Saturday, August 23, 2014

'Because you know I'm all about that bass, bout that bass ..."

"No treble."


The kids have just come back from a weeklong vacation with their dad, and what's the first thing they wanted to do when  they arrived home? See their friends, of course. So I'm Starbucking this afternoon while they are having kid time. Can't say I'm sad about that, but it does feel weird. They'll be plenty of time this week to hang out before school starts--that's what I keep telling myself.

That pretty little chapbook is Afaa Michael Weaver's A Hard Summation,  just published by Central Square Press. This 13-poem collection details what it means to be Black and American, spanning the Middle Passage until now. It's a strong offering. Afaa's work calls me to go a little deeper with  my own.

Here's a review.


Poetry books I'm looking forward to reading, in no particular order:

City of Eternal Spring, by Afaa Michael Weaver
Copia, by Erika Meitner
Post Subject, by Oliver de la Paz
Citizen, by Claudia Rankine


Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday folks. If it's Tuesday, it's time for your confessions. We won't tell a sole. Really, we won't.

I'm a bit out of sorts this week. The kids are away with their dad. Meanwhile, I am trying to psych myself up for September, which means getting back into some sort of group. My whole body is resisting, but I have a few days to myself to envision the next few months,


I managed to write a poem for my workshop. It's the first poem I've written in weeks, and it's heavily influenced by the events of Ferguson, MO. This summer seems to be a season on loss. Every time I turn on the news, it's worse than the day before. *sigh* Here's hoping things get better soon.


Last night, I stopped at our local farmers market to pick up a few things: one small piece of salmon, one ear of corn, a quart of cherry tomatoes, and honey. Feels as if I'm shopping for a single person.

Dinner was delish!


I have this sudden urge to read Galway Kinnell's poem, "When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone." Of course, I can't find the book of the same name. Maybe I have lived a long time alone? Or too long with kids.


Short but sweet today.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blog Tour on the Writing Process

I've been tagged by the beautiful and talented Alexandria Perry to do a blog post on my process. Here goes!

1. What are you working on?

Hmmm. Maybe a better question is, “What am I not working on?” Besides prepping for classes and planning for the 2015 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, I am spending the last weeks of summer jump-starting two projects.

My third manuscript is begging for attention. In June, I arranged my poems into a kind of order. I wanted to see if I could get them to talk to one another—they’re not, not even on speaking terms. But, by beginning the process of arranging an order, I know what needs to be revised. I now have a working title, and I know what holes need to be filled. Now, I just need to do it. Ugh.

Also, there’s a project that I’ve had in the works for more than a year that. It’s a series of poems based the histories of slaves who lived in the town I live in now (Beverly, MA). The idea grew out of my need to know more about where I’m living now, where I'm raising my biracial kids in a world where President Obama is the only president they've ever known. A project like this requires time and research, so I have to figure out how to consistently work on this project. The progress will be incremental, but it’s still progress.

2. How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

This is an odd question. My first instinct is to say that’s for the reader to decide.

 Here’s the description for my second book, Misery Islands, which will be published this fall:

Misery Islands blends the geographical and metaphorical landscapes of family, divorce, and the choices we make to find out who we are truly meant to be. These poems navigate the waters of transition with exuberance and reflection, as O’Neil discovers new ways to make the ordinary extraordinary.
Again, that's for the reader to decide.

3.Why do you write what you do?

I write very much in the present, so I’m hoping the new projects I’m working on take me out of that mode. I don’t think a poet has to go far to find subject matter for poetry. The biggest thing is being willing to fail, and by fail I mean starting a poem or freewrite that may go nowhere. Every time I sit down to write, my whole body, my whole being is asking, "What am I willing to risk?"

I am happiest when I’m writing for myself, with no expectations or demands on the outcome. I'm comfortable writing poems that may never see the light of day, because that’s the writing I do for me. Of course, I’m thrilled when a line or poem I’ve published resonates with someone. But I write for me—I am my first, best audience.

4. How does your writing process work?

It changes each season/semester. And my process is certainly different from how I wrote two, five, even 10 years ago. Ideally, I try to write in the mornings before I’m fully awake, before the first cup of tea. But with two kids and a hectic schedule, I have learned to write anywhere—when my students try the prompts I give in class, or during the kids' baseball and Tae kwondo practices. Laptop or journal—doesn’t matter.

Sometimes I vent about not writing with on this blog or with poet-friends, but I try to keep it at a minimum. Insert butt-in-chair and write. There's no secret to writing. You just have to do it, and be prepared to bad poetry until you get to something good.

Next up: Carolee Bennett and Susan Rich:

Both are on vacation (and I haven’t officially heard from Susan, but I’m hoping she responds). When they post their responses, I’ll let you know. Hey, it's August!

Also, check out posts by Alexandria Peary and Laura Mullen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time for confessions. Share a bit of yourself with us and we promise to do the same.

Aaaah, Confession Tuesdays. I have missed you. This is the longest break I've taken from my regular Tuesday postings. What can I say? I needed the time off.

Robin Williams. Lauren Bacall. Maya Angelou, and countless others in desperate situations around the globe--this has been a tough summer for so many people. So many losses. Today I'm sending a little light and love to the families of those who left this earth too soon. 

This has been such a contrast for my family and me. We've had a great summer. Because my schedule is incredibly hectic nine months out of the year, I needed to step back and take care of myself. I needed the mental break--my kids needed their mom. And I have to say, this has been the BEST SUMMER EVER! 

Mission accomplished.


Now that August is nearly over, however, I'm feeling the stress of what's ahead creeping in. Back to meetings, grading papers, and spreadsheets. Also, I'm mentally gearing up to promote a new book--that's another story in itself. The key is figuring out the balance. I know things get crazed at certain times of the year, the key is staying ahead of the workload. But it takes a lot of creative energy to stay ahead and while I'm good at it, I'm wondering if there's a better way.

All this to say that I'm grateful for the blessings summer has given us. It is my favorite time of year because I am most myself. Does that make sense?

Friday, August 08, 2014


This was my view on vacation. My family took a cruise to the Bahamas--did I mention that? The last two days of our voyage were spent at sea. By then, the kids knew the ship inside and out, so I felt comfortable enough to let them go off to do activities without my supervision. Two mornings of uninterrupted writing time. 

I wrote four poems in two hours. It was glorious. 


The final page proof for Misery Islands came in today. Yahoo!

Now it's time for me to focus on getting the word out about the book. One of the many things coming is a new look for the blog. I just have to find the time to do it. I mean, I'd rather be sitting in my hammock finishing up Hunger Games: Catching Fire. But I'm excited about Misery; I want to make sure I do all I can to get the word out about it. More to come.


Tonight I'm reading at the Boston Poetry World Cup marathon, at 7:08 p.m. The schedule keeps changing, but here's the most up-to-date version.


September feels as if it's just around the corner. Don't be surprised if I continuously lament about summer slipping away.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Huffington Post - Part and Parcel: Poet January Gill O'Neil

I'm up at the Huff Post! Thanks to Hannah Stephenson for interviewing me for her series Part and Parcel.  Here's a snippet.

"I tell my students all the time that they can and should write whatever they want to write, but it's up to them whether to make the poems public. The poems in Misery Islands certainly put that theory to the test as I was writing about the breakup of my marriage. Ultimately, I would not publish anything I felt was embarrassing to my friends and family. I wrote honestly about the hurt I felt when I realized the plan for my life was changing."
Here's a link to my second collection, Misery Islands.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

One Crazy Summer

Howdy! It's been a while. I've missed you.

I needed the break and I'm so glad I took it. The kids and I have had an amazing few weeks.

First there was this ...

Then there was this ...

And then this ...

And finally, this ...

And while there's a lot of summer left, I feel myself looking ahead to the kids returning to school, prepping for fall classes, and promoting my second collection Misery Islands.

More to come.


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