The Answer To Each Is The Same by Pam O’Brien


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  • Kind: Perfect
  • Pages: 110
  • Language: English
  • Published: September, 2012
  • ISBN: 978-1-933675-78-7


Not afraid of illness and suicide and the untoward—Pam O’Brien’s poems are unapologetic in their devotion to subject, clarity and directness. They fulfill the promise of that most satisfying poetic sensibility– they match the intimate to the mythic, the private to the public. Pam O’Brien explores what it means to have grace and is not afraid to name people and things—to embrace the idea that naming is dealing—what I too believe as poet. Throughout she asks whether and how art can contain grief, in poems loaded with humanity, generosity and love. They are original in the way that matters—they speak clearly of their source and celebrate the triumph of love—the poet’s love for her children, her “nanas,” her husband and her own stumbles on the journey. Sometimes funny and full of surprises—we hear the same voices she has heard and take them seriously. And there are the many roles recounted of granddaughter, student, fashion plate, ex-wife with alternate permission-giving and coping words—as in a poem about her husband’s illness: “but he is still here so I do feel blessed.” One asks how she knows what she strongly tells and how she can she be so unafraid to speak? Advice from wise others in these poems are gifts too—“Don’t be the one to walk the plank” or my most favorite “Honey, something happens to everyone.” One will find here a new Penelope, Mary Magdalene, Snow White, Isaac and Apollo that will delight or admonish in a contemporary setting. The voice is affirmative and celebratory—“you are the map to those things I know about love”—and “all I knew of green belonged to you” tempered at times by that inner sage “Moisturize your neck or you’ll look like a chicken when you’re old.” —Rosaly DeMaios Roffman


My Grandmother’s List

Family comes first.
Always. No matter what.

Everything tastes better if you add
bacon or Swiss cheese.

Clean even where
it doesn’t show.

You can turn any event into a celebration
with candles and white linen.

Keep track of baseball stats.
It keeps your mind sharp.

Don’t throw clothes away.
Mend them. Especially socks.

Even in a good marriage,
you’ll fight about money and children.

Good listeners are more popular
than good talkers.

It’s okay to lie if it’s to say
something nice about someone.

Moisturize your neck or you’ll look
like a chicken when you’re old.


Pam O'BrienPam O’Brien began writing poetry at Allegheny College and was hooked once her strange response to The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” was published in the literary magazine. Her career  has included grant writing, community organizing, public relations/advertising, magazine editing/proofing, and teaching Spanish. She currently holds a lectureship in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh where she serves as the Associate Director of Public and Professional Writing. She was a 2012 finalist for the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and recipient of teaching excellence awards from the College of General Studies in 2008 and 2011. She is a happy camper at the Squirrel Hill Poetry Workshop. She and her husband Jack live in Pittsburgh and are the parents of three adult children.

Additional information

Weight 9 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in