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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Poems on Tap this Sunday

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.

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Three from last summer published by Pilcrow & Dagger

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
just
keep
moving.
Don’t stop
or you
might feel
the needle.
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
cashmere sweater.
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.

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Latest

The Asses of Parnassus has posted one of my oldest poems here.

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It’s duck season, it’s rabbit season…

It’s actually farmers’ market season which means I’ll be hitting the pavement to bring Poems on Tap to the masses. Already scheduled are:

  • Champaign on Tuesday, May 3rd 4:30 to 6:45
  • Urbana Market on the Square Saturday, May 7th 10:30 to noon
  • Champaign on Tuesday, May 10th 4:30 to 6:45

There will be more to come after that, which I will try to post as they happen. Please note – all of the above are weather permitting. I have an umbrella that can handle light rain but anything heavy or with lightning finds me and the typewriter seeking shelter.

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CU MTD Poem Winner

Ann Hart’s poem was selected as the winner. Read all about it here.

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CU Poetry MTD Poem contest

The CU Poetry Group, which I am a committed member of, is running a poetry contest in which the winning poem will be printed on posters and placed on CU MTD buses for the months of April, May, and June. The contest is limited to residents of Champaign County in Illinois and details can be found here. This has been a goal (dream? vision?) ever since the MTD started the MTD Art program with local visual artists. I finally found myself asking why not? and started contacting people. The deadline is March 11th, 2016.

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Monthly CUP Generative Workshop

I’m starting a monthly poetry workshop to raise money for the Champaign Urbana Poetry Group. Our first one is January 22, 2016. Details below and the link is here.

Please join me for our first monthly generative poetry workshop. We will engage in a number of prompts to produce rough drafts of new poems. Unlike our weekly critical workshops, you need only bring your preferred writing medium, be it pen/paper or laptop, for the exercises and prompts.

The library doesn’t open until 10 on Saturdays so we will start at 10:15 to allow for people to get beverages and settle in upstairs in room 215. Then we will start with a quick free write and move through 3 separate prompts with discussion in between.

Please note – in addition to enhancing our group experience, these monthly workshops are intended to be a bit of a fundraiser to cover costs of the Meetup site and library room rental so I will be asking for a $5.00 donation from each attendee. If you find this to truly be a hardship that would prevent you from attending, please contact me separately. Ideally, in addition to covering the fees for running the group we may be able to offer scholarships for future monthly workshops.

 

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Today I Bake – Published by Pilcrow & Dagger, October 2015

Today I Bake
To-day I bake, to-morrow brew,
          the next I’ll have the young queen’s child.
Ha, glad am I that no one knew
     that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.
                                                                            The Brother’s Grimm
It’s late
I’m awake
you are upstairs,
asleep.
Time once, we loved
each other, thought we
 found some
new way to make sense of the parts,
this riddle, that was us.
Us, who once loved
each other more than ourselves
only to rattle ourselves
out of the world around us
out of the world that was us.
I guess we are about to be split in two.
Guess!
Who am I now?
 An ex-significant something or other
or worse
 myself alone,
shouting at the night,
where my
own chains drove us
into separate towers filled with straw
where love dies
 trying to make more,
leaving us
spinning twine into rope
as we grasp for names
and tear ourselves in two.

Available here

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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:

Image

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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