Extravagant Stranger, by Daniel Roy Connelly, is a memoir told in the form of prose poetry. It offers the reader a collection of personal snapshots to peruse covering several decades of the author’s life. The depictions are grungy in places but searingly candid. Cultural references are made which I did not always recognise, resulting in certain pictures remaining opaque. The majority however are presented with razor sharp clarity, the subjects dissected with wit and precision.
The collection opens with musings on conception, birth, memories from childhood and then coming of age. On Getting Laid For The Third Time offers a droll account of inexperienced sex.
The author recounts moments in his life from various countries where he has travelled, worked and resided. His ongoing battle with depression adds poignancy, a shadow that never quite disappears.
Look Left, 2001 packs a powerful punch from New York City. Five People And One Animal I’ve Sat Next To On Planes is exactly what the title says, the entertaining list capturing a depth of meaning from the simplest of observations.
Poetry requires a degree of focused concentration but with a collection that resonates like this the endeavour is more than repaid. Each work is flavoursome, bold and substantial yet never cloying or heavy. There is a strong sense of place alongside reactions to being there.
The later poems suggest greater mordancy but are also drenched in fatherly love. No matter how tired from the effort of living, time spent with the author’s young son is relished. There is sadness when the child grows old enough to be constricted by timetabled living. Mardi Gras, 2014 – father and son on the set of a Marvel movie – offers relief after more serious contemplation.
The book concludes with an imagining of the author’s death and the reflections wished for. Thoughts are with cushioning the son from lasting sadness, a request that the child believe in his father still.
This is an accessible, unpretentious collection despite its impressive reach and intensity. A reflective, subtly powerful, rewarding read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Little Island Press.