Acre Books, paperback
Publication Date: September 15, 2023
Publisher Marketing: 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.