Mick Mally speaks in a strong, clear voice. His poems are honest expressions of honest emotions presented in traditional styles. He is sharing with us his perceptions of being a male human being in this most difficult time. We are honored and must listen and be touched.
~ Lucille Clifton, Poet Laureate and
Nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
Interview: Mick Mally
What themes are presented in your most recent collection of poems?
For the most part themes focus on the recollection of past and present “unfixable” relationships. I’ve tossed in a few fictional poems, and one rather dark, macabre poem at the end.
Your collection lacks capital letters. What is the significance of this omission?
Lower case letters in poetry are soft, intimate, inviting – or so “i” believe. I’m trying to create a dimensional relationship with my readers, to draw them in so they can “feel” each particular poem.
Where and how do you collect your inspiration for writing poetry?
Almost always, I go deep inside myself, think about something that I experienced or about an experience related to me by someone else. In the second instance, I try to put myself in his or her heart and imagine the feelings that transpired. When I say I go deep inside, I mean waaaaay deep. Then I open my bag of artisans’ tools, change, re-write several times again, polish once or twice, and POOF!!! There it is – another poem from the pencil (with a large eraser) of yours truly. Clearly some are based on my own experiences and feelings. I’ll let you guess which ones.
You are a winner of the Bronze Star. Could you explain to readers what this accolade represents and how you were recognized?
The Bronze Star is awarded for bravery and meritorious acts during combat. Enough said.
The Other Side of Having contains illustrations. How do these illustrations work to exemplify meaning in your poetry, and where did the illustrations come from? Are these drawings your own?
Glad you asked about the illustrations. If I were to come to your offices and asked to sit down and draw something, I would probably wet myself! I even find drawing stick men challenging.
Years ago, I wanted to publish but wasn’t sure if my work was book worthy. I paid an art student to draw whatever came to mind after reading a poem. I figured if she couldn’t feel it, she couldn’t draw it, so I would have the answer to my greatest fear. Impressed by the results, but not emboldened enough to proceed, back in the box everything went - again.
Over the years, from time to time, someone would read them over candlelit wine, and whatever else, and make me promise to share my “gift” with the world (Gift - World?!! - talk about being under the influence.). Finally, my wife Larissa insisted. Extensive research led me to your company. I called to clarify a few things and was lucky enough to have the phone answered by your Executive Editor, Debi Gordon. It was through her artful talent and interpretations that pictures lost over time were replaced by new ones, and my book was completed.
The structure of many of your poems is rhymed. Do you prefer such structure? How does structure effect your composition?
Rhyme takes time (sorry, just had to). I consider rhyme to be a stand-alone art form. If you can unify and convey a common feeling or sentiment—or better still a story, in perfect stanza, meter, and rhyme—you are, indeed (in my humble way of thinking), a wordsmith, an artist whose medium is the written word.
Most of your poems are untitled. How is the lack of titling play a role in the meaning and intention?
When I title a piece, more often than not, it is a specific tribute that I am trying to share with the reader. I want you to know who or what the poem is about. By not titling, I want the reader to figure out what’s going on line by line. Hopefully, during that process there will be a flash of someone, a recollection, or a past experience for the reader, and it then becomes a story about their remembrance.
What other types of composition do you work with? Short stories? Novels? Non-fiction works?
I’ve played around with short stories and fiction but can never find the solitude or be tenacious enough to finish (sounds like an excuse; I hate excuses).
Your current collection speaks often of a speaker’s appreciation for personal growth accomplished through times spent with the addressee. How does this growth form an overall motif? Does this growth stem from personal experience?
You are very perceptive. When you listen to a song, what do you hear: the music, the lyric, or both equally? I’m a lyric kind of guy. If the words remind me of something or someone, those thoughts will conjure up recollections. Those recollections transform into feelings I felt. Those feelings usually lead to a bottle of cheap wine late at night, or a few $&*@%^, or both. Then I’m there in the moment and I “say” what should have been said, but wasn’t. The next day or so when I read what I scribbled down, I usually think, “How many others out there have, or have had these same feelings/experiences?” I want to reach out to let those people know there is and has always been the other side of having; its hunger, cold, poor, hurt, situational depression, and it’s okay to remember it. if there is a face involved it’s ok, better still, its good to see it again.
While many poets draw from personal experience in writing, many find musings in life only and write separated from actual life experience. How does life experience, overall, impact your poetry?
Two attributes I have been told I posses (I doubt if there are many more): I’m a good listener, and a quick study. If I write it, you can bet I’ve experienced it or have first person knowledge of it, unless it is an obvious exception (of which there are three in my book; can you find them?).
I’ll give you a very private until now example of what I think is a muse: A friend of mine wasn’t good with words. We were on the other side of the world at the time. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend following our tour of duty. In her letters (all of which he had me read), she kept wanting him to tell how much she meant to him. He showed me the pictures she sent—every single one. He felt his written words would not convey his feelings. They were not romantic enough, so he asked me to write a poem about her. It would be his alone to share with her. He would memorize it and recite it when he got home and gave her the ring. I worked on it whenever I could. Six weeks later, he was killed. I shoved the unfinished poem in one of his fatigue shirts they collected and returned with his body. Late one Memorial Day night several years later, my thoughts were of pals that didn’t make it back. I remembered his poem and had to finish it. I did.
So I ask you, would this be a muse or a personal experience? Or both? Can it even be both? You be the judge.
The poem is “Tonight.”
By drawing readers in to remember experiences that are difficult, do you mean to imply that these moments are worthy of remembrance? Do you find a certain beauty in heartfelt pain?
Indeed they are. Introspection has a cleansing effect; don’t you agree? Do me a favor. Close your eyes for a moment—yeah, right now; I won’t bite. Now, think back to your greatest love. You know the one that rocked your world for the first time ever. Remember what it was about that person that you loved. Was that a smile I just saw on your lips? Now see some of the others since then. Open your eyes. What? No tears? You should be feeling enriched. Truth be told, we grow in spite of difficult experiences. There are always a few what-ifs that should always be balanced by what-if-nots. Shakespeare, in the Tempest has it right. The past is prologue, important, but not the story of oneself.
I find no beauty in heartfelt pain. I appreciate it for the character builder it is.
What poets, or even musicians, do you draw influence from?
I’ve read most of the masters with a special interest in Longfellow Keats, Dickenson, Browning, and Poe. Sara Flowers is interesting. Frost, Langston Hughes, and Shel Silverstein—and ALL the lyricists EVER—pretty much complete the list. I can’t say I draw influence; it’s more like appreciation for what they are saying and how they write.
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