Senator Bill O'Neill, The Definition of Empty

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.

Event date: 
Saturday, April 24, 2021 - 3:00pm
Event address: 
Bookworks Virtual
on Zoom
register above, NM
The Definition of Empty: Poems (Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780826362230
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of New Mexico Press - February 15th, 2021

The Freedom of the Ignored Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780997310276
Availability: Special Order - Price and Availability Subject to Change
Published: Red Mountain Press - August 6th, 2017

Short Session Cover Image
ISBN: 9781952204043
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Red Mountain Press - January 5th, 2021

Panoramic Diaries Cover Image
ISBN: 9781732650152
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Red Mountain Press - March 1st, 2020