me, Leo. Do you have time to listen. Listen, they just put my
a website in Maine. I gave my daughter
Amy the computer so I cant see it but you can take a look
at it. Im one
of the people they picked as Maines best. Its
Leo Connellan on the phone
burning my ear. Ive known him since the 70s and
its always interesting
when Leo calls. Poet Laureate of Connecticut, Poet in Residence
United Universities of Connecticut.
know, I wish I could hear Leo on the phone again. It was a Thursday
evening, February 22 this year, it was
daughter Amy who called to tell me Leo had a massive stroke.
lingered on but soon enough Leo was
completely gone. The large physical presence of Leo, that is.
Luckily, a very
large body of Leos poetry remains.
Its impossible to think of the poetry of Leo Connellan
without thinking of
the man. Thats not a biographical
fallacy. Leos work was deeply personal, torn from the
childhood of Maines coast. He turned the
premature death of parents, the abuse at the hands of those
who cared for
him into a tough American kind of poetry.
His views were somewhere between paranoid and cruelly honest.
If he observed
it was with a zeal-that part of him that was tough and genuine.
fellow who found his way into the literary world with a salesmans
But Leo was never a con-artist; he had the real goods to sell-quality
Leo was no language poet, even as his
plain style evoked instant detail. He was not afraid to write
most magazines would publish even as he
could scalpel a poem down to just the essentials.
with luck will find more and more of his poems in anthologies.
it is the man I want to remember here, in ways those who didnt
might only hear in odd anecdotes. Leo, who could tell a politically
joke with aplomb. Leo who loved his wife Nancy and daughter
Amy more than
life-so that when he was on booze,
with the greatest strength of character, he stopped to stay
with them and be
a good husband, father, citizen. When he was broke, hed
climb the steps of
high rise buildings with a broom, swallowing his pride and sweeping
for a few
hard times didnt hound Leo. He persisted even as the Muse
steadfastly with him. He got
himself a coveted poetry sinecure in Connecticut. Fancy-ass
by his successes, often tried to
leave him out. Hurt as he was, it never affected his creativity.
to poetry later than many of the
wonder-boys and girls birthed yearly out of the M.F.A.s
of America. But his
quantity and quality are stunning. Look at the links. Look into
ever there was an adage that would apply as inspiration looking
at the life
poetry of Leo Connellan, it would be simply Dont
let the bastards beat you
down. (I miss you Leo. Maybe give me a call
CONNELLAN: A FEW OF MANY LITERARY HIGHLIGHTS
Shelly Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America
Honorary Doctorate, University of Maine Poet Laureate, State
of Connecticut Appointed Poet in Residence for United Universities
of Connecticut Selected on of Maines top ten writers by
Maines website. New and Selected Poems reviewed on front
page of Sunday NY Times Book Review Section.
An interview with Leo Connellan by Rebecca Bearardy
Excerpts from the book Providence Town:
the information the State of Main provides: Leo Connellan (1928
- 22 Feb. 2001) Connellan was born near Portland, grew up in
Rockland, and lived at the time of his death in Sprague, Conn.
(with wife Nancy and daughter), working as a poet-in-resident
at Connecticut State University and acting as Connecticut poet
laureate from 1996-2001. He considered himself an "everyman,"
a working man, and his poetry concerns itself with the human
condition. The content of much of his poetry is also highly
influenced by his early proximity to the fishing and lobstering
industry in Maine. Connecticut State Univ.'s Connellan web page
lists many links for more information about Connellan; there's
also biographical information on Connellan in an interview posted
on Curbstone Publishing Co.'s website. A fairly lengthy analysis
of many of Connellan's poems, with specific reference to his
moral vision, is also available through Writers Online. Maine
Public TV featured Connellan on its Summer 2000 program "A
Good Read" and provides a bio, works list, excerpts, and
a list of Connellan's favorite books on its site. Works include:
Penobscot Poems (1974); Another Poet in New York (1975); Crossing
America (1976); First Selected Poems (1976); Death in Lobster
Land: New Poems (1978); The Gunman and Other Poems (?); Massachusetts
Poems (1981); Shatterhouse (1983); The Clear Blue Lobster-Water
Country: A Trilogy (1985); New and Collected Poems (1989); Provincetown,
and Other Poems (1995); Short Poems, City Poems, 1944-1998 (1998?);
The Maine Poems (1999)