I have an unapologetical love for political poems. And I always expect to find a creative distinction & intensity in those poems. I first read Maggie MacKay on IANASP : “I slave in his kitchens,/ my belly fired after him rape mi in the scullery/ like I was his peaberry fruit./ His boasts ride on fiddle jigs into the valley/ where my baby sleeps.” (Jamaican Macabre) I immediately liked her brutally honest voice & her clever way with words & sounds. At that point of time, I didn’t know the editor of IANASP would run a Poet’s Interview series & I would have the privilege & honor to ask her a few questions about her writing. And working on that project gave me the wonderful opportunity to discover more of her work. Maggie has published in various print and online publications, including A New Manchester Alphabet, Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Indigo Dreams Publishing & Three Drops Press. Much of her work is poured from the soul of someone who feels “a clot inside [her] vein,/ a black-blue spiral of onyx;/ at the nucleus, blood-drenched strokes of fire.” (Flare – Ink, Sweat & Tears) While that clot in her writing remains my favorite, I am especially taken with her unflinching voice which is always & always sharply chiseled : “I pass the Tito’s high-rise housing, bullet-blasted/ in perfect circles of terror, the full height of babies’ cots,/ breaching homes where generations dwelled together;/ mothers still hang shirts and nappies, in lines on balconies.” (Restoration After War – Words Bohemia 2) Another good example from Flare (Ink, Sweat & Tears) : “This skin is new to me./ I slur a name – might be mine –/ gulp a balloon of air/ as I roll on the edge/ of another squall-storm.” Like all good poets Maggie seems to be always conscious of the fact that her writing needs to be kicked about to stay alert. And that makes the political blade of her poetry so delicious. Just look at these beguiling lines that hijack our soul facing with today’s terrifying reality of the refugees : “I am ripples, motionless,/ swamped by water, lifted by brother./ I am girl watching home wash away again, again/ Do you have a boat?/You are of no use to me.” (Bereft – Writers for Calais Refugees Anthology). Maggie is certainly one rising poet from Scotland to watch closely with excitement.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a retired support needs teacher and live on the east coast of Scotland. I returned to writing seven years ago, beginning with the Open University where I grew into poetry. Then with a push from my tutor, I enrolled with Manchester Metropolitan University on the Masters degree where I’ve been enjoying the experience. I like to travel, family history and live cultural events.
Why do you write? What does poetry exactly accomplish for you?
I get so much from expressing my emotions and remembrance of others through the written word is important to me. It’s so absorbing to play with language and share ideas with the community of poets. And when I’m told a poem has had a profound effect on a reader, that’s such a thrill.
Can you tell us about your work habits?
I aim to write every day. I close read other poets too. And as often as possible I critique my fellow writers’ work.
Do you like to work under constraints, literary or others?
A deadline works well for me. Or a project which stimulates the imagination.
Please tell us about the making of your poetry. Where do your ideas come from? Are there certain elements of your life that play a major role in your work? If yes, how does life bend with poetry & what is the usual incubation period between the lived experience & the moment of writing?
I focus on family history, events of significance, the effect of loss, enduring relationships. My ideas can be influenced by something which happened within the last 24 hours or 100 years ago. I like a title to inspire me or a project which focuses the mind.
Where did your interest in poetry begin?
At school and then, more recently, after retirement Often a poet’s performance enriches my interest.
What is the impact of other poets on your work, if any?
I investigate technique, form, use of white space and clarity in others’ poetry. John Glenday, Jane Kenyon, Les Murray, Neil Rollinson, Marie Howe and many others.
How do you “think the world” through & in poetry?
I explore sensory imagery, read political debate and tap emotion.
What makes you write poems like Bereft, Media Demons, The Ochils, Jamaican Macabre, The Silence of Shock, etc. published in IANASP? According to you what is the hardest things about writing protest poems or poems of witness?
I look to embed conviction without preaching. It’s getting the tone right and being clear about what I want to say.
What is reading for you? What kind of things do you usually read? And who are you when you are reading a (literary) text, a reader or a writer?
I read lyrical poetry. I am both.
When is your book/chapbook/pamphlet coming out?
I’m working on my Masters portfolio at the moment.
How can readers find more about you & your work? (website/blog/social media)
Check out websites – Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops From a Cauldron, Marie Lightman’s wonderful websites on refugees and prejudice, The Lake and Northwords Now amongst a number of publications. Print press too – e.g. Bare Fiction., The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole.