Death of HeadworX author John O’Connor

Friday, September 4, 2015 by Mark Pirie

In May this year, one of my HeadworX authors John O’Connor passed away.

John, in 1999, was the first publisher of my poetry through Sudden Valley Press in Christchurch. John published my poetry books: Shoot (1999), No Joke (2001), Reading the Will (2002) and TOM: A Novel in Verse (2009). The latter through the Poets Group imprint. Sudden Valley Press and Poets Group were imprints of the Canterbury Poets' Combined Presses.

I’ve written an Obituary for John in the latest edition of Poetry Notes, Winter 2015, the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa newsletter available online for free download.

Here’s the link:

Another tribute I wrote shortly after his death appears on the New Zealand Poetry Society’s haiku news page:

"Mark Pirie, (Wellington, NZ) - Hearing of John O’Connor’s death is like losing a band member, one of those rare collaborators that gets your jokes, your lyrics, your individual rhythm and idiosyncrasies and plays along with you for the love of the jam. John was the first real editor of my poetry from 1996-2010 and featured me in Spin, March 1997. We had a mutual respect that never left. I was delighted to have published his last two books through HeadworX: Whistling in the Dark and Aspects of Reality. I will write something longer on him for the Poetry Archive newsletter. In the meantime, a haiku for John, from my collection Trespassing in Dionysia (Original Books, 2008), which picks up on John’s insightful and original nature:

in John’s poem –
a side-valley

for John O’Connor

John said he’d souvenir it! Sad we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, John will be missed by many New Zealand poets who he helped and supported over the years."