As part of Red Alder Review‘s Open Mic series – Q&A and poem from Maria Picone.
Red Alder Review (RA): How do you normally connect to the poetry/literary community?
Maria Picone (MP): I had a few false starts on Twitter but, these days, I’m following such a wonderful community of people that I want to go on there whenever I have a few spare minutes to see what’s being shared and published. My friends and professors from Goddard College have been another great source of recommendations, new reads, and community.
RA: What is the most memorable poetry event or Open Mic you attended in-person?
MP: In 2016, I attended a reading of social justice poetry at AWP. My classmate from Goddard invited me and I had no idea what to expect. I was in awe of the poems I heard that night—about indigenous people, the Civil Rights movement, LGBTQ struggles—all from marginalized voices who had their own unique stories to tell. That got me hooked on the idea of poetry as a type of experiential narrative, a hyper-personal look into another’s life. It was only later that I realized I too might have a story to share.
RA: Who are the poets who most influence you?
MP: I grew up on classical literature, Shakespeare, Poe, Blake, Eliot, and wrote formal verse as a child. In high school, I discovered Rilke and Lorca and I think the Duino Elegies and Lorca’s sonnets have been a seminal influence. My MFA is in fiction, but I read a healthy dose of good poetry—Komunyakaa, Berryman, Doty, and Gilbert all spring to mind. These days, I’m excited about modern forms, hybrid poems, and prose poems, so Jenny Boully has been a huge inspiration. I’m also trying to read more contemporary poets in the trenches, people who deserve a larger readership.
RA: Whose work are you most excited about reading in the months to come?
MP: There are two books I’m waiting for: The World I Leave You which is edited by Lee Herrick, and Matthew Salesses’ Disappear, Doppelgänger, Disappear. Like me, both are Korean American adoptees whose work is shaped by the in-between of being an Asian person of any sort in today’s America, and the special pain and trauma of being given up before you even came to be which is an adoptee’s birthright.
RA: How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic affected your writing practice?
MP: I work online as a freelance English teacher and my schedule has been very demanding since my students are all in quarantine around the world (Europe, Asia, and South America). However, I fought back to regain a writing habit after a personal event in 2017 and I haven’t lost momentum. But the pandemic has a (small) good side. I live in a bit of a literary desert and so many people are reading their work online and offering more online workshops and talks. If you’re not in a dire situation, I encourage you to take a look and support authors and local bookstores.
RA: What are you working on right now?
I have a lot of projects ongoing but my central desire for 2020 (insofar as another desire can eclipse “escaping the COVID-19 era”) is to write and publish a book or full-length work. I have a few separate fiction projects including my MFA thesis which I’m writing and/or revising, and I’m just starting the process of evaluating my poems for potential themes and candidates for insertion in a chapbook.
MP: Do you have any new work forthcoming (in journals, chapbooks, collections, anthologies, etc.)?
Absolutely! I’m thrilled to have two poems forthcoming in Mineral Lit Mag in May’s Recovery-themed issue, one about what we might do after the pandemic, another about leaving my five-year relationship and moving out of our shared apartment. I have three poems forthcoming in Vox Viola. Two of them are about adoption, and the third is hard to quantify; it’s about all the forgotten people who couldn’t tell their stories or quietly underwent some type of trauma and now are almost invisible. I also have poetry forthcoming in Magnolia Review and Nine Muses Poetry, a painting in Déraciné Magazine, and two prose pieces in Statement.
Cup-o-noodles days, stores or shores, books our constant
kingdom: writing for each other’s characters,
reading The Bells out loud, watching me play videogames,
sketching the raven that flies across your back—
resonating in rhyme, steady like the waves breaking,
silent but together, I and my best friend:
then, why does each glance south of the rocky Maine
coastline of our friendship, well-nourished by tales
where one betrays the other, evoke yet another stone
in the wall set between us? Whence came the first,
pressing its firm foot down on a new moon?
Maria S. Picone (@mspicone, mariaspicone.com) has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s interested in cultural issues, identity, and memory. Her poetry appears in Homestead Review, Ariel Chart, Headline Poetry, and Route 7 Review. She has work forthcoming in Vox Viola, Mineral Lit Mag, Magnolia Review, and Nine Muses Poetry.