Michael O'Brien (1939-2016) was born and raised in Granville, New York, and lived thereafter in New York City; studied at Fordham, the University of Paris, and Columbia; worked as a librarian; was one of the Eventorium poets, where his first book was published in 1967; taught at Brooklyn and Hunter; worked for many years editing technical publications; wrote The Summer Poems, Conversations at the West End, Blue Springs, Veil, Hard Rain, The Floor and the Breath, Seventeen Songs, Sills: Selected Poems 1960-1999, Six Poems, Sleeping and Waking, Avenue, and To the River.
"Very few significant American poets called as little attention to themselves in their lifetimes as Michael O'Brien, who died last November at the age of 77. Much as with Lorine Niedecker—whose 'silences,' he wrote, 'derive from an intellectual conviction that art, like science, demands total concentration on the object of attention'—his poetry was all about paying attention, in his case to the smallest, most fleeting details in the world at hand. The world in nearly all of O'Brien's city poetry is Manhattan: the Upper West Side during his years at Columbia; Chelsea, where he lived for decades; the financial district, where he had an office job; and Midtown, where he spent the last decade or so of his working life. These city poems are cinematic, in a flickery, stroboscopic manner that uses unlikely juxtapositions to capture something of the speed and density of urban life ... Delicacy of observation, oblique precision and subtlety of movement, word by word, syllable by syllable, are the hallmarks of these poems."