IN OUR BEST DEFENSE, David O’Connell brings tenderness and a wry attention to his exploration of fatherhood and childhood, movies and schoolrooms, ancient Rome and rainforests. While the perils of our times—including climate change, school violence, and war—are never far from sight, these poems uncover ways to celebrate this moment, even as they acknowledge victory remains far from certain.
“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.” – Robert Cording
“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 Robert 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.” – John Repp
David O'Connell's chapbook,A Better Way to Fall, was awarded the Philbrick Poetry Award from the Providence Athenaeum. His poetry has appeared in New Ohio Review, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, Copper Nickel, and North American Review, among other journals. He has received fellowships in poetry from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and earned his MFA at Ohio State University. More of his work is available at davidoconnellpoet.com.