Poetry & Essays

William O'Daly
Photo by Kristine Iwersen O’Daly

A Life in Poetry

The writing, reading, teaching, and editing of poetry have formed the core of William O’Daly’s literary career, and these endeavors nourish every aspect of his public, professional environmental, and personal life. “Poetry is a way of being in the world,” he says, “and it is within us all.” He is widely recognized as the leading translator into English of the late-career and posthumous poetry of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, and he now has translated Neruda’s first volume, Book of Twilight, as well. O’Daly has published his own poetry in books, magazines, journals, and anthologies, as well as on broadsides, in chapbooks, and in audio recordings. In September 2022, Beltway Editions published his first full-length book of poetry, The New Gods.

Other artists have incorporated O’Daly’s poetry and translations in dance and stage performances and photography exhibitions. He finds much joy in collaborating with classical, innovative, and jazz musicians in performance of his work, and he collaborates often and in various ways with internationally renowned painter and photographer, Galen Garwood.

His career conveys a strong sense of service to poetry, to other poets and translators, and to the culture at large, and affirms the need to elevate long-term relevance over short-term recognition. Shaun Griffin, former Nevada Poet Laureate and 2014 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee, wrote that “O’Daly, by choice, has taken the long road, Basho’s road, to the interior. Something few choose these days.”

These five sample poems excerpted from The New Gods express some of O’Daly’s range, voice, and themes.

Poetry and its sharing encourage and support the building of community, locally and globally, and make things happen. “Poetry comes into being as both an expression of and a catalyst for change,” says O’Daly. In a lecture he delivered at the 2009 Surprise Valley Writers’ Conference, as well as in an essay published in Tiferet: Fostering Peace through Literature and Art, which was a finalist in the journal’s 2018 Writing Contest, he explores these ideas.

Recent interviews with William O’Daly: