Why a pen name and who is James Escher? Reposting for my new fans…

When I started submitting work for publication, I googled researched all variations of my name, Jim O’Brien, using Jim, James, with my middle name Michael, without, and found there were many others from athletes to reporters to actors and such. So I started thinking about a pen name to separate myself from the masses. I was looking over the bookshelf and landed on this book:


This actually works on three levels for me. First, as a kid and well into adulthood I thought my dad was born in Escher, Iowa because that’s what he always said. At least, that’s how I heard it. When I was in my thirties, I was planning a trip through Iowa. I scoured the map and checked the index but still couldn’t find it so I called him to find out where it was. He said again “Escher” so I asked him to spell it and he said “A-Y-R-S-H-I-R-E.” (Turns out it’s in the northwest section.)

Second, I am a big fan of M.C. Escher’s work.


M.C.Escher “Day and Night” courtesy the M.C. Escher Foundation and The M.C. Escher Company

On my best day, I can only hope that my poems have a fraction of the layers and smooth transitions of his art. And third, there were plenty of Dutch with the Irish in Ayrshire, Iowa, and up my extended family tree.  So I adopted the name and the first poems I sent with it were accepted for the debut issue of a west coast online journal that folded before the first issue ever saw the light of day. Nonetheless, I took the acceptance as a good sign and never looked back.

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