Poet, novelist, and essayist, Mary di Michele is the author of eight books of poetry including a selected volume, Stranger in You, and two novels. Her most recent novel, Tenor of Love, 2005, has been translated into Italian and Serbian. She lives in Montreal where she teaches at Concordia University in the English literature department’s creative writing program.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
I was a voracious reader as a child and made my way systematically through the public library. When I reach the island that contained all the poetry volumes I opened up a volume at random and read John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”; I have been in poetry’s thrall ever since.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
Inspiration comes from without: landscape, language, people, music, the birds at the bird feeder, books, the night sky, the living and the dead, and from within, all I know and feel transmuted through dreams, through memory.
What is your writing process?
It often includes hunting and gathering, pursuing things that catch my interest, through research and travel, that part of the process can be pursued consciously and actively. The other part is receptive, being open, attentive to things, ideas around me. My writing process is part practice, bringing all I know and continue to learn about poetry and what I observe of the world to the page and part mystery, allowing all I don’t know to move and surprise.
What is your revision/editing process?
Many drafts, and when I think the poem is finished putting it away for some time until I can look at it again with new eyes and see if it is really alive or some Frankentext.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
Yes, a wasteland of them.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
I recommend Kenneth Koch’s Making Your Own Days as an informative and inspirational guidebook; it’s also very accessible, user-friendly.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Just seeing and hearing living poets would have been an inspiration—to see that it might be possible to make a life in poetry in the country and the century in which I lived.