Author Q&A with Mary Mackey

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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.


The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018 Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780996991124
Availability: Not in Stock - Subject to Availability
Published: Marsh Hawk Press - September 1st, 2018

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Educated: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399590504
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Random House - February 20th, 2018

Wade in the Water: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978136
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Graywolf Press - April 3rd, 2018

Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies: Or, the Journal of a Sante Fe Trader, 1831-1839 (Travel in America) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781429002493
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Applewood Books - January 1st, 2007

Middlemarch: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Cover Image
By George Eliot, Rebecca Mead (Foreword by)
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ISBN: 9780143107729
Availability: Backordered - Please call or email for more details
Published: Penguin Classics - November 17th, 2015

Fifty Days of Solitude Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807070611
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Beacon Press - November 30th, 1995