Top of the Rock for May 1998


This month's Top of the Rock goes to poet George O'Connell's new book Getting the Range, winner of the Soundpost Press Prize. Among his other honors, in 1997 he won both first and second prizes in The Bellingham Review's "49th Parallel Poetry Award," chosen by Albert Goldbarth. A Chicago native, "Skip" holds the MA from the University of Illinois and the MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught creative writing at UNO's Writers Workshop and in Creighton University's creative writing program. Currently he teaches at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

The poems of George O'Connell are characterized by intelligence, grace, and an unflinching ability to gaze long and hard at that which makes us all too terrifyingly human, as in the title poem from his prize-winning collection:

Getting the Range

Sure you want to put your bullet

where you look.
But the heart is a noisy organ:
just when you've got the sight hovering
on target, one little beat
will shout you off.
You learn not to breathe,
to start the trigger squeeze
far enough out it can't hurt you.
I mean, so slow, so whispery
your pulse takes the hint
and shuts up. Believe me,
when that black bead
at the end of the barrel
starts to settle,
it's not enough to quit thinking.
Your blood needs to go
real quiet.

You've got to be good as dead.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1996 by George O'Connell

To order this book, send your name, mailing address, and a check for $8.00 +$2.00 s/h (includes tax) to The Nebraska Book Arts Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182-0324. Or contact Denise Brady at 402.554.2773 or

Past Top of the Rock Features

redball.gif Art Homer
redball.gif Creighton Conference
redball.gif Black Star Press
redball.gif Mildred Walker
redball.gif Critical Care
redball.gif Self Storage
redball.gif South of Resurrection
redball.gif Solstice '97
redball.gif Iron Mountain Road
redball.gif The Women at the Well
redball.gif Susan Aizenberg's Peru
redball.gif Nebraska Poets Calendar
redball.gif Nebraska Book Arts Center
redball.gif Missouri Valley Reading Series
redball.gif Nebraska Cowboy Poetry Gathering
redball.gif Paper Wings
redball.gif Nebraska Shakespeare Festival
redball.gif Prairie Schooner
redball.gif Nebraska Poets
redball.gif Atticus

The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers