Kevin J. O'Conner

Biography

Kevin J. O’Conner (54) is not your typical poet.

He has not won poetry awards or contests, earned advanced degrees, studied under well-known writers (though he does look to a few for inspiration), or been published in a long list of seemingly obscure journals (only a couple).

Kevin’s working method combines monthly writing challenges with writing every day (or as close to it as possible). Initial feedback comes from posting each day’s best (or least horrible) poem to his blog, and reading at open-mic events. This approach disqualifies the poems from being considered for publication in most journals, making self-publishing the order of the day.

To date, Kevin has published eight collections of poetry (which he also designed); the latest is …BUT FOR THE THOUGHTS RUNNING THROUGH MY MIND. He has also published three volumes of ‘love notes’ to the days of the week, ‘Dear Monday…’, 'Dear Tuesday…', and ‘Dear Wednesday…’

When not writing poetry, Kevin can be found copy-editing documents from far-flung places, participating in open-mic readings, designing books, taking photographs, and making large quantities of soup. He lives near Seattle with his semi-neurotic feline companion, Trixie. (Lucy—a/k/a the Alarm Cat—lives on as the Alarm Cat Press mascot.)

Smashwords Interview

What's the story behind your latest book?
This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life—both the poem and the book title—came from a realization I had one day while browsing at my favorite local book store. There is always something intangible I am looking for when I look for new books, something that I never find. On the day in question, it occurred to me that what I was looking for was a book that would save my life—maybe not in the literal sense, but definitely in the sense that reading it would magically erase all doubt, all fear, all worry, and give me that sense of peace we associate with knowing that everything is going to be all right. In that moment, the line 'this is not the book that will save your life' popped into my head.

Though I would go on to write a poem with that title, I thought it would make a great working title for my next book—and the thing for me about working titles is that, so often, they make better titles than what actually gets chosen. Here I can't help thinking about Used Cars: In a Rolling Stone interview around the time of the debut album by The Cars, Ric Ocasek had already come up with Used Cars as the title of their inevitable greatest-hits album. When that album was actually released a few years later, it bore the title Greatest Hits. Subsequent collections were called Just What I Needed and The Essential Cars. Whatever happened to Used Cars? Emotional Fascism was considered as a title for Elvis Costello's third album, Armed Forces. At the height of the Reagan-era phase of the Cold War, The Style Council wanted to title the American edition of their Café Bleu album Dropping Bombs on the Whitehouse, but were dissuaded from doing so by their label; the US edition of the album was called My Ever Changing Moods instead. Of course, by that logic, I'll have to call my next collection Fred: The Lilac Years, since I have already joked about using that title.

In any event, This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life continues my exploration of form, with sections devoted to the blitz and Pi-Archimedes forms. There is also a section devoted to ekphrastic poems—poems about or inspired by art. The book also continues to explore familiar themes in my work: isolation, memory, starting over at 'a certain age'.

(13 July 2017)
What is your writing process?
My current process combines monthly writing challenges with writing every day (or as close to it as possible). Initial feedback comes from posting each day’s best (or least horrible) poem to my blog, and reading at open-mic events. (At last count, I regularly attend seven open-mics in the Seattle area every month—two are held weekly; the rest, monthly.)

The monthly writing challenges are a way to make myself approach forms and subjects I would otherwise not consider, the goal being to add breadth and depth to my poems. Along the way, I try to remain open to one-off challenges, such as the annual Poetry Marathon, and a recent (August 2016) call to write ekphrastic poems for an exhibition at a local art gallery.

The only real downside to this approach is that it disqualifies my work from being considered by most journals, leaving self-publishing as my main avenue for getting my poems into print. (On the other hand, most journals charge reading/submission fees, so it does save me from having to spend a lot of money trying to get my poems published.)

(12 September 2016)
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Kevin J. O'Conner online


Where to buy in print


Books

This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 11,260. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
The ninth collection of poetry by Kevin J. O'Conner explores the worlds of blitz and Pi-Archimedes poems, dips further into ekphrastic poems, and covers a variety of subjects, ranging from hats to cats and the state of the world.
…But for the Thoughts Running Through My Mind
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 6,380. Language: English. Published: February 6, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
The eighth collection of poems by Kevin J. O'Conner, including his ever-popular alphabet poems.
'Dear Wednesday…' Love Notes to the Days of the Week, Volume Three
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 6,640. Language: English. Published: January 7, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir, Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Fine art
The third year of Kevin J. O'Conner's love notes to the days of the week, a unique slant on the act of 'journaling'…
‘Dear Tuesday…’ Love Notes to the Days of the Week, Volume Two
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 6,650. Language: English. Published: January 7, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir, Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Fine art
The second year of Kevin J. O'Conner's love notes to the days of the week, a unique slant on the act of 'journaling'…
This Is Fifty-three
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 14,440. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
THIS IS FIFTY-THREE is Kevin J. O’Conner’s seventh collection of poems—and his most ambitious to date. This is not your typical poetry collection; it is an exploration of living with uncertainty at a time when we’d expect most of life’s big questions to have been already answered.
Coffee Stains
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,040. Language: English. Published: January 5, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
The sixth collection of poems by Kevin J. O'Conner. Divided into six sections—Observations, Autobiography is Hard, Romantical Feelings and Such, Reading and Writing, Commentary, and Short Forms—the poems address matters from the personal to the universal, contemplating life, love, identity, love and lust, words, and the mundane aspects of everyday living…
Refusal to Remain Invisible
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 5,340. Language: English. Published: September 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
REFUSAL TO REMAIN INVISIBLE is the fifth collection of poems by Kevin J. O'Conner. A recurring theme in this collection is the struggle to be seen and heard when the world renders people invisible—something we are seeing a lot of in 2015. The poems address personal struggles of identity, current events, small moments in everyday life, memory, time, and mortality. There is also one cat poem.
Quiet on the Outside
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 6,900. Language: English. Published: July 2, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
Quiet on the Outside… is Kevin J. O'Conner's fourth collection of poetry. O'Conner still employs a straightforward approach to tone and language, but works with an expanded palette.
'Dear Monday…' Love Notes to the Days of the Week
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 7,570. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir, Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Fine art
The first 365 entries in an ongoing series of love notes to the days of the week, ranging from humorous observations about the day to existential queries, with various stops in between.
The Imperfect Document
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 6,140. Language: American English. Published: March 18, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
The Imperfect Document is the third collection of poems by Kevin J. O'Conner, with subjects ranging from love and loss to writing, from nostalgia to art, from social commentary to drunk social media posting—all written in O'Conner's straightforward, thoughtful style.
Journalism
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 4,780. Language: English. Published: September 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
Journalism is the second collection of poems by Kevin J. O'Conner. Illustrated by sketches from the author's personal journals, the poems in Journalism explore a variety of themes—among them weird dreams, peaceful vignettes, commentary, and the occasional bit of humor. Poetry for people who don't like poetry.
Separation Anxiety
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 4,620. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
A collection of poetry and photographs that explore the emotions that come up when relationships end.

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