Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poetry Podcast: "Grown Up" by Julie O'Callaghan with bonus poem "Edible Anecdotes #24"

Listen to this month's selection - and bonus poem - here (listen for my cat, Buddy):

About the poet:

Conor Kelly of Poetry Review describes Julie O'Callaghan as:

"The voice of the Midwest on vacation -- crude, colloquial, and demonstrative. It is the brash American salesman promoting freedom."

I like her already -- she sounds a lot like me.

Julie O'Callaghan was born in Chicago in 1954. She returned to her roots and moved to Ireland, where she has lived since 1974.

On her website, she tells an interviewer, "The Irish people are taught to value poetry ... people around you think it cool to be writing. Poetry in Ireland comes from an ancient tradition and it’s part of the culture. You don’t have to apologize for it."

She goes on to share how she began her poetic journey, "I never really actually made a decision to be a writer - it all just happened. One moment which pushed me in that direction was when a high school teacher told us to write a poem for homework ... I went home and wrote a poem in the shape of a tree - the branches were the various lines of the poem. Why I did that I have no idea - maybe it was because I was missing the elm tree that the city of Chicago had chopped down outside our house and it seemed like a good way to bring it back. The next day the teacher held up my poem to the class and told them that it was amazing poem and that I should write more. So I continued with poems in the shapes of cockroaches/pizzas/my hand/the sun/moon and this particular teacher said I should keep writing poetry. But I never wished to be a poet. It really is a mystery to me how that came about."

O'Callaghan also echoes some of the best advice I know -- to write well, you must read good writing. She says:

"It would be impossible, really, to hope to be an artist or a painter or a composer without absorbing what the earlier generations had created - so reading is the most important part of learning how to be a poet. It also teaches you how extremely difficult it is to write a worthwhile poem."

About this poem:

I found this poem in the anthology "I wouldn't thank you for a Valentine: Poems for young feminists." I absolutely love this little volume, edited by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, I guess that's why I keep using it.

"Grown Up" brought back a memory for me.

In the early years of our marriage, Chris and I lived in Clawson, Mich. We loved the city and the neighborhood and hated to leave, but that's another story.

We were within walking distance of the park. One weekend afternoon, we were flying kites in the an adjacent elementary school yard.

A little boy saw the kites and came running towards us. When he came closer he said, "Oh, these are big kids!" We both laughed.

I still laugh about it and wonder, "Why do we stop playing and what is lost when we do?"

There is a sense of freedom when we play -- we abandon our inner censors and inhibitions. When we abandon play, those inner censors and inhibitions encroach upon our sense of adventure and personal growth. We worry that we are too old, or look too silly.

During an unusually warm spring weekend in Charlevoix, Chris and I walked along the beach of Lake Michigan. On this particular beach there is a swing set, a slide, and a few other playground staples.

There, I did something I hadn't done in years -- I had a good swing. It felt great and made me realize the truth in this statement by George Bernard Shaw:

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Amen -- and enjoy the bonus poem too.

Julie O'Callaghan's poetry collections include:

"Tell Me This is Normal: New and Selected Poems" (2008)
"No Can Do" (2000)
"What's What" (1991)
"Edible Antecdotes" (1983)

These titles are available through Prices range from $14.95 - $25.95

Her work has also appeared in numerous publications and anthologies.

Read more poetry and the rest of her interview at

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