Check out this wonderful, illuminating conversation between Lauren R. Korn and Emily O'Neill about O'Neill's latest collection, a falling knife has no handle!
People have very classist ideas of how smart you have to be or not be to want to work serving other people. People also have very classist ideas of who deserves to be an artist and also what being an artist needs to look like. There are all kinds of artificial barriers that exist to keep people from telling the truth about themselves. My book was something I had to write to show that the language of food isn’t low or stupid or utilitarian, or, if it is all of those things, that low/stupid/utilitarian language is also beautiful and worth examining. The poems are an act of pride in how I spend the majority of my life. I wanted very much to show that I don’t have to abhor service work in order to be a “real” artist. I don’t have to be an academic to write lyrically about my own life. I don’t have to hate myself to say something worthwhile. I don’t have to be trained to see the connections between the mundane and the sublime. Nobody needs to be taught to delight in the world they inhabit, in spite of all the awful parts. Delighting in the world is not a lesson, it’s a choice. In every page of my book, I’m choosing joy. Joy sustains me. Joy is transgressive. Joy is terrifying because it’s temporary, and poems are the same way.