Tag Archives: Saint Monica

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Mary Biddinger

As April draws to a close, we’d like to thank all of the BLP poets who contributed to our poem-a-day feature during National Poetry Month. To cap off the month, we are proud to feature Mary Biddinger, whose chapbook Saint Monica was recently published by Black Lawrence Press.

What My Body Taught You

It was cold and then colder. The underbelly
of an overpass, carotid of your favorite creek,

bless me. Your hands were the gentlest.
Sometimes you weren’t moving, and snow

would dare itself to cross your back.
They would never pack more than one of you

on any ark. You had enough trouble
with yourself already. Thought the doilies

were handkerchiefs. Thought there was such
thing as heavenly intervention,

or fires that kept themselves to the corners
of your studio. Your handwriting

on the back of an envelope. Midnight
burning of transaction registers, your birth

certificate, but never books or blank paper.
I had not slept outdoors before

and you pulled me inside your coat.
It smelled like the anatomy of a birch tree,

or the idea of an angel on fire. That angel
would love to torture a man like you.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: My process is one of sheer panic, and mandatory efficiency. I have so little time to write, and find myself jotting lines everywhere. Then, when I do sit down at the computer, I’m basically just transcribing what I’ve been writing in my head and on receipts and sticky notes. This is only difficult when I’m mid-poem in a meeting, or slamming my grocery cart into a shelf of canned soup because I’m jotting non-grocery words down on my list.

Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?

A: I was thrilled to recently discover the poems of Rebecca Hazelton. We featured several in the current issue of Barn Owl Review, and I can’t wait for her first book, Fair Copy, to be released by Ohio State University Press. I must also say that she is a wonderful reader of her poems, and it was a delight to hear her at AWP Chicago.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you travel?

A: In the 1990s my parents lived in an historic cottage in Turvey, Bedfordshire (England). I never wrote anything there, but have returned to it in my mind often. I would like to spend my writing retreat in that cottage, with the stipulation that upon finishing the week—with a handful of new poems and some fine books read—I would get a second week in France, for not-writing. I think that would be an ideal combination.

Mary Biddinger is the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007) and Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, The Collagist, Copper Nickel, diode, Gulf Coast, The Laurel Review, North American Review, Passages North, Third Coast, and many other journals. She is the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, co-editor-in-chief of Barn Owl Review, and director of the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She teaches literature and creative writing at The University of Akron.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Mary Biddinger


Now that invasion is all the rage
the myrtle looks a bit less comfortable
in its straightjacket. The lawns suddenly
pubic. The birdbaths best left unmentioned.
Somebody is always prying open a bucket
of something. Often it’s full of teeth, or wants
to purchase a gun somewhere seedy, anonymous,
like a transient hotel full of former circus animals.
Meaning that we never are exactly what we are.
I take my shoulders for a walk every evening.
Without them, I am not much. I leave them
behind when I shimmy through French doors.
Dip my tongue into the pitcher of milk left
for some unseen entity. I tether each
shoulder to its own stone. Some
nights, they are not there
when I come back.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: I always have to write on the fly, so I am not choosy. I would prefer not to write a poem on the back of an envelope while simmering a pan of rice on the stove, but that’s often where I get my start. Most nights I sneak a little writing time at my desk between 8:30 pm and 9:15 pm. I don’t get my ideas at a desk, however. My poetry brain only works when I’m on the go, and when there’s something to observe, even if it’s a rather dull something.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: I was a young teen when I found a copy of Margaret Atwood’s You Are Happy at the Friends of the Library used book sale. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. The psychedelic cover alone could be a game-changer, but the poems inside made me think about writing in a completely new way (one that was all elbows, but also all eyes; equal parts hysterical and mystical). A highlight of that particular collection: You Fit into Me. It was the first poem I ever memorized, and it still makes me shudder.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: Having my second full-length collection, O Holy Insurgency, accepted for publication by Black Lawrence Press was certainly the highlight of the past year. In a close second, the Cleveland Browns beating the Saints, and then the Patriots. I have also baked some really excellent cakes in the past year, if I do say so myself.

Mary Biddinger is the author of three poetry collections:  Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), the chapbook Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2012), and co-editor of one volume of criticism: The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). She teaches at The University of Akron, where she directs the NEOMFA program, and edits Barn Owl Review and the Akron Series in Poetry.

Best of the Web Week: Mary Biddinger

Check out the piece on Mary Biddinger over at The Collagist. Mary Biddinger’s poem “Portrait of Myself as a Piece of Red Candy in my Mouth” appeared in the October issue of The Collagist. Her poem “Population: 41,685,” which appeared in Memorious 11, was selected for this year’s Best of the Web Anthology. Her chapbook Saint Monica is forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press.

Her Gorgeous Organ of Tremor and Pulse: Mary Biddinger in The Nepotist

We’ve got news for Mary Biddinger fans: Two of her poems, “Birth of a Vessel” and “Calamity”, have been published in The Nepotist with quite an incredible introduction from The Nepotist himself. Here is one of our favorite passages:

Let the record show that The Nepotist might be a little bit in love with her… These poems– nay, these two seductions– justify beyond any fickle hiccups of the heart the bright and blazing torch I carry for this poet.  And while I’m on the subject of heart, I think it’s Mary Biddinger’s own that make these poems beat: that muscle of coyly meted-out craft, the lub-dub of details divulged at the precise instant they will do either the most good or the most damage, her gorgeous organ of tremor and pulse.

To read the entire preface and the poems, follow this link.

Mary Biddinger is the author of Saint Monica, which was a finalist for the Black River Chapbook Competition and will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2011.

Mary Biddinger on How a Poem Happens

Check out the recent discussion with Mary Biddinger on Brian Brodeur’s blog How a Poem Happens. Mary was a finalist in the Spring, 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition and her book Saint Monica is forthcoming from BLP.