Mary Biddinger’s poems “Occupation: Hazard”, ”The Fate of the Mill is Still Undecided”, and “A Woodland Childhood” appear in Midwestern Gothic Issue 1, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I made my first little pamphlet of poems when I was in third grade, and I have written pretty consistently from then until present. I never really had a poetry writing class until I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, but once I did I decided to trash my somewhat practical plans and become a poet. I have not looked back.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in California, and a while thereafter moved to New Jersey. But after that I lived in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Ohio, respectively. When I started looking for academic jobs, I always clicked “Midwest region” on the search engines without thinking about it. I’ve spent most of my life here, in both rural and urban places, and it’s who I am.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
The landscape has left an indelible mark on my work. Maybe I’m strange, but to me, the Midwest (its ravines, lakes, old buildings crumbling into ravines, barns collapsing into lakes) is far more beautiful than other regions of the country that we’re supposed to consider picturesque. I love the grit of this place, its extremity, and its character. I love the Midwest’s drama. I mean, you can leave the house in shorts and arrive home at the end of the day needing to power up the snowblower. In the Midwest, we have seen it all, and it only makes us bigger badasses for getting through it.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
I do not know, but I will not stand for it. Let’s create a regionalist push, shall we?
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I’m naturally a very friendly person (which is funny, because folks at first expect me to be a little mean) and I really like social media. I have been a blogger since 2005, and I am fond of twitter lately. In fact, I found out about Midwestern Gothic thanks to a friend’s tweet. I also work in the publishing industry, editing the Akron Series in Poetry and the independent literary magazine Barn Owl Review, so I use social media to get the word out about other people’s writing, too.
Crime and Punishment. And no, not a poetic re-interpretation thereof.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would like to have tea with my very much alive literary friends the Parlor Poets, including Jay Robinson, Dora Malech, Rebecca Hazelton, and Steve Kistulentz. We are a group of worldly and discerning poets who enjoy converging upon parlors in various towns and speaking in silly accents (well, some of us do) and playing Victorian parlor games. I know that I should also take the opportunity to invoke the spirit of someone from the beyond, so I will add Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to our coterie.