Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interview with Mary Katherine Meadows

Mary Katherine's poem is a powerful walk through the ugly truth some people have to live with. You can feel the pain and anguish.

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1.      When did you first start writing?

I do not remember the exact moment when I began putting things down on paper, but as a child I would remain in a constant state of daydream.  I would walk around with a paper doll, or old necklace, or string of beads in my hand, it didn’t matter what it was as long as I could hold it with one hand and flip it with the other, and make up stories in my head.  One would think, considering the incredible amount of time I spent with a story in my head and still do to this day, that fiction would have been my calling; but I found poetry in junior high.  I began writing poetry in 7th grade because my best friend at the time was writing poetry and I found it to be an emotional outlet, but I fell in love with poetry in 8th grade after reading “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth.

2.      When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I realized I wanted to be a writer the summer between my freshman year and my sophomore year of high school.  Up to that point creative writing had been a fun emotional outlet and I had always been talented at writing for school, but I would never have called myself a writer.  Quite by accident I happened to be flipping through the newspaper one day and saw the ad for the Young Writers Workshop at SIUC.  I went to the writing camp and it was there that I first called myself a poet, I discovered my love of simile, metaphor, and imagery, and I finally felt like I belonged.

3.      How do you stay motivated?

I stay busy.  I am a single mother, I work, I do not have the luxury to sit down and write whenever I want.  When I find free moments I do not waist them.  I know I want to write, I love to write, so I make sure I write.

4.      What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I like to write about real people and their emotions and how they directly interact or are impacted by other people, places, or things.  I like destruction and reality and the feeling of discomfort.  I tend to write about people facing emotional, physical, social, or economic destruction and finding themselves in a dark and uncertain place. 

5.      How do you come up with your titles?

Titles are difficult for me.  I have been known to let poems sit for months without a title.  When I do get around to titling my poems I tend to jump around in technique.  Sometimes I title the poem with the first word of the piece so that it begins the poem, sometimes I choose an important word or phrase from the poem, and others I simply set the scene or tone.

6.      Is there a message in your poems that you want readers to grasp?

I suppose, if I were to choose something for my readers to take away from my writing, it would be to question what our society deems as normal and acceptable and how we let that impact our personal perspectives.  It is important, whether one is a single parent, suffering from anxiety or depression, a member of the LGBT community, a victim of abuse, or just suffering, to acknowledge the ugliness of the world around us so we can feel our own beauty.

7.      Are experiences you write about based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The simple answer is, both.  I enjoy writing about people and the emotional suffering we endure because we feel as though we are outcasts of society for one reason or another, so, in order to do this, I must write both about my own experiences as well as the experiences of others.

8.      What are your current projects?

I am currently working on several projects.  The first is a collection of poems with a working title of The Butterfly Collector.  The pieces are meant to work together as a whole and tell the story of the female speaker who is being “collected” by a man, or the collector.  Themes range from neglect, to polyamory, to infertility, among others.  My friend, an artist, Angela Bolling, is working on a series of paintings to accompany this manuscript.  I am working on a collection exploring various types of love, including the love between friends, the struggle of being a bisexual woman, and the exploration of taboo lifestyles.  The third collection I am working on, the one from which “Fumigating the Remain of a Year with Lilacs” comes, is about physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

9.      What was the hardest part of writing your poem?

I think the most difficult thing for me about writing this poem was being so close to the subject matter.  It was difficult for me to separate myself from the experience to be able to write about it.

10.  Did you learn anything from writing your poem and what was it?

I learned that in order to write from personal experience I had to be able to separate myself emotionally as much as possible from the experience in order to write about it well.  It is kind of a calm, calculated feeling, when doing this, and it gave me the ability to pay attention to the details of the poem, the images, the metaphors, the technique instead of simply being wrapped up in the emotion of the memory. I was able to see it as a poem instead of an event.

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