through recently creating the chapbook / ephemera press ImPress, O’Connor been publishing odd little pieces by not only by herself, but by other local scribes, including Jesse Ferguson, Max Middle, Seymour Mayne and Sarah Ruffolo. Her own single poem sheet, "Proof in canon," is a long block of scattered lyric that echoes versions of the locus, another in her series of love / broken love lyrics that begins:
one day i’d like to. a long
economic. live in stretches
and skin. breaks of flocking,
the pancake of love. beast as
birds, as appearing to, in the
locality of sleep, in the
moment stalled of air.
Apparently off to Montreal this fall, O’Connor will be participating in the Creative Writing Program there. It will be interesting to see how she develops, amid the likes of Jon Paul Fiorentino, David McGimpsey and Stephanie Bolster. One can only hope that after ten years of living in the capital, she might eventually come back to us someday. At least for now, you can still get a hold of her through her Ottawa address, c/o 89 Spadina Avenue (upstairs), Ottawa Ontario K1Y 2B9 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org