Bookworks hosts Senator Bill O'Neill for a virtual reading of his new University of New Mexico Press book, The Definition of Empty. The reading will take place at 3 pm Mountain Time (2 pm Pacific/4 pm Central/5 pm Eastern).
The Definition of Empty is the story of a dedicated advocate trying to help adolescents facing incarceration and newly released parolees navigate imperfect and seemingly indifferent legal systems and societies. Told from the point of view of a public servant trying his best to work with people at various levels of brokenness, these poems are compassionate, heartbreaking, and even sometimes brutal while the voice is gentle, outraged, and naïve in turns. With this collection O'Neill insists that readers bear witness to the struggles of disenfranchised people they might otherwise ignore.
Come, enter the 'spectacular present' found in The Definition of Empty, and see the harsh reality of our youth involved in the juvenile justice system. . . . Culled from his years of service with the New Mexico Juvenile Parole Board, O'Neill demonstrates to us that 'these have become my kids, their destiny is my / diagnosis & their reflection is an endless succession / of teachings.'--Katherine DiBella Seluja, author of Gather the Night: Poems
There are no heroes, and more importantly no villains in these poems. These poems are people, just like the poet himself. His memory of them is celebratory, as though this book of poems is about all the things he's learned . . . from them. All the advice he might have given them . . . meant for him. How his life and theirs aren't as different as you'd think, given half the chance.--Hakim Bellamy, Inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque
Bill O'Neill's poems are graceful, fluid, and revealing. They are powerful and tender in the same breath, but this ain't no sit-around, clap-your-hands, feel-good poetry. The Definition of Empty is holistically intoxicating, laced with acts of forgiveness and compassion, so much of what is needed in the world right now.--Levi Romero, Inaugural Poet Laureate of New Mexico
Bill O'Neill is a New Mexico State senator. He is also the author of The Freedom of the Ignored and the novel Panoramic Diaries. O'Neill has worked extensively with incarcerated juveniles and adults in New Mexico.