Author Q&A with Mary Mackey
On May 9th at Book Culture on Columbus we are honored to welcome Sandy McIntosh and Mary Mackey for a reading with Harper's Magazine and Marsh Hawk Press. Leading up to the event we were able to talk with Mary Mackey about her work, inspirations, and future projects - check out the interview below!
How did you come to write The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018
The poems in Jaguars are my best, selected both for their power and their ability to endure the test of time. I wrote each poem under different circumstances for different reasons, yet as I read and reread them, I realized that for over forty years, I had been examining the world we live in, both as we see it and as we dream it. Many of the poems in Jaguars are unified by an exploration of the tropical jungles of Brazil and Central America, plus a surreal and sometimes hallucinatory appreciation of the visionary powers of fever. Some, composed during the early days of the Women’s Movement, sound as if they could have been written yesterday. Others, set on a farm Western Kentucky between 1742 and 1975, are a tribute to the strength of ordinary people and a way of life that is disappearing. I wrote the poems in Jaguars to be in dialogue with my readers, to support the struggle of women for equality, and to remind us of the beauty, fragility, and ecstatic mystery of the natural world. I wrote them to bear witness to climate change and to describe what we are losing. I wrote them for future generations who will never see a living elephant, an untouched jungle, or, perhaps, even a butterfly.
What are you currently reading?
I’m always reading several things at the same time. Right now I’m reading Educated by Tara Westover, Commerce of the Prairies by Josiah Gregg, and Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith.
Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?
I’ve fallen in love with scores of books. My favorite is Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), because of Dorothea’s intelligence, wit, and take-no-prisoners attitude toward hypocrisy; and because Evans is such a brilliant writer. She keeps multiple strings of plot going at the same time and make them all work with easy grace without sacrificing philosophical depth. I also am particularly fond of Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach, which is a meditation on the pleasures and privations of turning your back on the world. It was written long before the advent of social media, but is particularly relevant today. And then there is Arabian Nightmare by Robert Irwin, a weird, strange, surreal novel that I reviewed for The San Francisco Chronicle years ago and have never been able to put out of my mind.
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to the publication of?
Marsh Hawk Press will publish another collection of my poetry in 2022. I am also looking forward to the publication of the novel I am now writing, but I don’t have a date yet.
What’s Next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a short memoir about how fever and jungles turned me into a poet. I’m also writing a series of poems provisionally entitled “Cassandra.” Cassandra saw into the future and warned of catastrophes, but no one believed her. I think she is the perfect symbol for our age. In addition, I have an outline and a partial draft of the final novel in my Earthsong Series. Like the other four novels in the series, this one is set 6000 years ago in the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Prehistoric Europe. So I’m keeping busy.
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