The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Salem covering a local writer and a Salem space s/he associates with writing. Questions? Contact

Give us your best writerly bio.
I’m the author of two poetry collections: Misery Islands and Underlife. Misery Islands won the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. My third collection, Rewilding, will be published in 2018. I am an assistant professor at Salem State University and executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Tell us about your Salem Write Space.
One of my favorite places to write and to gather is the Gulu Gulu. I’m here most Thursday mornings with a small group of writers. Admittedly, our group (poets Jennifer Jean, Jennifer Martelli, and Kali Lightfoot) spends the time workshopping poems and essays and talking about submissions, but it’s all part of the process. We talk a lot about the poetry business, affectionately known as po-biz. We share submission info, new projects, frustrations, and successes. We’re been meeting at this particular time for more than a year. It’s sacred time for me; I value it as much as putting pen to paper.

I like the way the light comes in the large windows in the morning. And the wait staff is way cool.

Director of the Mass Poetry Festival January O'Neil addresses a sold out crowd.
January Gill O’Neil addresses sold out crowd at 2015 Mass Poetry Festival Photo by John Andrews for Creative Salem

What are you working on now?
My kids, Alex and Ella, are now in their early teens, so I’m trying to keep many trains on the track at home. I wrote a poem a day for the month of January just to get me thinking about new projects. I’m also looking for projects in response to the transition of power at the presidential level. I feel called to use my words to speak out on behalf of people of color and underrepresented groups. Nothing specific, but I want to be ready when the time comes.

When I’m in Salem, not writing, I love …
… to shop at Roost. It is one of my happy places in Salem. The kids and I also love to eat at the Boston Hot Dog Company and Howling Wolf. Who doesn’t love $2 tacos?

I’m looking ahead to planning the next Massachusetts Poetry Festival, May 5-7, 2017.

Excerpt from January’s Early Memory

I remember picking up a fistful
of sand, smooth crystals, like hourglass sand
and throwing it into the eyes of a boy. Johnny
or Danny or Kevin—he was not important.
I was five and I knew he would cry.

Read the rest of Early Memory at 

Learn more about January at January Gill O'Neil: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online shopping from a great selection at Books Store.


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