An Interview with Amy MacLennan

“Isn’t thwack an amazing word? Isn’t that gorgeous?”

Amy MacLennan grew up south of San Francisco, and received a Master of Arts in English from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.

Her chapbook The Fragile Day was published by Spire Press in 2011, and her new chapbook Weathering is forthcoming from Uttered Chaos Press this year. Her poems can also be found in the collections Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems (Ragged Sky Press, 2009), Not a Muse: The Inner Lives of Women (Haven Books, 2009), Blue Arc West (Tebot Bach, 2006), and So Luminous the Wildflowers (Tebot Bach, 2003).

She has also published in the Broadsided Press, Cimarron Review, Cloudbank, Connotation Press, Folio, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Linebreak, Naugatuck River Review, New Plains Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pearl Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Rattle, River Styx, South Dakota Review, Windfall A Journal of Poetry of Place, and the Wisconsin Review, and has taught poetry workshops through the Sequoia Adult School, the Oregon State Poetry Association and at the Northwest Poet’s Concord.

Her article “Social Networking and Poetry Publishing” appeared in the 2011 Poet’s Market and she is the Managing Editor of The Cortland Review. By day, she is a marketing consultant for the Southern Oregon Media Group.

EB: What does it mean to be a poet?

AM:I suppose I could reference, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” from William Carlos Williams. I guess I could go for something loftier. It’s just that poetry doesn’t matter for greater things necessarily. Poetry matters because it is a way to express deeper emotions. Everyday emotions. Political emotions. Love emotions. Fear emotions. Poetry worms its way into our mind through language and imagery and that unexpected last line of a poem that throws us way off course. Poetry will never be facebook. Poetry will never be Twitter. It’s just the sound of words and mouthing those sounds and crisp images that take us very directly into a new place that hits us hard. Nothing is better than that.

EB: How has being a poet affected your feelings about language?

AM: I’m kind of the opposite. My feelings about language affected my feelings about poetry. For almost of all of my life, I’ve been one of those slightly crazy people that hear a special word and want to talk about it. Like the word “thwack.” Or “rasp.” I’ll sit in front of you and speak the word again and again. I’ll literally say, “Isn’t thwack an amazing word? Isn’t that gorgeous? Thwack. Thwack. Come on. Say it with me. Thwack. Doesn’t that feel great coming out of your mouth?”

EB: When did you first begin writing poetry?

AM: I only started when I was 32. That’s kind of late to find a new creative passion. I originally wanted to write fiction. When I took a community college course that presented fiction AND poetry, I quickly changed my mind. Of course, the poems I first wrote were awful. Um, yeah, no, worse than awful. Terrible. Really, really, trite, cliched stuff. It hit me so hard, though, that I couldn’t let go. I promised myself that I would keep writing until my work wasn’t godawful.

EB: How do you write?

AM: In bed. On a weekend morning. Generally before 8:00a. Before I’m really awake. I try to trick my objective/linear/controlling mind into thinking that I’m kind of taking a nap. In my half-awake place, my subjective/random/creative mind can take over without much of a fuss. My handwritten drafts are a complete mess, but I think I’m getting to the more interesting part of my mind.

EB: Who are your poetic influences? Who are your poetic heroes?

AM: Influences: Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams
Heroes: Thomas Lux, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Jane Hirshfield, Dorianne Laux, Paulann Petersen.

EB: What are you writing at the moment?

AM: I am stuck in the place where poem influences come from any conflict in my life that scratches at the back of my mind on a Saturday morning. Or a weekday morning. Or every morning.

EB: What books of poetry should everyone read?

AM: I’m kind of sandbagging on this question. I think anyone interested in poetry should read *anything* that contains poetry. If you like the sound of someone’s poetic voice, then go ahead and buy that poet’s collected work. Or their first collection/chapbook. Or anything you can find online. Or look at some literary magazines that publish work that matches what you love. Just read.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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