Everyone watches a girl unfold
into a woman, and I hid
in the shade
of my thorn-dark hair
when my father’s friends looked at me
This is the the opening of Molly Spencer’s poem, “Aubade with Book and Angel,” which appears in our latest issue of MAR 35.1. Molly’s here to today to answer some questions about the poem and talk about revision, writing and motherhood, and persistence.
Molly Spencer’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, New England Review, Quarterly West, and other journals. She’s an MFA student at the Rainier Writing Workshop and a teaching artist with California Poets in the Schools. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her online at https://mollyspencer.wordpress.com/.
Quick! Summarize your story/poem/essay in 10 words or fewer. Extra points if your answer rhymes.
Portrait of adolescence as Luke Chapter 1
What can you share about this piece prior to its MAR publication?
I wrote the first draft in early 2009 after having read some of Mary Szybist’s work in The Iowa Review (those poems later appeared in her book Incarnadine). Szybist’s poems were, like mine, reinterpretations of the Annunciation. I interpreted it fairly widely — annunciation as the onset of womanhood.
What was the worst/best feedback you received on this piece (either in the writing/critiquing process, post-publication, or otherwise)?
At one point I brought it to my writing group with the line, “All girls learn to fight, to flee.” A person in the group really took issue with that. She argued that not all girls learn to fight; that some girls learn to just “take it.” Changing that line to “Some girls learn to fight, to flee” complicated the poem and its speaker, and is truer, I think. Another big shift occurred when I decided to give this poem a contemporary setting, rather than an historical setting.”
You’re at a family reunion and some long-lost relative asks about your writing. What do you say?
Verbatim every time (though mostly with other moms on the playground rather than with long lost relatives):
- Yes I’ve been published.
- I haven’t kept track of how many times.
- No I don’t have a book yet.
- Yes, I’m working on one.
- It’s about the body, memory, motherhood, and language.
What do you consider your biggest writing-related success?
Keeping at it.
Your biggest writing-related regret?
When I was younger, I thought I had to make a choice between motherhood and the writing life. I didn’t think I could manage both since both are so intense and all-consuming. I had my babies and tried to avoid poetry’s allure for several years – but of course it didn’t work. I wish I had those lost years back. I wish I had done both all along.
Do you have another favorite piece of writing in this MAR issue? If so, name it and tell us why.
I really love Sarah Burke’s poem “The Rock Has No Children” for all of its beautiful, rough images and its oblique approach to infertility. Her lines “But you refused / to lie down, little one” really touched me. For me, these words speak to all the things in our lives that take root in poor soil, that hold on in spite of it.
Can you show us a photo of you holding your MAR contributor’s copy?
Thanks for the interview, Molly!
Laura Maylene Walter, Fiction Editor