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 career, and these endeavors nourish every aspect of his public 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 a translator for his late-career and posthumous Pablo Neruda series (Copper Canyon Press), and now for Neruda’s first volume, Book of Twilight. O’Daly has published his own work in books, magazines, journals, and anthologies, as well as on broadsides, in chapbooks, and in audio recordings. In recent years, Folded Word Press of New Hampshire has published three of his books of poetry: The Road to Isla Negra, Water Ways (a collaboration with JS Graustein), and Yarrow and Smoke.

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, Nevada Poet Laureate, has written 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, recently published, express the range of O’Daly’s voice and literary themes.

Poetry and its sharing encourages and supports the building of community, locally and globally, and makes things happen. “Poetry comes into being as both an expression of and a catalyst for change,” says O’Daly. In a lecture delivered at the 2009 Surprise Valley Writers’ Conference and in an essay first made available online by the conference, he explores these ideas.

Recent interviews with William O’Daly, conducted by poets, writers, translators, journalists, and editors: