Welcome To My Bed

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.

Hey, Pittsburgh!

misandry toast

What are you doing a week from today?

Coming to Modern Formations to see Cassandra de Alba & Carrie Lorig & Shawn Maddey & Alexis Pope & little old me read some poems, yes?

You need convincing?

Cassandra would like to be buried in a can of Mountain Dew Kickstart. Without shrinking, Carrie wakes up this container of hearts and stomachs. Shawn found the hole where we thought monsters lived. Alexis rode her bike through you seven times.

No cover & the wine's free so you can spend your money on books.

You RSVP'd, didn't you?

First Impressions

photo by Mark Palos

photo by Mark Palos

Pelican's first reviews are coming & I'm so proud to say that they're excellent. Hello, Giggles named my poem-bird one of the 13 books you need to read this spring, calling it "a treasure for the world, nay, the universe." Over at American Microreviews & Interviews, Carleen Tibbetts wrote "Pelican's speaker is very much attuned to her fighting spirit, her strength, her passion, and her wildness," & I honestly can't think of a better affirmation of what I try to do in poems. Once upon a time, someone whose opinion mattered a lot to me said that my poems were too messy. That if I wanted to be successful, I'd have to pick one thing to feel at a time, or else nobody would publish me. I didn't follow that advice. The mess stayed, & the mess is where I feel most like a success. If it isn't wild, I don't know how to look closely at it. If I can't look closely, then a poem won't happen for me.

fruita pulp issue 9

Speaking of messes & feeling too much, I have a bunch of poems from my manuscript in progress floating around on the internet & wanted to make a list here in case you missed any of them.

+  I have a Drake remix poem in the music poetry anthology Again I Wait For This to Pull Apart, edited by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib for Freeze Ray Press. I am so proud to be included alongside work by so many folks I admire as writers & people. You can read the full list of contributors & pre-order your copy of the ultimate poetry mixtape here until 7/30.

+  Fruita Pulp published "please don't him them" & "affirmation for the damned" in their 9th issue, next to work by such wonders as Caroline Cabrera & Dalton Day's e-chapbook, TANDEM.

+  Maps for Teeth is the new nest for "SOMBER/DISTANT/GHOSTLY" & "PGH," two poems about my many heart-homes, the earlier being Feral Bitch Palace & the latter being Pittsburgh, my favorite city to run away to.

photo by Steven LaFond

photo by Steven LaFond

+  Quaint was kind enough to land their first-ever print issue on my poems "You Bring Out My Worst Side," a Selena Gomez remix poem, & "all the reasons why," an ode to friends who encourage you to be your incorrigible self. You can download a free PDF or order a copy here.

Finally, I wanted to offer a boatloads of thank yous to the folks who've had me come read for them this month. Thank you, New England College - Concord! Thank you, Eastern Point Lit House! Thank you, Belt Out!


Pelican Season

Pelican Emily O'Neill

I've returned (albeit reluctantly) to a semi-thawed New England from the Yes Yes West Coast tour, armed with loads of copies of my bird and more tour dates where you can hear poems & celebrate this huge milestone with me. The officially official release party is 3/28, & will feature performances by Cassandra de Alba, Jess Riz, & Sean Patrick Mulroy, as well as selections from Pelican & copious joyous tears on my part. If you can't make it to Cambridge, you can find me shouting wings onto things in a few other New England cities this month.

Monday, 3/16, 9 PM

The Dirty Gerund

Ralph's Diner, 148 Grove St

Worcester, MA 


Thursday, 3/19

Slam Free or Die

Milly's Tavern, 500 N Commercial St

Manchester, NH


Thursday, 3/26, 9 PM

Negative Burn, also featuring:

Wes Hazad, Nonye Brown, Sarah Blodgett,

plus Jake McKelvie & The Countertops! 

Ralph's Diner, 148 Grove St

Worcester, MA


Saturday, 3/28, 5 PM

Pelican Release Party

with special guest readers

Cassandra de Alba, Jess Riz, & Sean Patrick Mulroy

Voltage Coffee & Art, 295 Third St

Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA



Yes Yes, West Coast

Boston has about five feet of snow on her face, but I'm trying to focus on my flight Tuesday afternoon, when I will be delivered to two weeks of West Coast shows. Are you all in your feelings and looking to commiserate? I'll be performing work from Pelican in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California for the rest of the month alongside my powerhouse press-mates Meghan Privitello and Danez Smith. Let's hug, if you're into that.

Wednesday 2/11, 11 AM-1 PM

PCC Cascade Campus

705 North Killingsworth St, Portland


Thursday 2/12, 7-9 PM

Olympia People's Mic

Cafe Love

204 4th Ave E, Olympia

$3-7 entry, Facebook event page


Friday 2/13, 7 PM

Bad Blood

Ace Hotel Portland

1022 SW Stark St, Portland

Facebook event page 


Saturday 2/14, 7-9 PM

Sole Repair Shop w Sara Brickman

1001 East Pike St, Seattle


Sunday 2/15, 6:30 PM

Portland Poetry Slam

Velo Cult Bike Shop

1969 Northeast 42nd Ave, Portland


Wednesday 2/18, 12 PM

City College of San Francisco

Rosenberg Library 305

50 Phelan Ave, San Francisco


Wednesday 2/18, 7:30 PM

Berkley Slam

The Starry Plough

3101 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley

(1 block uphill from Ashby BART)

$7-10 sliding scale, cash prizes


Thursday 2/19, 6-7:30 PM

University Book Store

2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley


Friday 2/20, 7-9 PM

The Art Bar & Cafe

1060 River St #112, Santa Cruz


And if you haven't pre-ordered your copy of Pelican yet, there's still time. The official release date is 2/15, so if you buy your book in the next week and send me a picture of your receipt, I'll send you a copy of the zine of witchcraft/pizza/pop poems I made called nobody dies from being wrong.

Pre-order Your Very Own Pelican

My first poetry collection, Pelican, is available for pre-order now for $2 off list price + free shipping. It is full of poems about medicine and memory and growing up in New Jersey. There are letters to my father that I've dropped into rivers. There are prayers I re-wrote as spells to drag myself back from grief towards something living and holy. There are all kinds of stories I could tell you in synopsis here, but if you want to hear even a few of them, I want you to have a copy of this monster. Click here to get your very own big-mouthed bird made of poems.

Below is the first poem in the collection, the first of many birds taking flight in me at all times.

kismet pelican emily o'neill

Wonderful Life

It's gotten frosty in Boston and I'm on the brink of hibernation. The short dull light and abundance of cold means I'm hiding in my room for days at a time, drafting new pieces and sending out endless submissions. Are you burrowed into your winter nest yet?

I have a slew of poems showing up soon at Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Dusie, GLITTERMOB, Luna Luna, Noble/Gas Quarterly, similar peaks, tagvverk, and Winter Tangerine Review, as well as another piece of ghost flash fiction forthcoming in Atticus Review, but what I really want to crow about today is a little piece of non-fiction about introversion, Hampshire College, and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life called "Sowing Season is Non-Competitive" that lives over at Cartridge Lit.

Here's an excerpt:

The problem with cities is that people expect that you are waiting, dormant or asleep, whenever you’re not immediately interacting with them. It’s insulting. If you run into an acquaintance on the street, it often seems as if they’re in physical pain as they try to reconcile your presence in this place they never see you. It’s the reason I hate coffee shops. I don’t go out for coffee because it’s a near-guarantee I’ll be forced to small talk with someone. They will ask cursory questions about how I’ve been and try to make tentative plans when all I want to do is drown myself in iced tea. No one actually cares about the answers to these questions (What have you been up to lately? Will you bring me milk and a strawberry? Have you met the Harvest Goddess? Can you get my toolbox from the mayor?) but they ask them anyway to be polite. I have no use for politeness surrounding my caffeine intake.

There's a little over a month until my book release, and tour planning is in full swing. I'll be on the west coast in February, touring with my Yes Yes Books siblings Danez Smith and Meghan Privitello. If you're out that way, I can't wait to see you and share our poems.

Cover Story

I am deliriously proud to announce the official release date of my first poetry collection, Pelican. Mark your calendars! January 15th! Pre-ordering will be available soon, but until then, check out the stunning original illustration Daniel Obzejta made us for the cover.

Two months until this creature is in your hands. I'm giddy. How are you?

Ghost Life

Happy Halloween weirdos! I have a few ghost stories to share, just in case you're trying to get in the mood.

Mike Graciale gave me a rad evil spider tattoo last night / now my whole arm is venomous

Mike Graciale gave me a rad evil spider tattoo last night / now my whole arm is venomous

As those of you keeping score at home may have noticed by now, I don't publish as lot of fiction. This isn't because I don't write it, but because I'm terrified of my own prose. But 'tis the season to be terrified.  So here's a piece of my flash fiction, published in the "haunted" theme issue of Wyvern Lit, called "How to Feed Your Ghost." I recommend reading it to the tune of many fun-sized candy bars being savored.

Just in time for it to be seasonally appropriate again, Gigantic Sequins added my poem "de Los Muertos" to their online archives. I owe much of the thinking behind this poem to my excellent roommate and sister in ferality, Cassandra de Alba, especially "the sleep of apples," a phrase from her own personal translation of a Lorca poem.

Speaking of Cass, we both have work in the new issue of Souvenir Lit, live and on the internet today. They published my poem, "Conquest," an early draft of which, many years ago, made Brian Ellis gasp at the Cantab open mic. It was one of my favorite reactions to my work ever, and I let it haunt me on bad days when I think nobody wants to hear me talk. Besides basking in the creepy glow thrown by Cass's poems inspired by the Investigation Discovery show Disappeared (a Feral Bitch Palace favorite) and anthropomorphized gazelles, my work also gets to live alongside that of Alexis Pope, whose Soft Threat is my favorite train companion, and Jeremy Radin, whose heart is a laser light show I'd pay a pretty penny to see on repeat. All star cast! Check it out!

And finally, in case you're in the mood to spit on a grave at some point today, Flapperhouse posted another of my poems to their website. "them bones" is the result of a slow-boiling rage and came from one of the most vividly horrific dreams I've ever had. If that doesn't make it an appropriate poem for the holiday, I'm not sure what would.

* * *

Because we probably exist too far apart for me to give you a caramel apple and a high five today, here's another kind of treat: the Boston Center for Adult Education is having a flash sale on their classes until 3 PM today in honor of my favorite holiday. Just enter the code "HALLOWEEN" at checkout for 30% off your registration.

Have a delightfully creepy weekend, and be sure to stay strange! If you'll excuse me, I need to finish my unicorn costume.