Monday, November 8, 2010


On Friday the 26th of November, Group 8 are hosting a poetry reading with writers Patrick Chapman and Mary Mullen. The reading will take place in Gullane's Hotel, Ballinasloe at 7pm. Admission FREE.

Today we have an interview with Mary to give readers a flavour of the poet before she joins us in Ballinasloe. We ran a similar interview with Patrick last week.

Mary Mullen is a writer who lives in Ballinderreen, Co. Galway, with her daughter Lily. Zephyr, a collection of poems about Mary's childhood in Alaska and mothering Lily, a lively Galway girl who has Down syndrome, is published by Salmon Poetry. Poet Geraldine Mills said about Zephyr, 'I have never read a book with so much love in it.'

Hi Mary. Tell us a little about your new poetry collection Zephyr (Salmon, 2010).

It’s poetry about childhood, motherhood, lifehood, love. It is set in three exotic landscapes: south central Alaska, south Co. Galway, and the real world of a sparkly girl who has Down syndrome, my daughter Lily.

Why do you write?

Because I have to. My head and my heart and my spirit would explode if I didn’t.

What’s your writing process? Morning or night? Longhand or laptop? etc.

I envy and applaud people who have set times for writing. I’m a bit short on organizational skills for myself. I’m always flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t write every day. I give myself a day or two a week, usually the weekends, for reading or walking or scrubbing out the bins or whatever. Writing does not just pour out of me. My best lines come when I am picking blackberries or waiting in a queue. Some ideas simmer in my head for months before they appear on paper. A year or two of chiseling gets the words close to right.
Children with special needs absorb a tremendous amount of time just taking them to all their medical and therapeutic appointments. Lily had a little ‘accident’ with her braces (with the help of a fork and hand-leverage any dentist would admire), so it’s back to the orthodontist early tomorrow morning. I’m not complaining. The subject of ‘writing time’ always gets me going on a journey that usually includes a brief stop-over at a little pity party about the intense alone-ness of being a single parent; then I travel on to my organizational skills which are pretty good in a work setting but not great in a totally personalized way; and then I hike back to congratulating myself and all single parents for all that we accomplish in life. And well.
So I write in the back of a dark pub with a pot of tea. In the car while waiting to collect Lily from school or hip-hop class. On the train between Galway and Heuston station. I write on my kitchen table. Not really on it! My table is laden with writing stuff: lists, a brightly colored scarf, CD’s to set me in the time period of which I’m writing, coloured markers for doodling and mind-mapping, articles about interesting subjects, ear-plugs so I can’t hear the other jobs shouting at me. Not really. No doubt a place outside of the house where I would do nothing but write would be nice. I think it’s called an office.
Longhand and laptop, about equal measures. Often 9 to 11 at night, or if I’m lucky, 9 to 11 in the morning.

Who is the writer that you most admire?

Usually the one I’ve just read.
This week the poems I’ve read are Kay Ryan from California and Marie Gahan from Dublin and a few quick ones by C. K. Williams.
Carson McCullers must be the writer that I most admire because her Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of the few books that I’ve read again and again. She spent a few weeks at John Heuston’s St. Cleran’s House in Craughwell before she died in her home place of Nyak, New York in the late 1960’s. She did not live very long, suffered many maladies, and was not respected by her male contemporaries of that time. She can spin a story. There has been a resurgence of interest in her recently. At long last. Too many writers are not recognized during their lifetimes. Such a pity.

Which poet/poem would you like to see on the Leaving Cert course?

Lucille Clifton.

What is your favourite bookshop?

River City Books in Soldotna, Alaska. My sister Peggy owns it! It’s a small independent bookshop with the predictable titles, as well as unusual titles and an extensive children’s section.
And Charlie Byrne’s in Galway.

What one piece of advice would you offer to beginner writers?

Be precious with your work; show it to two or three people who know what good writing is and have your best interest at heart. I blush when I think of some of the pieces I have sent out or shown prematurely.

1 comment:

  1. Mary is a wise and thoughtful woman who has grown, and grown, and grown! She captures so perfectly the tensions among our disparate natures -- being a caring and giving and grasping and thinking and feeling being. She celebrates the wonders of life!