Highlighted by the Worcester County Poetry Association
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Meet Our April Poet in the Spotlight: Susan Roney-O'Brien

Highlighted by the Worcester County Poetry Association 

Susan Roney-O’Brien lives among apple, pear, peach and cherry trees at the edge of Leominster State Forest in Central Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in The Worcester Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Western Journal of Medicine, John Milton Magazine, Rock and Sling, String Poet, Prairie Schooner, Diner, Calyx, Slipstream, The Breath of Parted Lips Vol. 2, Scenes and Seasons of a Small New England Town, and in many other publications. Her work has
been translated into Braille and Mandarin. In November 2018, she and six other poets and scholars were guests of Yancheng Teachers University for Poetry Bridging Continents, a symposium celebrating Chinese and American Pastoral Poetry.

Roney-O’Brien curates a monthly poetry venue at The Thirsty Lab in Princeton, Massachusetts, organizes an annual women’s reading at the Princeton Public Library, and facilitates a monthly writing workshop at the Boylston Public Library. 

She has worked as a middle school teacher, as a poet in the schools, and as a storyteller, has judged the NCTE student literary magazines, the Elizabeth Bishop Manuscript Prize and the Ethridge Knight Performance Prize for the Worcester County Poetry Association. She was a reading editor of The Worcester Review for almost 20 years and was the Princeton coordinator of Art is Fundamental, a program that brought artists of all genres into the public schools, for ten years.

She is a fellow of the National Writing Project, has been nominated for seven
Pushcart Prizes, has served as the New England Association of Teachers of English Poet of the Year, and has won the Worcester County Poetry Contest when Mary Oliver judged. She is a founding member of 4X4, a group of visual artists, poets and a musician, who respond to each other’s work to create new pieces in their own genres. They have published Echo & Spark, a collection of graphic images and poems. She is also the Summer Writing Series Coordinator for the Stanley Kunitz Boyhood Home is Worcester.

Roney-O’Brien has published Farmwife, the winner of the William and Kingman Page Poetry Book Award, and Earth, a chapbook published by Cat Rock Press. In 2016, Word Poetry published Legacy of the Last World. In 2018, Aldrich Press, a division of Kelsay Books, published Bone Circle. Kelsay Books will publish Thira, a new collection based on ancient Minoan culture, in 2020.
Poetic Profession   
Writing is discovery. I begin each day with words, what I carry outside where my eyes and ears and other senses lead my dog and me toward the woods. Today fog fills spaces between birches. The stream winds off into white. A woodpecker tattoos a tree deep in the forest beyond which semis barrel along 140 to get to Route 2 and Boston. We humans have reshaped the natural world, changed climate, geography, ecology, and no matter what I write, the impact resounds. Sometimes images come from other artists’ work. Memories rise and spread. Childhood, marriage, and evolving relationships color the landscape. What I see is not always what I get. The earth is layered, the sky as well, and who can know what one length of fishing line caught in brambles on the banks of Washington Pond will snag, will hold, will tear free?
Would that I could tell you

of sawdust caught like pollen,
snakeskins sloughed and snagged,
paper wasps' molded globes, ripe
with caves and white brood.

When tonight folds its wings
burns grey against flame, smoke
will ascend, comb itself back:
old cirrus of birches etched into sky.

We lifts logs from the woodshed
that used to house our chickens
once upon a time when earth
was an egg we could hold,

a world that would sustain us.
We fixed laying boxes high.
Now the last row of dry wood
climbs where chicks birthed.

I still find white feathers.
  • Celebrate the rich literary history and creative energy of Central Massachusetts through public readings, workshops, festivals, scholarly conferences and other programs
  • Publish the literary journal The Worcester Review
  • Collaborate with libraries, bookstores, colleges and universities, museums, churches, schools, community centers, businesses and a variety of cultural organizations to promote poetry events.
WCPA is a nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and Executive Officers elected by the membership in an annual public meeting. The WCPA Board meets on the first Wednesday of each month at the Association offices. Meetings are open to all members, and membership is open to all individuals and organizations interested in promoting the literary arts.
Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.

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