National Poetry Month Spotlight: Mary Biddinger
LIKE AN INSIDER
Now that invasion is all the rage
the myrtle looks a bit less comfortable
in its straightjacket. The lawns suddenly
pubic. The birdbaths best left unmentioned.
Somebody is always prying open a bucket
of something. Often it’s full of teeth, or wants
to purchase a gun somewhere seedy, anonymous,
like a transient hotel full of former circus animals.
Meaning that we never are exactly what we are.
I take my shoulders for a walk every evening.
Without them, I am not much. I leave them
behind when I shimmy through French doors.
Dip my tongue into the pitcher of milk left
for some unseen entity. I tether each
shoulder to its own stone. Some
nights, they are not there
when I come back.
A: I always have to write on the fly, so I am not choosy. I would prefer not to write a poem on the back of an envelope while simmering a pan of rice on the stove, but that’s often where I get my start. Most nights I sneak a little writing time at my desk between 8:30 pm and 9:15 pm. I don’t get my ideas at a desk, however. My poetry brain only works when I’m on the go, and when there’s something to observe, even if it’s a rather dull something.
Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?
A: I was a young teen when I found a copy of Margaret Atwood’s You Are Happy at the Friends of the Library used book sale. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. The psychedelic cover alone could be a game-changer, but the poems inside made me think about writing in a completely new way (one that was all elbows, but also all eyes; equal parts hysterical and mystical). A highlight of that particular collection: You Fit into Me. It was the first poem I ever memorized, and it still makes me shudder.
Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?
A: Having my second full-length collection, O Holy Insurgency, accepted for publication by Black Lawrence Press was certainly the highlight of the past year. In a close second, the Cleveland Browns beating the Saints, and then the Patriots. I have also baked some really excellent cakes in the past year, if I do say so myself.
Mary Biddinger is the author of three poetry collections: Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), the chapbook Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2012), and co-editor of one volume of criticism: The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). She teaches at The University of Akron, where she directs the NEOMFA program, and edits Barn Owl Review and the Akron Series in Poetry.