Welcome To My Bed

Get Your Feet Wet

Most of what I publish happens to be poetry, but I write in many other directions and evidence of that is finally seeing the light of day. I'm in the throes of finishing up a collection of short stories that will be out next year. Essays, reviews, and short stories (as well as a poem or two) have popped up all over in the last few months and I wanted to make sure to share them here.

+ "Bootleg," a flash ghost story about a first kiss from my forthcoming collection, won Noble/Gas Quarterly's annual Birdwhistle Prize for fiction.

+ I wrote about the way rape ends up on TV as a plot point and how I engage with it in "Why Chuck Bass," published over at Queen Mob's Teahouse.

+ My thoughts on Jay Deshpande's delicate, arresting Love The Stranger live over on the Button Poetry blog, where they're collecting micro-reviews of poets' favorite recent collections.

+ I wrote a mini-syllabus based on my on-going Warhol clique research that Entropy was kind enough to share with the world.

+ The Mira Project interviewed me on my experiences with street harassment and rape culture.

+ A poem I wrote after Peter Pan & Skrillex called "we rowdy" appears in issue 17 of Adroit.

Death is Funny

There is a set list for every hurt under heaven. I just found mine from smack in the middle of my first few months as a person with a book & it's wild to hear how sure/unsure I am of myself. Now that Pelican is over a year old, it feels easy to forget that my bird even exists. I want to keep reminding myself that I made a thing that helped me to laugh & live & grieve through one of the hardest losses I've ever dealt with. It's been five years since I lost my dad. I'm having dinner with his best friend tonight & toasting to how he taught me to tell our story.

Set List

1. remember the fun we had when you poisoned me
2. You Bring Out My Worst Side**
3. Everybody Knows That I'm a Mess
4. I Didn't Mean to Swear in Your Church
5. Stitches* 
6. Roadkill*
7. Conditional*
8. Rappelling
9. the internet doesn't know
10. The Right Words*
11. Out of Control
12. On The Day You Decide You are Quitting*
13. She Drives The Honda to Wisconsin
14. Smoke 'Em If You've Got 'Em

* these poems appear in Pelican, published by YesYes Books
** these poems appear in Celeris, published by Fog Machine

In With The New

fresh meats

It's spring & there are new poems of mine popping up everywhere!

First, I'm ridiculously proud to announce that my latest chapbook, Make a Fist & Tongue the Knuckles, is one of three winners of Nostrovia! Poetry's annual chapbook contest, alongside work by Elle Nash and Bob Sykora. It'll be out in July, with a release reading at the NYC Poetry Festival. I hope you can make it!

Another exciting announcement: my chapbook-length poem, "Stag," is included as a handmade zine in this years edition of Ladybox. This box of limited handmade books by lady writers includes work by Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Jennifer Robin, Isobel O'Hare, Melissa Bañales, Rios De La Luz, and Tiffany Scandal. There are only 50 box sets available, and they're already more than halfway gone. Get yours here.

And now, for the good, old-fashioned journal publications:

+ Cutbank was kind enough to adopt "self-portrait, revised" from my self-portrait series for their 84th issue.

+ The #psychologia issue of White Stag houses a Warhol poem, a Scream poem, a Ryan Adams fairy tale, & a mashup of The Faint & One Direction. 

+ Redivider 13.1 contains two poems of mine, "Equuleus," which also lives in my Fog Machine chapbook Celeris, and Celeris b-side, "If I'm The Moon."

+ Vagabond City Lit put a roof over "I Will Die Chained to an Espresso Machine" & "remember the fun we had when you poisoned me," two remnants from my years as a barista.

+ And as an extra special bonus prize, my handwriting has ended up on a super rad "lit witch" tshirt for sale over at Witchcraft Magazine. Join the coven!

You Can't Pick Your Genre

you can't pick your genre chapbook cover

I'm happy to announce my second chapbook of 2016 is available for pre-order now from Jellyfish Highway. The poems are all about and in response to the Scream movie franchise, but they reach beyond that to critiquing the suburbs, dismantling how the female body is destroyed by the male gaze, and functioning as little lyric essay about the nature of fear. The chap will be officially released Tuesday, April 12th, and for now are available via Jellyfish Highway's website and our Kickstarter, where my editors are gathering funds to finance expanding our catalog and start an urban writing residency in Atlanta, GA.

My press wants you to think of my little monster like this:

The poems in Emily O'Neill's You Can't Pick Your Genre endure. They riot. These poems are shining echoes from the Scream film series, but they are also warnings, testimonials, declarations. Emily O'Neill tells us, "Watch how practiced / you are, letting him practice desire on your disinterest." O'Neill re-renders the split-open bodies of women in horror films as testimonials of survival. Each poem is a reclamation, a rebirth, pulling the audience through the horror of how it feels to be acted upon as an object at a story's center. Each howling voice tells the reader, I am still here and I can never be killed.

Carrie Lorig, one of my favorite poetry brains, wrote a little more about the book for us:

I have walked in the cemetery with Emily O'Neill. I have walked in the cemetery with You Can't Pick Your Genre. To mourn the bleeding girl. To party with her bold heart / to deeply listen to it. "Climb to the roof. Look down / on what we're losing. / What we never dead- / bolted. The safety we can't / keep permanently safe." The intricate lace or speaking of the bleeding girl insists on a complexity the world refuses to give her, that you refuse to give her. She, unimaginable, / She, an entertainment, / She, a perfection, / She, a pity, / She, indestructible, faces the killer / the men who congratulate themselves for hiding it so well, the bodies they follow and tug on and hurl and bruise. "There's power here. Look away." The bleeding girl. We mourn her / We share our blood with her / We celebrate her as she faces the killer / the men as she exposes their ugly / fear, as she refuses to be a plot point, as she lives unignored / and various. 

Sex, Whiskey, & Freedom

That title is borrowed from a review of my bird by Kelsey Hoff recently published in Columbia Poetry Review, and I think I'd like to use it as the subheading for all of 2016. Pelican is nearly a tender year old, a fact I believe almost as little as the praise heaped on my little book that could. The first print run is nearly sold out, but you can still buy copies before the second printing here. Every time I sign a copy for someone, I want to warn them of how sad the poems are, how far away they are from how I feel now. I can't think of a better characterization for how I feel about this new year of writing than one from Hoff's review:

photo by Marshall Goff

photo by Marshall Goff

Even in her quest to become her best self, she must look to a nostalgic past for warm memories, though she feels a deathlike detachment from them.

Every time I return to Pelican or the manuscript for my follow-up to Pelican the poems feel more like dreams from some other life. How does the self end up so strange? The work this year is so much more about articulations of joy and strength, a practice in being gentle with myself. I am drafting and publishing and performing maybe more than I ever have, but I'm trying to be accountable only to my own expectations instead of worrying about the big "what's next?" question. In a month, I'll hear back from grad schools and potentially have to make a huge decision about uprooting myself and having a life in another city for at least a few years when Boston has come to feel so much like home. That single disruption to how I imagine my future as an artist has been the greatest disruption I've ever experienced.

Most of the people close to me think the pace I write at is terrifying and it certainly doesn't hurt to slow down, to measure my movements more carefully, to dig in for the winter and work more carefully while I'm still here. I recently did an interview with Your One Phone Call where I was asked to give my younger self advice and ended up with the following:

Be as patient with your own failings as you are with other people’s. Walk away the first time your gut tells you to, not the fifth. But if you do wait until the fifth time, you are not wrong to have stayed. You are not the things that have been done to you. You are not the things that have been done to you. Be gentle with yourself. Make time for quiet. Make time to recharge even when you think you don’t need it. You have permission to be in pain when you are in pain; do not wait for anyone to confirm this, just tend to what hurts how you need to. Don’t apologize for crying when you are overwhelmed. Survival isn’t something to feel guilty for. Growth isn’t something to feel guilty for. Leave when you need to. Come back when you need to. Set boundaries and let in only the people who respect those boundaries. Make whatever you need to out of everything that happens. Worry about what it means only when someone asks you, and if you can’t find an answer don’t be ashamed.

Even though I wrote it to my younger self, all of it applies now more than ever. Speaking of coming back when I need to, I have my first real New York reading next month at KGB Bar on 2/19 for the Free Water reading series, details here. If you're in or around the city, I'd love to see you there!

Don't Know How Not to Beg

If it's not already clear from reading my work, I'm a bit of a sensualist. Is there anything better than eating food that is exactly what you didn't know you needed? Or drinking a drink that roots down into your chest with warmth? Maybe it's the temperature drop, but all I've been thinking of lately is how to get as much of those warm moments as possible. I'm working on a series of poems about that warmth, and I want to share them with you directly. From now through December 24th, if you purchase Pelican directly from me via PayPal, I'll send along a handwritten version of one of these comfort food poems and a tiny collage as a thank you. The book is $16 including shipping in the US, and $20 for international orders. Use my contact form to get in touch.


+ Atrocity Exhibition recently gave shelter to two little fireballs of mine: "even the alphabet betrays me," a lament for a damaging love that's died, and "one room city," a drinking poem that's most likely the equivalent of poking someone in the chest with your index finger to emphasize a point after too much wine.

+ I have two poems featured in the latest issue of Split Lip: "don't know how not to beg" is about making out with the wrong ones in Allston (AKA "Rat City"), while "dry iron & wax paper" is a love note to my editor and friend, Stevie Edwards.

+ One of the poems I'm most proud of from my forthcoming Scream chapbook "You Can't Pick Your Genre" is nestled into the 9th issue of Pinwheel among work by so many who make me squirm with delight every time I encounter their words: Fatimah Ashgar, Paige Taggart, Sarah June Woods, Caroline Cabrera, and Niina Pollari, just to name a few. "WHEN MOTHER WAKES UP IN THE GARDEN" is in the very best of company.

+ And speaking of Scream, three more of my riffs on the franchise are living over at Maudlin House. "NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH" is a three act play about what we erase to keep up appearances. "SUPERBITCH" is love letter to Rose McGowan's eternal bad-assery. "THESE KIDS TODAY" talks teenage brain development and what fame means as an endgame.

+ OSU's The Journal was kind enough to excerpt my poem "Everybody Knows That I'm a Mess" on their website. If you want a copy of the scariest poem I've ever written to hug, it's published in issue 39.3.

+ Horse Less Press published two poems of mine (with audio of me reading them): "BB Gun" and "self-portrait with sudden thickness." But more importantly, their subscription Kickstarter ends in 9 days, so don't miss your opportunity to pre-order a glut of astonishing titles, including the chapbook "Habitat" by my beloved Cassandra de Alba.


This year has been such magic. I've met so many incredible writers and shared my work in so many places I'd never expected to visit. My bird is in the hands of so many people, many who've told me how necessary it was for them. What luck it is to feel useful, to feel like your words make some small difference in a stranger's day. Next year promises you two chapbooks from me, and hopefully endless other poems and successes. Thank you for being here for the meal. I hope you'll stay to finish the wine.


Birds of Praise

Taking compliments gracefully has never been a strength of mine. Typically, when someone says something specific and pleasant to me I blush and deflect and change the subject. I've improved slightly at just saying thank you before melting into a shock puddle at the prospect of anyone finding me even marginally remarkable, as all the praise heaped on my bird these past few months has taught me just to smile and say "I'm very proud." Because I am. The outpouring of support for this book has been overwhelming, and as far as I can tell it will just keep getting better. Pelican's being talked about in public again, and not just by me at the NYC Poetry Festival last week.

In what's probably the most thorough and attentive review I'll ever receive, Knar Gavin had this say about my bird:

The poet acknowledges her own grief if only to propose a triumphant emergence from that grief. Rather than rotting or desiccating away, O’Neill’s fallen tree undergoes a state change instead, thriving in its fallen state, covered in a verdant blanket of not one, but many small green lives. A single damaged life becomes host to a colony of beings. In a sense, the poet is just such a host; with each fall, her voice springs back to life, newly rich in timbre and strength.

You can read the whole shebang and blush along with me here at Heavy Feather Review. And as if Gavin's words didn't already have me all tied up in knots of gratitude and disbelief, Gina Vaynshteyn wrote a review for The Rumpus that not only compares me quite favorably to Plath but also gives space to how I try to find language for memory:

There is so much to love in Pelican. The expertly devastating language. The preciseness of form. The honesty of story. The way O’Neill juxtaposes tender familial moments with violence and aggression. 

In her closing paragraph, Vaynshteyn writes, "Pelican is gut-wrenching, and it doesn't fear flesh." I couldn't hope for higher praise than that. Read the entire glut of kindness here.

Finally, there's the relentless support my press has shown me. On my way back from Pittsburgh, the fabulous and tireless YesYes Books publicist, Heather Brown, tweeted at me so I could see her interviewer asking for me by name over at the Best American Poetry blog. My bird wouldn't be in anybody's hands at all without Heather, or KMA Sullivan, our fearless leader, or Stevie Edwards, the editor and friend who's believed in my work for longer than almost anyone. The entire YesYes staff and family of authors makes me so proud to be among them. I am so boundlessly thankful for the work YesYes has put into making sure I've been welcomed as wildly as any debut author could dream to be welcome by the literary community. You can read the entire Meet The Press feature, including an excerpt from Pelican, here.