Recent Work By TNB Poetry

Among contemporary poets, who are you reading and why?

I’ve just finished Macnolia, a wonderful collection of thematic poems by A. Van Jordan. Van Jordan’s work is a discourse on gender and race in the context of the life of a woman named Macnolia Cox Montiere. Macnolia’s life was shaped irrevocably when she, an African-American girl, was wrongfully denied top prize at the 1936 Akron Spelling Bee. Van Jordan does a wonderful job of exorcising ghosts in an effort to resurrect history and pay homage to an extraordinary individual. Additionally, the structure of his poetry, some of which is experimental, makes many of his poems truly haunting—and their message about the importance of revealing truth entirely vital.

Your poetry has been called dark, dangerous and mordant. How do you feel about that?

Part of me accepts it. Another part cringes—the way I did when a former boyfriend nicknamed me the “Shadow Queen.” I cringe, of course, because there’s truth in it.

Violence touched me early in childhood, and I’ve spent years grappling with what Jung termed the “shadow”—those blacker aspects of our humanity. You know, the ones we like to suppress, disown and project onto others.

Writing poetry, in particular, helps me to speak the unspeakable; to make meaning of the incomprehensible; to bring all that unconscious stuff into consciousness so it can be integrated and, ultimately, transformed.

Tell us about your book, The Insomniac’s House.

It is a chapbook about a character called Swampy Woman. I wrote a poem a year and a half ago and it had a person in it called Swampy Woman. Some time went by and then she showed up in another poem and I became enamored with her. The poems poured forth for quite a while after that. I wrote one almost every day for a month and then I was done with her as fast as she had begun. I have written a couple of more since then, but the flood has become a thin trickle.

Are you your poems?

No. Yes. An acquaintance once said to me, “I feel like I know you through your poems.” He doesn’t. A friend once said, “I didn’t like that poem because it’s not the Marilyn I know.” It wasn’t. My poems are generally a quick-heated amalgam of memory, imagination, musings, things I’ve seen, things I’ve thought I’ve seen, stuff I’ve read or my imperfect recollection of stuff I’ve read, people I’ve known and the stories I’ve heard. Every poem is a fiction, and like all good fiction, is true…ish.