Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Life of a Poet - Kerry O'Connor

Written by Sherry Blue Sky

Being a lover of the sky myself, when I first saw the name Skylover on the blog roll of another poet’s site, I clicked on it right away. My heart took wing when I saw blue sky and clouds, and read the words: “I am in love with the sky and have made a secret pact with the moon.” I have been a major fan from that moment on. This poet lives in South Africa, and writes some of the most beautiful and evocative poetry I have ever read. Yes, kids, we’re sitting down with Kerry O’Connor this week. Sit tight, this is going to get very interesting!

P.U.: Why did you choose Skylover as the name of your blog? Is there a story behind it?

Kerry: I wrote a poem called Skylover (which I use as my profile info now). I posted it on the Poetfreak site and my poet friends there started calling me Skylover, as a nickname. When I set up my blog, it seemed like the natural choice of title.

P.U.: Here it is, folks:

“I have fallen in love with the sky
And made a secret pact with the moon.
I lift my face for the wind’s kiss
And fall asleep to the sea’s tune.
I write love-letters to the stars
And caress the tallest tree.
I embrace bright shafts of sunlight
And love the rain that falls on me.”

P.U.: So beautiful! Can you tell us a little about yourself, and about your part of the world?

Kerry: I’m a South African, born in the city of Durban on the East Coast. I am the descendant of English and Irish settlers, who came to Africa about 200 years ago. I grew up during the Apartheid era: born in the same year Nelson Mandela was imprisoned (look it up – a woman never tells); in the 70s, Hector Petersen was shot during the Soweto uprisings, the day after I turned 12.

I lived through the undeclared war of the 80s and welcomed in the New South Africa in the 90s. I consider myself to be an African and work every day to improve the country in which I live, through educating its youth.

I have lived in a small country town, 2 ½ hours from the East Coast, and 1 hour from the mountains, since 1986. It is a very close-knit community. If I want to watch a movie or buy a book at a decent bookstore, I have to travel at least 1 ½ hours to do so. It’s a great place to bring up my daughters, because no mall culture or serious drug culture exists and, luckily my on-line bookstore delivers to my door.

P.U.: What about poetry makes you want to write? Have you always written? Do you remember writing your first poem and how old you were?

Kerry: I can remember sitting on the kitchen floor with my back against the fridge while my mother cooked – I must have been 4 years old – pouring over a story book I couldn’t read yet and making up a story to entertain myself. I’ve been addicted to the written word ever since. I have devoted my life to the study and teaching of English language and literature. As a result, I did not dare to pick up a pen to write anything of my own, for fear of offending the shade of Chaucer and the rest of the gang. Certainly I penned rather self-conscious and overly dramatic verse in my youth, but never as an adult.

My first poem of adulthood, I wrote while on a trip through the Namibian desert in 2004, but I wrote nothing else until July 2009. I have been writing non-stop since then. I lay full responsibility for my transition to writer at the feet of on-line poetry forums. I was looking for a copy of a poem on-line and my Google search led me to Poemhunter. I was amazed to see that there was a thriving community of amateur poets from around the world who were sharing, reading and commenting on the work of people such as myself. I posted a few pieces and was hooked. The poetry site which had the greatest effect on my continued writing activity was I found a group of incredibly talented writers who encouraged me in every possible way, and inspired me to always give of the best that my talent allows.

PU: And we are very glad you share your work with us! What style of poem do you write the most?

Kerry: I love all forms of poetry. The more abstract and original the better.

Having a firm grounding in the classics, I like to work on set pieces like villanelle, pantoum, terza rima, and many out-dated styles, especially when suffering from writer’s block. My most innovative of these poems is probably the sonnet. I like to experiment with the classic form and subjects, by modernizing layout and rhyme.

When the muse is with me, I write in free verse and those are the days when I feel closest to being a real poet.

PU: I think I can guess where you stand on the debate as to whether the internet helps or hurts poetry!

Kerry: Yes, I think I’ve answered this above. It excites me to see that the art of expressing one’s thoughts in poetry is far from dead. I think this is largely due to websites and blog spots.

PU: When do you write the most? When you are happy, sad, lonely, day or night?

Kerry: I don’t have a specific time of day, nor do I ever force out poems to a set schedule. I try to write at least once a week, but I go through periods when I write nothing at all. Then on a certain beautiful day (or night) at an unexpected time, the words start to line themselves up, I try to keep up with them as they spill themselves across the page; I give them free range and when they’re done, I read over what they have to say. I rarely spend more than half an hour on any piece and seldom change more than a word or punctuation mark after the final line has been written.

PU: That is fascinating - you are led by your Muse. Do you need certain conditions in order to write? Do you have a quiet, private place in which to write?

Kerry: I’m part of a family of four – privacy, space, silence? You must be joking. The only thing I stipulate is computer time. I get first choice and all will bow to me. (I pay for the service, so it is first and foremost mine!)

PU: Well, your readers are happy you get first dibs! What poem, written by you, do you like the most and why?

Kerry: Very hard to say. Some of my pieces are more like exercises in writing, some are written with specific people in mind, some are based on the human condition and some come directly from the ether.

I think this is my break-through poem, and it is the one which has garnered the most support in various forums. But is not necessarily the best I have written.: if Thoughts had wings

(Check it out, kids. It’s beautiful!)

PU: Do you have a favorite poet, a favorite poem by them?

Kerry: I am in love with poets, asking me if I have a favorite is like asking if the Pope has a favorite saint.

I have been variously excited by different schools of poetry throughout my life. The Metaphysical poets, like John Donne (The Good Morrow is one of my perennial favorites); the Romantics, John Keats (To Autumn is the poem that got me hooked). The poets who have had the greatest impact on my intellectual life are the Modernists: Yeats, Eliot, Lawrence...those brave souls who were always ahead of their times: Blake, Dickinson, Hopkins, Shakespeare... and those few who are in a class of their own: cummings, Thomas, Neruda, Bukowski.

PU: A formidable list! Wonderful! Do you enjoy reading? What are the best books you ever read?

Kerry: I learnt to read at the age of five and have never been without a book since then.

(American Classic)To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
(English Classic) Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
(20th Century) The Ciderhouse Rules – John Irving
(21st Century) The Book Thief – Markus Zuzak
(Translation) Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(English) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis des Bernieres
(Canadian) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Think I’ll stop there.

PU: Fantastic list! Thank you!

Have you ever been published? Do you write with hopes of being published one day? Are you happy with the encouragement of other poets in the blogosphere, or do you dream of books with your name on them?

Kerry: I have had a few poems published in very nondescript publications, and have had others rejected for publication. At present, I’m awaiting another response from a poetry journal.

I’m of two minds about publication. It’s great to have a poem accepted by an independent journal, but the minute they print it, you lose the rights to it because it’s no longer “previously unpublished”.
My ideal would be to have a selection of my poems published in a book, or to have a poem anthologized. The drawback to this, however, is that very few people go out of their way to buy such books. They will spend hours reading poetry on-line but will not spend a dime on a hard copy.
I’m actually very happy to share my work on-line, where it is read daily, and people give me immediate feedback, rather than shelving a copy of a book that’s never read.

PU: I love the immediacy of it, too. Nice to have some feedback and response to what one has written, as opposed to writing into the void.

If you could ask one famous dead person a question, what would it be?

Kerry: I have no such wish, strangely enough. The famous writers I admire the most have answered all my questions in every line they have written.

PU: Well said! What poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?

Kerry: I find inspiration by visiting the blogs of many gifted writers and poets the world over.

If I had to single out the one poet out there, whom I believe to be the greatest rising talent amongst us and who forces me on a daily basis to reassess the art of writing, it is David Scott, a poet and musician from New Orleans. At present he is concentrating on his musical compositions, but some of his poetry is available to read here at Writers Cafe.
PU: Oh, thanks for that tip, Kerry. I look forward to checking him out.
Well here we are at our final question: Do you have a favorite quote?

Kerry: I have notebooks full of quotes, and couldn’t single out THE ultimate quote. But there is one which is a constant reminder to me:

“No man is an island...” (John Donne) If the world of poetry blogs has reminded me of the truth of any 5 words, then there they are.

PU: Thank you so much, Kerry, for sharing some of your thoughts and experiences with us. And for being a member of Poets United and sharing your incredible work with us!

(This wonderful interview with Kerry O'Connor was conducted by Sherry Blue Sky. If you would like to learn more about Sherry or read some her poetry you can do so by visiting her blog "Stardreaming With Sherry Blue Sky" you can also read other articles and posts by Sherry found here at Poets United by just simply searching Sherry Blue Sky.  Sherry is a regular contributor to Poets United and we would like to thank her for all of her hard work and look forward to future posts)

There is much more to a poet than just their poetry. The folks that live behind the pen can be some of the most interesting people around. We look forward to giving our readers an intimate and personal look at some of the other poets found here at Poets United in future, so be sure to return to Poets United each week to see who we chat with next. Who knows, it might be you!


  1. I follow Kerry's blog. It was nice to get to know a little of the story behind this very talented lady. Thank you!

  2. wow! my time is worth reading this! Thanks Sherry B :)

  3. Nice interview. I really enjoyed reading Kerry O'Conner's poetry. Thanks.

  4. Big fan of yours Sherry, great read here and on your blog

  5. Thanks so much for this, Sherry. I'm overwhelmed, to be honest.
    For those interested in Nelson Mandela's bio, here's an interesting and accurate site. He was sentenced on 12th June 1964, 3 days before I was born. Hector Petersen was shot dead on 16th June, the day after I turned 12 years old. He was 13. That famous photo never fails to move me.


  6. Great write up on happy to get to know her better and her background....amazing the world has become so small and that we have the honor of meeting and reading poets from across the planet....we all have so much to learn about and from each other...bkm

  7. Yay Kerry! Your time to shine! You write so beautifully, you deserve a much wider audience, and we are so fortunate to be among your fans and readers. You have lived through some of the history I am most interested in and moved by. Am glad you are teaching Africa's youth!And I am wowed by your background in the classics. Keep writing! Your audience awaits!

    And Robb, you did a brilliant job with the photos!!!!!!!!! Stellar!

  8. Kerry,
    Nice to get to know more of you.
    Sherry, brilliant write up.

  9. Kerry,
    Congratulations on this fantastic opportunity you have given to 'get to know you'.
    A most interesting life.
    I enjoyed following your story, very much.
    Best wishes, Eileen

    An excellent and very interesting interview.
    You have a wonderful talent Sherry, in leaving the reader, wanting more!!!
    Well done,

  10. This is a wonderfully entertaining and insightful interview! Such an interesting life journey you've had, Kerry. I look forward to checking out the links you've listed, and will definitely read more of your poetry.

    And great job of interviewing, Sherry. As usual, you've written a piece that's as lively as it is clever. Well done, ladies...:)

  11. Kerry, I always enjoy visiting your blog, so it was nice to get to know a little bit more about you.

    Sherry, very interesting interview!

  12. she is a true inspiration.
    Glad to know a little more.

  13. Your poems are so beautiful and compelling Kerry....getting to know you even more here has been even more are truly amazing in so many ways. Look forward to reading more and more of your lovely words.


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