Contributor Spotlight: Dion O’Reilly

me in pink glasses

Dion O’Reilly’s poem, “The Wishbones is featured in Issue 73 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

The poem, “Wishbones,” was inspired by a line of wishbones on my windowsill. I live on a farm, and we had a surplus of roosters who were raping the hens. They became dinner, and their bones were featured in a little graveyard above the kitchen sink. The line of scapulas was over two-feet-long by the time my son finally visited; we split them for about ten minutes.

Tell us about your writing life. 

I write every morning after I brush my teeth and steep my tea. I work on poems or essays until I’m starving for breakfast, then I read poetry while I eat my steel-cut oatmeal. After breakfast, I go back to writing and often keep at it until lunch. So my practice depends on how hungry I am.  I make more tea in the afternoon and read for an hour, which sometimes inspires me to more work. When I decided to write every day, even if only for five minutes, I began to see improvement in my work and in my sense of well being.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

PAIN. I write about pain. If something hurts, I feel a pressing need to write about it. For example, I feel deep nostalgia for the years of my twins’ childhoods. That sadness inspired “The Wishbones.”

What writing advice has stayed with you?

“Don’t say anything unless you mean it,” Ellen Bass. And: “You have a weird head, so you could be a poet,” Danusha Leméris.

What is your favorite book? Favorite writer?

I might not be a writer today if it weren’t for Ellen Bass, so I must give her credit here. All three of her collections are gorgeous, but my favorite books of all time are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books. I still shed a little tear thinking about how Jack—the brindle bull dog—died, and Laura realized she was no longer a child; she must assume the burdens of adulthood.

What are you reading right now?

Steven Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order

What project are you working on now?

I write as many poems as I can, group them by theme, and send them out to the better journals. Everyday, I polish old ones, and if I’m lucky I give birth to new ones. There’s a level of craft I aspire to, which I don’t feel I’ve reached. I feel it when I read, for example, Dorianne Laux or Mark Doty.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I’m going to Thailand to ride elephants this December. I’m stretching my inner thighs everyday as preparation.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

dionoreilly.wordpress.com and on Facebook as dian lissner oreilly


DION O’REILLY has spent  much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She studies with Ellen Bass and Danusha Leméris and attends an MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific University. A retired high school teacher, she continues to lead workshops with her former students. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Porter Gulch Review, Caesura, Rat’s Ass Review, The Sun, Redwood Coast Review, Existere Journal, and a variety of other venues. Her essay on the death of Michael Jackson was anthologized in the text Goodbye Billie Jean. She is the creator and publisher of the PMS Coloring Book.

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