Why I Write Poetry: Marian O’Brien Paul

A few months ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Marian O’Brien Paul, who writes, “Besides stories and articles for children, it included poems by children. After reading some, I thought, I can do that. So, I wrote one, mailed it, and it was published.”

Marian O’Brien Paul spent 6 months in Co. Mayo. Her poetry appears in Englyn – Journal of Four Line Poetry; Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems, Ed. Jonas Zdanys. Lamar U Press; Eastlit; Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine; Line 7 Gathering Poem. Liguorian Magazine published her story, “Ladybug, Ladybug …”

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Why I Write Poetry: Marian O’Brien Paul

Marian O’Brien Paul

When I was in second grade close to 70 years ago, my parents gave me a subscription to HI Magazine. Besides stories and articles for children, it included poems by children. After reading some, I thought, I can do that. So, I wrote one, mailed it, and it was published. I have no idea what it said, nor do I have a copy. Maybe some graduate student could dig it up (smile).

I liked to read poetry, but not until the last years of high school did I try writing poems again, spurred on by William Butler Yeats, as well as the sprung rhythm and surprising word choices of Gerard Manley Hopkins. One teacher to whom I showed a poem didn’t believe I’d written it, but another teacher encouraged me.

When I was a high school junior, I became a part-time switchboard operator for Rockhurst College. During slack times, I wrote poems on the back of pink sheets plucked from “While You Were Out” message pads. A teacher there encouraged me, typing up the poems I’d collected. I still have the originals, folded in half, stored in an old box that once held bracelets. Not good at typing, I despaired of becoming a writer. Little did I foresee the word-processor and, later, the computer keyboard in my future. In my head, I kept hearing the high-school typing teacher say, “Snap! Snap! Let’s get the all-American push.” A push I couldn’t seem to get.

In college, I continued writing. One poem and some short stories appeared in The Golden Echo, literary magazine of College of St. Teresa (now Avila College) in Kansas City, Missouri. After marriage, I kept hand-writing and laboriously typing up poems, but I considered them my personal diary because they contained my thoughts, trials, hopes, memories. Writing poetry was cathartic.

When my husband (in the US Air Force) was stationed at NORAD in Colorado Springs, I tried sending poems to the Colorado Springs Gazette’s two-page poetry section also entitled The Golden Echo. A number were published, encouraging me.

In the mid-1970s my husband was stationed at Incirlik Air Base outside Adana, Turkey. We stayed three years. Turkey has incredible scenery and history: the Taurus Mountains, the Mediterranean Sea, the central Anatolian plateau, wonderful antiquities like slowly falling-down Crusader castles, Biblical sites like Tarsus where St. Paul was from – lots to inspire poetry. I even attempted some in Turkish. My Spanish poem was more successful.

While there, I taught conversational English for the Turkish/American Association. Although I knew what was correct in English, I couldn’t always explain why. So, I returned to college once we arrived at SAC Air Force Base outside Omaha, Nebraska. A master’s and, eventually, a doctoral degree completed (“poeming” in my spare time), I taught writing at Metropolitan Community College.

Now in my seventies, retired, living in Chicago, member of a small poetry writing group, poems still sustain me.

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If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.

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4 thoughts on “Why I Write Poetry: Marian O’Brien Paul

  1. Marie Elena

    “One teacher to whom I showed a poem didn’t believe I’d written it, but another teacher encouraged me.” This says a lot. My oldest daughter has amazing art talent. In one of her high school classes, they were told to look straight ahead, and draw a hand without lifting pencil from paper, start to finish. Her teacher did not believe she followed directions, because her drawing was too good. She failed that assignment, because she “must have cheated.” Thankfully the other art teacher in the school knew and understood her natural talent, and spoke with her current teacher. Though the one who accused her of cheating never apologized, she did begin to treat her with respect and never doubted her abilities again.

    Writing poetry on the back of the pink “While You Were Out” sheets made me smile.

  2. Anthony94

    Loved reading your essay. Being born in Kansas City and living there until mid-twenties, I am very familiar with Rockhurst having logged quite a few hours there, as well as Avila. Wish I was as familiar with those other wonderful places you mentioned. Thank you for the reminder that poems, do indeed, sustain!

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