Biographies

Photo by Jill Engel-Cox

William O’Daly

William O’Daly was raised in the San Fernando Valley and as a late teen escaped the city on the backpacking trails of the southern Sierra Nevada. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, as an economics major but before the end of his freshman year began to study literature and write poetry. At UCSB he studied with poets Kenneth Rexroth, Alan Stephens, Fredrick Turner, and John Ridland, and with modernist critic Hugh Kenner; under friend and mentor Sam Hamill, he served as assistant editor of Spectrum magazine. In 1972 he left UCSB for Denver, Colorado, where he co-founded Copper Canyon Press. Upon returning to California, he studied with poet Philip Levine at CSU, Fresno, and there earned his B.A. He received his M.F.A. in Poetry, Translation, and Literary Editing from Eastern Washington University.

His published works include eight books of the late-career and posthumous poetry of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda (Still Another Day, The Separate Rose, Winter Garden, The Sea and the Bells, The Yellow Heart, The Book of Questions, The Hands of Day, and World’s End), and two chapbooks of his own poems, The Whale in the Web and The Road to Isla Negra, from Copper Canyon Press and Folded Word Press, respectively. As a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry, he was profiled by NBC news correspondent Mike Leonard on The Today Show. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, his poems, translations, essays, and reviews have been published in a wide range of journals and anthologies. With co-author Han-ping Chin, he recently completed a historical novel, This Earthly Life, set amid the fascinating and deadly Chinese Cultural Revolution. This Earthly Life was selected as a “Finalist” in Narrative magazine’s 2009 Fall Story Contest.

Currently a resident of the Sierra foothills of northern California, he has worked as a college professor, a literary and technical editor and writer, and an instructional designer, and has received national and regional honors for literary editing and instructional design.

Wood engraving by Jim Todd

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was born Neftalí Eliecer Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in Parral, Chile, in 1904. His mother died when he was two months, and he was raised by his stepmother and his father, a stern ballast-train engineer, in the frontier town of Temuco. He loved the natural world of the south, made muddy and lush by incessant winter rains, and began writing poetry at an early age. Mentored by the poet Gabriela Mistral, the principal of a local school, he published and received honors for his work at an early age. In 1921 he left Temuco to study French in Santiago. He later applied to the diplomatic corps, served as consul in Burma (now Myanmar), and held posts in various East Asian and European countries. In 1945, with his poetry having gained a wide international following, Neruda was elected to the Chilean senate. Shortly thereafter, when Chile’s political climate took a sudden turn to the right, Neruda fled on horseback over the Andes and lived as an exile for many years. Beloved by the Chilean people and looked upon wearily by the Chilean aristocracy and the right wing (though nearly all Chileans can recite at least two of his love poems), his poetry garnered prizes the world over. His collected works would eventually span five large volumes. In 1970 he was appointed Chile’s ambassador to France, and in 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 1973, twelve days after the military coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power and ended Chilean democracy for almost two decades.