"Before the Blue Hour"

Introduction to a reading by poet Deirdre O'Connor

Teresa Leo, Acting Directorat the Kelly Writers House
May 2, 2002

Deirdre O'Connor can see in the dark. Or rather, her poems examine what's betwixt and between, on the periphery, what's almost invisible to the naked eye, but not quite.

In her poems, she pays careful attention to what protrudes and retracts, a figure/ground construction that enables her to articulate the silences we find in a world of difficult conversations, whether they're external, the way the people sitting across the table in the poem "Fools" engage in an artful display of not listening, or internal, as in "Notes on the Unspoken," where ominous crows flying out of a field come to stand for the words the speaker doesn't say out loud:

They go off with a great flapping, muted
by distance, same as when they come back.

This is a world where, as Theodore Roethke says, "What falls away is always. And is near," a world of haunting juxtapositions, of presence and absence, of muteness and speech. In her poem "Ghosts," she writes:

There's a word for the something else
she senses on the tip of her tongue. So close to sleep,
she and it, so small, large, absent and approachably near.

The poems so precisely zero in on the hows and postures of silence, the whats are brought into focus the way the infrared night scope on a gun enables a sharpshooter to see in the dark.

The eye enables what the ear cannot, and her poems take us to that liminal space where silence brushes up against language, where we're invited to examine the edges and textures of things as they veer in and out of focus. We're invited to look, and look away, and look.