Recent Poem

September 25, 2019

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES: This poem was inspired by the sound of a train passing through as I sat alone, eating dinner at a sushi restaurant. I splurged and spoiled myself after a particularly exhausting day at work.

I like the way this poem ends. “How wonderful!” is my favorite line of the poem because it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek; celebratory as well as absurd and perhaps the tiniest bit sarcastic. I am happy to be alone, but you don’t write a poem unless you hope to connect to someone else in some way. Thus there is a complexity to the satisfaction of being alone. You learn who you are when you are alone, and I learn in this poem that I don’t quite want to be alone. How wonderful!


Words About My Words

July 9, 2019

Writer Trent Walters interviewed me about my writing, so read it here!

He also reviewed my chapbook, Dancing on a Dead-End Street, available now.

Sarah O’Brien, Spring 2013

Sarah O’Brien, Spring 2013


New Poem Out Today

July 1, 2019

My poem “Beijing in Summer is Like a Comforter, or So Says a Woman in This Boston Coffee Shop” is out now in the first-ever issue of Dirty Girls Magazine (both online and in print). I was paid a small amount for this one, which is nice. Read the issue here and view my piece below, which I wrote (originally in a notebook) in Boston, MA on February 5 of this year. Thank you for your love and support.

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Alchemy

June 14, 2019

I have been attempting to turn the sexual violence that I recently experienced from someone while on a first date with him into something like poetry. Poetry and music have been helping me immensely as I fight self-denial and self-blame, and begin to process what happened to me, and as I continue to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel lucky to be alive because if this person had not underestimated my strength (I reported him) then God only knows what other violence might have occurred.

I don’t say any of this lightly. I feel that it’s important to be vocal about my assault because I want other rape survivors to know that they are not alone, and I want the culture to change; such violence is never acceptable and there are no excuses for this violence. I am in pain, but I can still create beautiful artwork and that has always been my purpose.

I am loving myself through this experience and I am taking care of myself in the best way for me, which is through my writing and painting. I’m told that you should get distance from trauma before tackling it in writing, but it is important to write when you feel the urge to write. Silence the doubt that others have gifted you. They meant well, but you know your heart, so trust in your talents.

Never lose sight of the healing power of art.

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Find some of my recent poems on medium: https://medium.com/@fluent_SARAcasm


Scattered Energies

April 23, 2019

In 2018, my energy was quite scattered. I was walking in faith, but carrying self-doubt with me like a favorite bag with a broken strap that has become entirely dysfunctional, but remains too sentimental to part with just yet. With the new year came a rush of new energy for me. I gave a poetry reading at my MFA program on January 1, 2019, and impacting people with my words felt empowering. “Goosebumps,” was one person’s comment on my poems, which was pretty much what I was going for, aside from, you know, survival.

I am trying each day to be more intentional with my energy. I fail often. Usually, I am more reactive if I am more tired. I find that sleep is vital to allowing myself control over my emotions. Emotions are tools if you want them to be: even “negative” emotions can be channeled into creative energy. Write angry, edit hungry?

In December 2018, I was feeling stressed and exhausted. I asked the universe for more time to read. I was fired from a job and that gave me plenty of time to read. I wanted to travel, and so then I did. I am now receiving the message that it is important for me to stay still. This is not something at which I excel; maybe it’s my Virgo-rising, but I like to stay busy. However, while my energies were stretched in a million directions and while I was focusing on others instead of on myself, I was straying from my path. I was running from myself.

Last week, I quit another job. It wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Or, rather, it was exactly where I was supposed to be at the time. I met someone wonderful while working there, which was unexpected and nice. Then, I became entirely sure that I needed to be elsewhere. I don’t know where I am going next. I am working on getting through my to-do lists. I am a writer. I need to be writing.

Writers also need to feel inspired, so today I am going to a poetry reading. I drove here in a car that will only last me another week because there is no way it could pass an inspection and the sticker’s about to expire. Whatever. I am focused on the here and now; I have to expect that the universe will meet me where I am. I want to teach, but I still feel like a student. I have so much reading to do. Maybe I will always feel this way. I am choosing to pour light into this moment. I can do anything, and probably will.


Published Or Not: Yer a Writer

April 10, 2019

One of the reasons I created Boston Accent Lit in 2016 was to feature emerging artists and writers still working at perfecting their craft, those who have serious skills but perhaps lack an accessible platform for their work. I find that the publishing industry (especially a lot of the jargon used in submission guidelines, industry-specific lingo) can be intimidating to beginning writers. This is not to mention other barriers-to-entry, such as submission fees.

Many writers do not have the privilege of attending expensive writing programs or taking time off for residencies or conferences, so they must use whatever means are available to them to independently hone their craft and learn how to market their writing. Of course, the internet has wildly helped writers, even considering writers’ penchant for procrastination (yeah, sure, it’s “research”). Writers are learning from one another and the community is self-supporting, knowing innately that we are all working together to restore peace, to heal pain, to send love… The gatekeepers of publishing are shaking in their slippers.

I dream that writers will in the future always be well-compensated for their work so that the industry does not feel so competitive. I hope that we will remove any stigmas associated with self-publishing, since this is the most accessible option for many, and it takes bravery to publish without having someone in a position of authority “approve” it first.

With Boston Accent, I am reaffirmed that I am doing something right when I get the rare chance to publish someone for the first time or when someone thanks us for reminding them of the power of their work. You don’t need this outside validation, though; if you believe in your creative vision, continue to pursue it.

Know that you are doing some of the most vital work, writers. Please don’t forget the magic you can do with words, and how you can use language to create and mold a more beautiful world. Thank you for being you!


Happy World Poetry Day!

March 21, 2019

This is a poem-in-progress that I started writing recently.

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES: My friends are telling me that this poem needs more context, but I think that they’re just looking for more poems. What do you think? It’s so difficult to tell when a poem is “done” or when it needs more work. I think that the lines “she’s still in love / with her best friend” could perhaps be clarified or strengthened with specifics, but sometimes I just like to say things bluntly.

I like “Now we are out of coins” and think that this line is working to show both an investment in the relationship and also the relationship’s inability to last, its inevitable evanescence. The final line, “She doesn’t hear,” gives the sense of communication failure on a figurative level as well as a literal one.

I love the straws as symbols of love: no matter how fleeting and seemingly-arbitrary, acts of love are always appreciated. (The line was “she asks the bartender for a pink straw,” but that felt overly wordy and I like the double-meaning of “she gets me” in this version.)

Fun fact: this girl also tried to win me a stuffed animal out of that claw machine, but it seems too cheesy to include, whereas the image of straws is idiosyncratic.


New Poem-in-Progress

February 20, 2019

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES: At first, the title was “I’d Live In a Box With You,” and then there were a few more titles before this one. It could change again.

I might delete a stanza and condense this a bit to increase urgency. I might not.

The thing that I think is working right now is the final line, but that’s because I’m a cheesy romantic and have been reading too many love stories lately. I’m letting Spotify dictate my playlist at the moment, and it’s playing a lot of love songs, too. Not that I’m complaining.

I don’t really talk to my pillow. I talk to my dog sometimes, though.


New Poem-in-Progress

February 13, 2019

Today, I gathered a few old copies of The New Yorker and cut them apart. I challenged myself to use only the pile of words and phrases at hand to create a poem. Here is the result, titled “The Song for the Warm Old Things.”

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES: The original version said, “potato chips ride their bikes,” but that absurdism felt out-of-place in this particular piece. So, I found the word “strangers” to replace it. Strangers are less strange.

The first line was almost “I do love old things.” Then, I found the phrase “sudden rain,” and well. Who doesn’t love that?

I glued the phrase “he was in New York” and built the poem around that, later regretting having glued it there before the rest of the poem was in place. I grew smarter after this error and was able to move the other pieces around at whim.

My favorite part of this poem is the image of “millennial pink cutoffs” because, first of all, what is millennial pink? I’m unsure, but I’m sure I want a pair of shorts in that color. [Upon further research, millennial pink is so last season. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that I would be wearing it now.] Secondly, I have delivered newspapers in the past, so there is a ray of truth in the line! I also love the end of this poem. It’s hot. There is surrender in the phrase “Yeah, you’re right.” Silence is a slightly frustrating way to end this piece (I think), so it reflects the tone in that way (I hope).

Finally, here is the poem by Emily Dickinson referenced in the epigraph. Enjoy!


3 Poems Accepted to Boston Anthology!

My pieces “Getting Carded,” “My Back to Boston,” and “Patient Fingers” have been accepted for publication in the Boston anthology (Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities). I am excited for my work to appear in this book.

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New Poem-in-Progress

January 24, 2019

I recently joined an online writing group, consisting of people from my MFA program. It’s a great way for us to hold each other accountable for writing each week. As I am still procrastinating finding what some may call a “real job” (a paying gig), I have been doing a lot of writing. I am experimenting a bit more with sound and tone. Last week, I even wrote a short story! Below, you can read a rough draft of a poem I started tonight.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES: I agonized over the comma in “Breathe, love” because I also like “Breathe love” as a general image of someone loving with every breath. So, I tried “Breathe(,) love” for a moment, but that looked hideous.

A "folding chair” was originally “a lawn chair,” but a friend told me that the “F” sounds were effective in that stanza, so I figured that I’d play them up even more. Also, there is now added wordplay juxtaposing the stretching limbs from the previous stanza, and the repeated “I’m bent.”

I constrained myself in form by making each stanza five lines, with the first and last line of each being limited to two words. I don’t know if the form is helping the content or limiting me, but this is something I will ponder upon further revisions. Enjoy the piece, and send feedback if you’d like! I’d love to hear from you.

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I Graduated!

I earned my Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing, concentrated in Poetry, from the University of Nebraska Omaha. December 2018. (Graduation Ceremony: January 5, 2019)

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New Publication

Two of my poems were recently published by Horny Poetry Review. Read “The Words” and “Love Languages” here. January 1, 2019.


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