National Poetry Month Spotlight: Mary Biddinger
As April draws to a close, we’d like to thank all of the BLP poets who contributed to our poem-a-day feature during National Poetry Month. To cap off the month, we are proud to feature Mary Biddinger, whose chapbook Saint Monica was recently published by Black Lawrence Press.
What My Body Taught You
It was cold and then colder. The underbelly
of an overpass, carotid of your favorite creek,
bless me. Your hands were the gentlest.
Sometimes you weren’t moving, and snow
would dare itself to cross your back.
They would never pack more than one of you
on any ark. You had enough trouble
with yourself already. Thought the doilies
were handkerchiefs. Thought there was such
thing as heavenly intervention,
or fires that kept themselves to the corners
of your studio. Your handwriting
on the back of an envelope. Midnight
burning of transaction registers, your birth
certificate, but never books or blank paper.
I had not slept outdoors before
and you pulled me inside your coat.
It smelled like the anatomy of a birch tree,
or the idea of an angel on fire. That angel
would love to torture a man like you.
A: My process is one of sheer panic, and mandatory efficiency. I have so little time to write, and find myself jotting lines everywhere. Then, when I do sit down at the computer, I’m basically just transcribing what I’ve been writing in my head and on receipts and sticky notes. This is only difficult when I’m mid-poem in a meeting, or slamming my grocery cart into a shelf of canned soup because I’m jotting non-grocery words down on my list.
Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?
A: I was thrilled to recently discover the poems of Rebecca Hazelton. We featured several in the current issue of Barn Owl Review, and I can’t wait for her first book, Fair Copy, to be released by Ohio State University Press. I must also say that she is a wonderful reader of her poems, and it was a delight to hear her at AWP Chicago.
Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you travel?
A: In the 1990s my parents lived in an historic cottage in Turvey, Bedfordshire (England). I never wrote anything there, but have returned to it in my mind often. I would like to spend my writing retreat in that cottage, with the stipulation that upon finishing the week—with a handful of new poems and some fine books read—I would get a second week in France, for not-writing. I think that would be an ideal combination.
Mary Biddinger is the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007) and Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, The Collagist, Copper Nickel, diode, Gulf Coast, The Laurel Review, North American Review, Passages North, Third Coast, and many other journals. She is the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, co-editor-in-chief of Barn Owl Review, and director of the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She teaches literature and creative writing at The University of Akron.