06 June 2011


Wow, I sure am making up for my poetic binge of April. I haven't written a new poem since 4/30. I was thinking I'd welcome June with a bang, and write a new poem on the first day, but it simply didn't happen, and it hasn't happened. I've been reading more than writing. As always, reading makes me want to write differently. That is, if/when I ever write again. Ha ha.

The next two weeks are a flurry of having to tie up a number of loose ends, before my childcare disappears completely and I am On Vacation for the rest of the summer.

I am still in kind of a tizzy over Saint Monica being here and all. I help my authors with this stuff all of the time (review copies! press releases!) but it feels different doing it for your own book.

I send many, many thanks to Sandy Longhorn for her thoughtful review of Saint Monica. I'm usually kind of terrified to read what people have to say about my poems, but the experience of reading this response may have cured me. I feel like I learned something about my own poems through Sandy's thoughts on them.

In a silly way I keep asking myself questions about the book, in anticipation of other people asking me. For example:

Saint Monica is a fairly lengthy/substantial chapbook. Why didn't you make it into a full-length collection?

How much of Saint Monica is true? Is Monica you, or someone you knew?

Will you ever write Saint Monica poems again, or is she a closed book?

If Saint Monica is a cautionary tale, what is the message that you are trying to convey?

I guess today I will answer that last one, there. If I had to boil the book down to thematic elements, I would say that it's about the way that girls--especially girls of a certain milieu--were taught two things: a) to submit to a higher power, whether that power is God or your best friend's older brother, and b) that there is a connection between domination, pain, sexuality, and obligation. The book also tries to make the case for some kind of mentorship, whether it's having a best friend who knows more about the world than you do, or having a patron saint who somehow keeps you from tumbling into ravines, or being bound with tape and tossed into the trunk of a car.

Until my most recent project, I wrote constantly about violence. I also wrote, or tried to write, about the difficult task of determining your own moral bearings in a world that imposes so many rules upon us, including senseless ones. Although Saint Monica is in many ways focused upon the adolescent experience, I hope that it is useful in showing how often our adult decisions relate to mistakes we did or did not make when younger. It's a book about alternate possibilities, with the hope that readers recognize that they exist. It also has a pretty decent classic rock soundtrack, but that's unrelated.

[Thankfully, the poems themselves are a lot more interesting than this analysis. Saint Monica blesses you if you made it through both paragraphs.]

In related news, if you missed it earlier, Nick Ripatrazone has some fantastic commentary on one of the poems in Saint Monica here, at The Fine Delight, as well as an interview with me about the book, where I talk about Catholicism, and many other things.

I promise you that I will write a poem again some time soon, perhaps by the end of this week.


Justin Evans said...

I don't have any of those questions. My only question is why my copy has yet to arrive.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Brava! Thanks for the insight.

Penultimatina said...

Hopefully soon, Justin.

Thank you, Sandy! :)

Michael said...

The Nick Ripatrazone interview was enticing. I don't want to read Saint Monica now, I MUST read it.

Radish King said...

Mary, I'm going to review your book and Jeannine Hall-Gailey's new book for Galatea Resurrects. You won't need to be terrified to read it I promise.

Penultimatina said...

Michael: THANKS! :)

Rebecca: I am so, so, so excited!

Take on May

It's the first day of finals week and I already have that loopy off-my-routine feeling. Waiting for things to grade, and when those ...