Mark O'Brien

1949–1999
Poet and journalist Mark O’Brien was born in Boston and raised in Sacramento, California. He contracted polio when he was six years old; the disease left him paralyzed from the neck down, and he used an iron lung to breathe. He earned a BA and an MA from the University of California–Berkeley. An advocate of independent living for disabled people, O’Brien was a frequent contributor to newspapers, writing columns on such topics as sports, religion, and disability issues. In 1997, he cofounded Lemonade Factory, a press that publishes work by people who have disabilities. His books include the memoir How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence (2003) and the poetry collections The Man in the Iron Lung (1997) and Breathing (1998), among others.
 
A documentary about O’Brien’s life, Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien (1996), won an Academy Award. His column “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate” inspired another movie about his life, The Sessions (2012), starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. O’Brien died in 1999 of complications from bronchitis. 

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Articles About MARK O'BRIEN

Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

LIFE SPAN 1949–1999

Biography

Poet and journalist Mark O’Brien was born in Boston and raised in Sacramento, California. He contracted polio when he was six years old; the disease left him paralyzed from the neck down, and he used an iron lung to breathe. He earned a BA and an MA from the University of California–Berkeley. An advocate of independent living for disabled people, O’Brien was a frequent contributor to newspapers, writing columns on such topics as . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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