I write poetry, novels, and screenplays, but I never intentionally set out to become a writer. Instead, I came into the world as a poet and storyteller, telling stories and making up rhymed poems before I could read. If this were 7,000 years ago, and we were all sitting around a campfire, I would probably be retelling our myths, lying about my heroic encounters with fantastic beasts, singing lullabies to our babies, and chanting the epic poems of our people (while adding a few verses of my own). I’ve had fourteen novels published, but right now, I’m concentrating on poetry, because Marsh Hawk Press has just released my new collection The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018. As Maxine Hong Kingston observed, the poems in Jaguars have extraordinary range from comic to tragic, allowing me to provide my readers with a packet of sexy love poems and take them to Western Kentucky, the rainforests of the Amazon, the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and the dark side of the moon.
I write to be in dialogue with my readers, to support the struggle of women for equality. and to remind us all of the beauty, fragility, and ecstatic mystery of the natural world. I write to bear witness to climate change and to describe what we are losing. I write for future generations who will never see a living elephant, an untouched jungle, or even, perhaps, a butterfly. I write both logical, narrative poetry, and visionary, mystical poetry in an attempt to put into words the things I have seen when I have had fevers approaching 107 degrees. I write because it centers me; because it is my form of meditation; because writing is one of the great pleasures of my life; because without it, my world would be smaller, darker, and more constricted.
Daily from 9:00 a.m. to about 2:00 p.m. Sometimes sharply awake and drawing on everything I know about organization and craft. Sometimes in a light trance state, which I developed decades ago. I close my eyes. I sit quietly. I summon up images and let them flow through my mind. Ideas blossom out of nowhere. Words form, reform, make themselves into poems. The raw material always comes as a gift. Then I polish it, revise it, cut out everything but the best parts. Before I’m finished, a four page poem can become a four line poem. I know a poem is done when it shines on the page.
New York Times best-selling author Mary Mackey became a poet by running high fevers, tramping through tropical jungles, dodging machine gun fire, being caught in volcanic eruptions, swarmed by army ants, stalked by vampire bats, threatened by poisonous snakes, making catastrophic decisions with regard to men, and reading. She is the author of 14 novels and 8 collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, which recently won a California Institute of Integral Studies Women’s Spirituality Book Award. Her poems have been praised by Maxine Hong Kingston, Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, D. Nurkse, and Al Young for their beauty, precision, originality, lush energy, and extraordinary range. Professor Emeritus of English and former Writer-in-Residence at California State University, Sacramento, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. Mary Mackey’s literary papers and collection of rate editions of small press poetry books are archived in the Sophia Smith Special Collections Library, Smith College, Northampton, MA. At present, she lives in northern California with her husband Angus Wright, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies.
The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018
Buy at SPDbooks.org or Amazon.com
Hear Mary read her poems at Voetica
Marsh Hawk Press page for Mary Mackey
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Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell her truth without shame.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage
“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller,Deep End of the Ocean