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:

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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.

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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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Me on Art Now

Episode #92 features me. Watch it here or catch it on UPTV6 if you are in CU.

Poet Jim O’Brien discusses his artwork on this episode of Art Now.

Art Now is an award-winning mini-documentary series that has produced over 90 episodes on local artists working in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding areas since July 2010. A joint production by the Urbana Public Arts Program and Urbana Public Television, Art Now highlights members of the Urbana’s creative community and introduces local artists to the viewers of the program. For more information, visit: http://www.urbanaillinois.us/artnow.

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Fly Right – Published by Light – A Journal of Photography & Poetry

Fly Right

I can’t keep
keep my head away
from the brick wall
for very long before
another false start ends
with a thud thud thud
tearing at my sense
of well-being.
Frantic honking
draws my attention
away from my chair.
I go outside
to where a flock of geese
struggle
to get into the familiar
wedge formation. I understand
their flailing and feel
at one with them now,
comforted by their inability
to form a proper vee.
This makes me feel better
about the world, about
the end of the promise.
Winter approaches
with surety, with the
dedication of an eagle
perched on a bare branch,
surveying the landscape
for signs of life,
which he will capture
and eat for lunch.

Available here

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Poems on Tap – in Tuscola 11/4

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.

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Sipyard Residency

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!

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Poems On Tap – at another Pop-Up 6/17

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.

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Poems On Tap/Parasol Pop-up in May

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.

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New Poem Up

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.

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April is National Poetry Month

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.

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More Upcoming Events

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.

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Upcoming Events

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.

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