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.
Saturday, November 4th, I’ll be at the Tuscola Community Building serving up poems from 10 to 5 with the Tuscola Oddfellows at their Oddmarket. Details here, you be there.
I’m very excited to announce I’ll be at Sipyard in Urbana every Wednesday in August from 6 to 8, weather permitting. Stop by for a brew and a poem!
Saturday, June 17th from 10:00 to 4:00 I’ll be serving up Poems on Tap at the Best Damn Backyard Art Pop-up, 508 S. Chicago Ave, Champaign, IL.
A bunch of cool stuff will be available the first weekend in May at the first-ever SideShow Gallery — Parasol Pop-up in the old Parasol Records building at 303 W. Griggs Street in Urbana.
Friday, May 5, 4:00 to 9:00 and Saturday, May 6, 11:00 to 4:00
Here’s a link to the Facebook event which has links to many of the artists’ work. I’ll be there with my typewriter (and my backup typewriter) so stop by for a poem and maybe it will wind up here.
Thank you to Rat’s Ass Review for publishing my poem Napa Cabbage. This is a long-time favorite of mine that has its roots in a paper I wrote on post-modernism way back when.
Lots of opportunities for poetry in CU in April. I will be reading with the CU Poetry Group from 2-4 on April 8th at Jane Addams Bookshop in Champaign, from 2-4 on April 9th at Pizza M in Urbana, and rolling out the typewriter whenever I can between both. That weekend is the Boneyard Arts Festival in CU so come early and stay late.
And don’t forget about Poets at the Post – a monthly open mic that I am hosting at the Iron Post in Urbana the 2nd Monday of each month, which will be April 10th. Signups start at 6:30, reading starts at 7.
Saturday, March 11th, I’ll be taking Poems on Tap on the road to Springfield, IL for a pop up show. Facebook info here.
Saturday, Arpil 8th, I’ll be providing Poems on Tap at the Jane Addams Book Shop before the CU Poetry Group reading. Catch me at noon and the reading from 2-4.
Monday, March 13th, will be the second Poets at the Post – a monthly reading series I’m hosting at The Iron Post. The featured reader for March is Will Reger and lots of open mic slots. I’m calling it Poets at the Post because it sounds cool but all poets, writers, and storytellers are welcome.
Friday, February 3rd, I’ll be hosting the PizzaM portion of the First Friday Poetry Crawl in downtown Urbana. Ten readers and it starts at 8:00pm. Facebook info here.
Saturday, February 4th, I’ll be providing Poems on Tap at the fabulous Hooey Batiks FabFeb HooHa from 10 to 5, give or take. Again, Facebook info for this here.
More on this to follow, but Monday, February 13th, will be the first Poets at the Post – a monthly reading series I’m hosting at The Iron Post. Plan to repeat it the second Monday of every month. One featured reader and lots of open mic slots. I’m calling it Poets at the Post because it sounds cool but all poets, writers, and storytellers are welcome.
Cancelled due to ice and cold. Look for me in the spring.
I’ll be at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery Sunday, 12/18/16 from 11-3 writing poems for anybody who can brave the cold. Stop by North Urbana. Details here.
Oceanside Resort (May/June 2015 issue of Pilcrow & Dagger)
Love hangs like a piñata
as I slide a note with my number
and a twenty for my dinner
to a waitress named Wendy
and wait for her reply.
Tourists arrive in sunblock,
vacation clothes, and big hats
that disguise who they are.
They pass the bat
back and forth, blindly
swinging until Wendy
returns with my change.
Breaths are held, eyes are narrowed
and finally she says
she gets off at eleven
come back then and we’ll see.
I come back and she’s gone.
The tourists leave satisfied
they don’t know the scale.
Star-crossed (May/June 2015 issue of Pilcrow & Dagger)
On a downtown sidewalk
our paths cross at a right angle.
You, a stranger, leaving the grocer
with fresh pork, mint, and bread for dinner.
Me, from the adjacent street,
bottle of wine under arm,
a box of chocolates,
and a hope for love.
You slow down as we pass
but I don’t see you.
I’m looking up, tracking
a soaring eagle
that turns out
to be a buzzard.
Kiss and Tell (July 2015 issue of Pilcrow & Dagger)
I’m sure I’m not the first
to offer my kingdom for a kiss
without really meaning it.
Love is like
a giant kaleidoscope,
swirling with colors
as long as you
Feel anything real?
Karma is a constant
companion, paying you
back by hiding your
keys when you’re late
to pick up the kids.
Picture a hotel bar in Kokomo
chatting up a pretty pink
You wouldn’t stand a chance.
Kafka couldn’t create
a more perfect chaos. So
crawl home, put the money
back in the bank
and leave the dreaming
to the dreamers.