Survivor's Notebook: Poems (Paperback)

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A collection of prose poems that chronicles the family life of two cancer survivors.

Dan O’Brien’s powerful companion to Our Cancers catalogs the recovery of a cancer survivor, whose wife has recently survived her own cancer, as he returns to his daily life while raising a young daughter. This prose-poem sequence is a true survivor’s notebook, using photos and the tools of memoir to evoke how disaster can constellate our past, present, and future.

In his poems, plays, and nonfiction, Dan O’Brien has explored, as he says in a 2023 interview, “how trauma shatters identity, and in its aftermath we reconfigure and rewrite, as it were, the story of who we were and are and maybe will be.” In highly personal poems reminiscent of dramatic monologues, as well as shorter lyric fragments, the protagonist reconsiders the people and places he knew before his illness, including his estranged family and others with cancer. While looking back he moves forward again, resuming his career as a writer and teacher, revisiting Ireland, and making a kind of pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is a confiding and at times comical tone in these poems as O’Brien awakens to the delights, absurdities, and wonders of existence, and as he and his wife work through the aftershocks of their trauma toward a deeper love.

With text and image, Survivor’s Notebook shows how we go on, with resilience, gratitude, and joy, when “the emergency’s elsewhere” now.

About the Author

Dan O’Brien is a poet and playwright. He is the author of Our Cancers, also published by Acre Books. His previous poetry collections include War Reporter, New Life, and Scarsdale. O’Brien is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Drama and two PEN America Awards for playwriting. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.

Praise For…

"O’Brien’s Survivor’s Notebook is a beautiful little hybrid book that calls itself poetry, though the paragraph-length entries inside are more memoir. . . .This is a very honest work. There are personal phobias and fears, secrets and longings exposed. . . . Part celebration, part extrication, fans of personal stories about imperfect lives will enjoy this brave and bittersweet book."
— Jesi Bender

"Earlier this season, Acre Books released Dan O’Brien’s Survivor’s Notebook, a visceral collection of prose poems. In wielding the tools of memoir, O’Brien illuminates the traumas and triumphs of two cancer survivors to profound effect. This complement to O’Brien’s 2021 collection Our Cancers is as inspiring as it is skilled."
— New England Review

Our Cancers is an excellent example of Shelley’s secret alchemy, which turns ‘to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life.’ . . . Writing the truth, [O’Brien] says, ‘saved him.’ And it has produced an exquisite and terrible beauty in these pages.”
— Praise for 'Our Cancers'

“O’Brien explains that his obligation as a writer is ‘To tell others the truth, as skillfully as possible. To make art out of pain. To heal.’ Our Cancers tells his truth not only skillfully but masterfully, making from pain a lasting chronicle of art that traces fragmentary moments of healing over time.”
— Praise for 'Our Cancers'

“These are sparse and beautiful poems to live by.”
— Praise for 'Our Cancers'

“A master class in surviving through art.”
— Praise for 'A Story That Happens'

“Powerful. . . . This is a book for our times.”
— Praise for 'A Story That Happens'
Product Details
ISBN: 9781946724632
ISBN-10: 1946724637
Publisher: Acre Books
Publication Date: September 15th, 2023
Pages: 116
Language: English