Finest: Mark Connors – “Everyday robots”

“Finest” is a new feature which will hopefully inject some life into this blog, which has of late succumbed to dust, cobwebs and tumbleweed. Each week, I’ll be asking a poet to nominate one of their own pieces and to tell me a little about it – how it came to be written and what it means to them. First up is poet and novelist Mark Connors.

Mark ConnorsEveryday robots

we are almost watertight
our hearts are sim cards
any pain that gets in
can be teased out
in a bath of long grain rice

we feel more when we’re alone
there are more emojis than emotions
there are a thousand ways to smile
but only three or four to frown
we are beside ourselves with happiness

our thumbs have evolved
they are indefatigable
they cannot make tools
or do anything useful
but their speed is astounding

our lovers are distant
but closer than before
we reach out to them
in myriad ways
that work faster than our mouths

we are at one with the thrum
of all our machines
each ping brings news from somewhere
loners are extinct
Will we ever be lonely again?

“I wrote this poem after hearing a Damon Albarn song of the same name. My debut pamphlet was made up of poems inspired by songs and my forthcoming third collection, ’50’, will follow that format again.

“I was really pleased with this poem, how it deals with our reliance on mobiles and particularly the final line which raises a question about loneliness. People who find themselves on their own in their later years will be far more connected than previous generations. It got me thinking how different the world would be if loneliness brought on by isolation became extinct. And the flip side – how being lonely is synonymous with writing and how we’d all get on without ever feeling a sense of loneliness. You don’t need to be on your own to suffer loneliness but I’m talking about a specific type that only those who live on their own know. When marriage broke up, I lived on my own eighteen months and wrote more than ever. Loneliness gave me space to write and writing became more of a necessity for my own well being. Lockdown has made me want to write a sequel, which I may well do.

“I sent the poem out to magazines and websites more than ten times, which is unusual for me. I’m pretty persistent but if a poem gets rejected so many times, I’ll either retire it to my private collection or give it a good going over. But I never felt compelled to revise it further. It was a poem I’d spent a long time writing and I really struggled to improve it. The poem did exactly what I wanted it to do. I’m not averse to revising poems that have already been published, even those that have ended up in my collections, so my reticence to revise it was nothing to do with blind spots or stubbornness. But I believed in this poem so finally sent it to The York Mix Prize. The competition was judged by Antony Dunn and it made it onto the shortlist from hundreds of poems so I was well chuffed with that and felt vindicated for my faith in it.”

Mark Connors is an award winning poet and novelist from Leeds, UK. Mark has had over 200 poems published in magazines, anthologies and webzines. His debut poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song was published by OWF Press in 2015. His first full length collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. His second poetry collection, Optics, was published in 2019 by YAFFLE. His debut novel, Stickleback, was published by Armley Press in 2016. It was longlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Mark’s second novel, Tom Tit and the Maniacs, was published in 2018. It was named as one of Culture Vulture’s novels of the year. Mark is also a compere, a literary facilitator and a managing editor at YAFFLE.


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