Kevin J. O'Conner

Biography

Kevin J. O’Conner (55) is not your typical poet.

After 30 years of writing only sporadically, Kevin J. O’Conner returned to poetry in 2013—first as a creative exercise, then for the therapeutic benefits. Since 2015, he writes every day, exploring the craft of poetry through monthly writing challenges—‘my ongoing effort to write something that doesn’t sound like something I would write’, he says. Kevin’s poems explore isolation, memory, life’s small moments, and the experience of starting over at ‘a certain age’—always with an emphasis on straightforward expression.

As of Spring 2018, Kevin has published eleven collections of poems, the latest of which is THE LILAC YEARS (due April 16th in print), plus four volumes of ‘love notes’ to the days of the week. His poems have also appeared in Spindrift, The CDC Poetry Project, Lament for the Dead, and the anthology VOICES THAT MATTER, and as part of the Clay? VI (2016) exhibit at Kirkland Arts Center.

When not writing poetry, Kevin can be found copy-editing documents from far-flung places, attending open-mic readings, designing books, and contemplating what to cook now that he is tired of soup. He lives near Seattle with his cat, Trixie.

(updated 5 March 2018)

Smashwords Interview

What's the story behind your latest book?
THE LILAC YEARS was nearly two years in the making.

The title originated in a blog post about working titles, in which I offered the opinion that they are usually more interesting than the titles that ultimately get chosen. I suggested that I could call my next book FRED: THE LILAC YEARS. As it turned out, by the time I began compiling the poems for that next book, I had several poems that fit with the themes of love and romance associated with lilacs. Although I dropped "Fred", I kept THE LILAC YEARS.

THE LILAC YEARS incorporates poems from two would-be collections, THE OSTENSIBLE SLOTH OF DISTRESS and EKPHRASIS À GOGO, that were submitted to competitions but not chosen. This gave me more to choose from in compiling the book, while also allowing me some distance from the material, which made it much easier to edit and revise as needed..

In its finished form, the book contains five sections:
• The Lilac Years
The 'love and romance' section, as such.

• I Don't Need Video of the Grand Canyon to Have an Existential Crisis
Themes of depression and isolation.

• The Little Moments
Scenarios and little moments, real and imagined.

• Ekphrasis à Gogo Part Deux
Ekphrastic poems—that is, poems about or inspired by art.

• Ars Poetica and Other Tales
Poems about poetry and writing.

For a while, the book contained a sixth section, Dystopia Now, that dealt with current events and topical themes. I decided that these poems didn't belong in this collection; their inclusion disrupted the intended flow of the book, so I cut the section altogether.

THE LILAC YEARS contains more than 140 poems.

The official blurb:

Almost two years in the making, THE LILAC YEARS is Kevin J. O’Conner’s eleventh collection of poems. The book’s five sections explore the venerable themes of love and loss, the difficulties of living with isolation and depression, the little moments of life, the images and thoughts that art brings to the surface, and musings about poetry itself. The Lilac Years is a world of (among other things) trains, music, shadows, silence, memory, weather, trees, crows (dead and alive), ghosts, penguins at the Ueno Park Zoo, neon-marker hallucinations, Vasilina Orlova, Jean Cocteau, and Harvey Keitel.

(5 March 2018)

* * * * * * * * * *

8: EIGHT-WORD POEMS came out of a late choice of writing challenge for the month of August 2017. I hadn't come up with a new challenge by the time August 1st came around, so I figured that I'd write eight-word poems, since August is the 8th month of the year. Plus, I like the idea of trying to be as concise as possible.

It was not unusual for me to write several eight-word poems in a sitting; by the time I'd finished, I had 691 poems. When I read some of them at open-mics, people seemed to get quite a kick out of them—I am more apt to employ humor when I write shorter poems—so I thought I'd go ahead and publish all of them in one book, rather than sprinkling a few of them here and there in the next book. Their short length makes them more approachable, and the fact that they're numbered makes it possible to make sort of a game out of reading them—call out a number, read the corresponding poem.

The cover art came together very quickly as well. Usually, I create several drafts before I find the one that best matches the contents of the book. This time, I got the basic design in just one draft.

I look at 8: EIGHT-WORD POEMS as a compact introduction to my work.

(13 October 2017)
What is your writing process?
My process combines monthly writing challenges with writing every day (or as close to it as possible). I get initial feedback by posting each day’s best (or least horrible) poem to my blog, and reading new poems at open-mic events. (At last count, I regularly attend seven open-mics in the Seattle area every month.)

These monthly writing challenges are a way to make myself write things that don't necessarily sound like something I would write, by trying out forms and subjects I would otherwise not consider if simply left to my own devices. Along the way, I try to remain open to one-off challenges, such as the annual Poetry Marathon, workshops, and other opportunities.

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.)

(13 October 2017)
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Kevin J. O'Conner online


Where to buy in print


Books

The Lilac Years
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 12,710. Language: English. Published: April 30, 2018. Categories: Poetry » American poetry » General, Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
Kevin J. O'Conner's eleventh collection of poems explores the venerable themes of love and loss, the difficulties of living with isolation and depression, the little moments of life, the images and thoughts that art brings to the surface, and musings about poetry itself.
'Dear Thursday…' Love Notes to the Days of the Week, Volume Four
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 7,120. Language: English. Published: November 27, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir
The fourth volume of Kevin J. O'Conner's love notes to the days of the week, a unique slant on the act of 'journaling'…
8: Eight-word Poems
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 7,170. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2017. Categories: Poetry » American poetry » General, Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
Kevin J. O'Conner's tenth book of poetry is a collection of nearly 700 eight-word poems written as a creative challenge. These short, often haiku-like verses range from whimsical to profound, frequently capturing life's small moments and those random thoughts that enter one's mind, with the occasional reference to pop culture thrown in.
This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 11,260. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2017. Categories: Poetry » American poetry » General, 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: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Poetry » American poetry » General
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: Poetry » American poetry » General, 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: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Poetry » American poetry » General
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: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Poetry » American poetry » General
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: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Poetry » American poetry » General
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: Poetry » American poetry » General, 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: 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: Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
A collection of poetry and photographs that explore the emotions that come up when relationships end.

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