January 18, 2020 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

10 things you don’t know about me… Jim O’Brien

I always carry a small pewter heart that Lori, my wife, gave me. It’s a reminder of how lucky I am.

The best advice I was ever given was ‘Are you sure you want to do this for the rest of your life?’ That was my stepfather, Jerry Smith, shaking me out of an extended adolescence when I was 26 or so.

My first pet was Caesar, a Pekingese-Pomeranian mix. We had him when my sister and I were quite young so he is the first dog we remember. Sweet little furball but he had some form of canine epilepsy and would go into a fit if he got too close to the television – something about the static electricity from the screen triggered it. If we saw him go down, we would yell for our mom, Sandi, to come wrap him in a blanket until it passed. Many years later I started to wonder if he started with some other name and Caesar caught on because our little toddler tongues couldn’t quite say seizure.

My happiest memory as an adult has been seeing the amazing young human my daughter Kayleigh has become.

Reading poetry lets me experience other people’s perspectives. Writing it lets me explore my own.

I live two distinct aspects of being a poet. One is the quiet time I spend writing and revising poems for publication. The other is much more lived outside where I set up a typewriter and write poems for people at art fairs or wedding receptions or the Wheelhouse Poetry Nights – the next one which will be Thursday, November 21st at 7 p.m. This will combine reading poems out loud and interacting with people. Those connections are definitely the best thing.

I use a pen name because you can’t hardly swing a cat without hitting another Jim O’Brien online. Also, there was some Dutch on my grandmother’s side and my dad was a big fan of MC Escher. Full story here.

A book that has stayed with me is “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. Though the author claimed the book had no message, I alternately find it the happiest and saddest story I’ve ever heard. “It’s about a boy and a tree,” he once said. “It has a pretty sad ending.” Several copies have been passed down and around our family.

My poetry workshop, the CU Poetry Group, just put out our first anthology, Crows on a Line. We will be reading from it at the Wheelhouse on November 21st at 7 p.m. It’s available from Amazon and we will have copies for sale there.

I could watch The Office over and over. When it was first on, I hoped I was Jim but feared I might actually be Dwight or Michael. Turns out I was Creed the whole time. I’m cool with that. 

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