Our Best Defense is available from Cervena Barva Press or by contacting me.
These wonderful poems combine intellect and feeling, family life and history and are the “best defense” against the sleep of contemporary life in which people live vicariously through the famous, refuse to acknowledge the lessons of history, and persist in denying our finitude. They enact the scrutiny and self-awareness that Robert Lowell called for, that “agonizing reappraisal,” and do so with great tenderness and with a wry sense of how our lives are interwoven with myth and history and with work memos and The Weather Channel. Our Best Defense arms us with humor, fearlessness, and wonder.
David O’Connell leads readers through a modern family life with tenderness, skepticism, and wonder. It's a life he knows—though that life is not everyone's. How much is lost when he passes on time with his wife to deliver a promised memo to Legal instead? When his toddler daughter sobs to a Christmas tune? These poems know better than to feel at ease with the timbre of Bing Crosby or the rhyme scheme of Edwin Arlington Robinson. These poems expose the mirage of perfect life outside day spas and inside sheltered schoolrooms. “Why do we learn / what we learn in this order?” is a persistent question—of this book and of the times. “What are you doing with your life?” O’Connell asks. The weather’s unseasonably off. And there’s no way to ignore the historical record skipping.
Every poem in David O’Connell’s fine debut embodies Robert Frost’s definition of poetry: “A momentary stay against confusion.” Poems celebrating work well done, the blues of Blind Willie Johnson, and the deep nourishment of domesticity keep company with poems lamenting heroism’s blindness and the wasteland homo sapiens seem determined to make of our planet. Formally various, the poems share a deceptively calm, patient voice, the sound of a writer who knows how ineffably fragile and sublime existence is. “Marriage,” a three-line lyric that arrives late in the book, puts the matter best: “Evening, winter, fresh/from the bath, she leaves a trail./I take off my socks.”