The Poet's Story: Interview with Lucinda Marshall
Congratulations on your new full-length poetry collection, Inheritance of Aging Self. A powerful collection that I had the honor of reviewing for Beltway Poetry Quarterly (https://www.beltwaypoetry.com/inheritance-of-aging-self-by-lucinda-marshall-reviewed-by-kristin-kowalski-ferragut/ ) When you were writing those poems, were you aware that you were working on a collection or did you at some point just realize that you had enough poems on a theme to develop a collection from the individual pieces? What span of time were those poems written across?
Thank you so much for asking me to do this interview as well as for your thoughtful review of my book, I'm truly honored! Writing a book has been on my to-do list for about 60 years and a few years ago it did dawn on me that I might have actually done that if only I dug everything out of my notebooks and files and post it notes. Because I have lamentable record-keeping skills, I really don't know when the first poems were written, but a few of them go back a couple of decades, a few were written during the last few months before I started sending the manuscript around.
I am deeply grateful to our local workshoppping group-- you, Serena Agusto-Cox, Luther Jett, Fran Abrams, and Eve Burton—for helping me fine tune many of the poems that are included in the book, workshopping and editing is such an important part of the writing process.
Yes, thanks! I love our group and always learn so much.
You’ve invested significant energy in organizing and community building, notably recently with the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry & Open Mic series you founded and hosted for four years. Might you talk a bit about your journey as a community organizer and why that’s been a mission for you? Also, if you don’t mind a follow-up question — You strike me as a significantly introverted, private person. How do you balance that with your public persona, putting yourself out there to be a leader in these intensely social roles?
This is such an important question, thank you for asking. When we are writing, we poets don't go to a large office filled with other poets who socialize at a water cooler. We do quite a lot of writing in solitary circumstances, so there needs to be a way to develop a sense of belonging, to cultivate community and workshops and readings go a long way in meeting that need.
When I moved to Gaithersburg, one of the things that quickly became glaringly obvious was that if I wanted that sort of community without driving for 30 minutes to an hour, I was going to have to organize it because it didn't exist. And people showed up (that's how I met you!) at that first reading, and the second, and we all got to talking and getting to know one another and it didn't take long to develop a sense of community. So many good things have come of that—friendships, working relationships, a community hub for poetry, and a place where people can come to an open mic, maybe for the very first ever and share their work in a supportive atmosphere.
Am I an introvert? Maybe to some extent, but I think it is possible to be a private person and be part of a community, I know I certainly need both public and personal time and I know I write and create better when things are quiet without a lot of distractions.
You create some beautiful visual arts in your quilting. Might you describe something about that part of your life? It seems to me another full-time occupation — contests, articles, photoshoots… How do you fit it all in? What is the most rewarding aspect of that work? And might you describe your approach to creating a piece?
Thank you! I have always been a multi-creative and quilting has been on my bucket list of things that I wanted to do for a long time. I gave it a try many years ago but really didn't have the time to pursue it at that point. And then it dawned on me a few years ago after seeing some gorgeous quilts in a show that it might be a good time to delve back into it. I am almost entirely self-taught, so the learning has always been part of the journey.
Quilting is part idea, part puzzle-solving, part meditation for me. When you are quilting, it is best to stay focused, presuming you don't want to poke or cut yourself, not to mention actually get all the pieces to fit together and stay together, so that focus is a way for me to clear my head of all the other mayhem of the day. I've always had an affinity for making art that brings joy and makes you smile and quilting my way through the pandemic has ensured that I have a readily available supply of pretty things even when everything else is a mess.
Quilting is a lot like writing in the sense that if you want to get your work out there, you need to submit it. As poets we like to complain about the submission process but it definitely is not as time consuming as submitting a quilt which requires photos and just as it is in poetry, every contest or journal has its own rules.
As for fitting it in—ha! I don't, I always have a to-do list I'm never going to get through, I'm guessing that with your interests in art and music, you can relate to that!
Given your reflections on aging as a woman, the themes you’ve taken on in political writing, as well as your embracing quilting, traditionally a woman’s craft that I may argue is undervalued in the art world, I easily consider you a feminist. The negative connotations around that word are really weird to me. How would you respond to anti-feminist statements or how would you defend the title “feminist” against ridicule? Or might you use a different term?
The negative connotations are definitely weird! I grew up in the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's and have always claimed that label. My favorite definition of feminism is that it is the radical notion that women are people. From there everything else should be really obvious—the need for control over our own bodies, equal pay, etc. etc.
Misogyny is always unacceptable in all its forms and it has certainly reared its ugly head in literature and the arts for centuries. Whose work is seen, whose work is published, how that work is perceived matters. If you doubt that, truck on over to the National Gallery in DC and count the number of works by women. It won't take long.
When I first started making art, I made a number of pieces about women because I wanted to create art that saw women from a woman's point of view, rather than the male gaze. I tend to be less political in my art these days but yes, quilting has traditionally been a woman's art and until recently seen mostly as utilitarian craft. There is a real resurgence in interest in quilting these days (and some of it very political) and it is finally being seen as the important art form that it is.
Going back to your question, countering misogynist tropes is exhausting. But necessary, and I don't hesitate to call it out and the older I get, the less I worry about being polite when I do so! I spent a decade plus of my life focusing my writing on women's human rights issues and had to let that go because I was completely burnt out. Calling out misogyny, and anything else that is so obviously wrong and harmful is challenging, even when the facts are glaringly clear, and frustrating as all get out when some of the things we are confronting today are the same things that we have been calling out for decades.
The pandemic has touched every piece of all our lives and changed each of us in subtle, profound and sometimes shattering ways. And it sadly seems far from over. Might you share some reflections of how you’ve been changed by the pandemic, both as a Writer/Artist and an individual trying to navigate this world?
It has indeed touched us all and in so many ways required us to reckon with who we are, our sense of relationship, our sense of place. Although I have enjoyed living by myself for a number of years, I think this is the first time I've had moments of thinking maybe I am too alone. On the positive side, I've had more time to write and create with no one interrupting that time!
Like many others, I've also given a lot of thought to what is really important to me and what work feels the most compelling. Part of that might also be age—when you are old enough to be on Medicare, there really is no denying that the clock is starting to run out the years and if you are planning to get something done, now might be a good time. And geez, there is nothing like a really lethal pandemic to add urgency to that line of thinking. I've also realized that I need to try to focus a bit more on telling my own story for the simple reason that if I don't, then it won't be told, which is something I think we all should consider, we all have the stories of our lives to tell.
For a good part of the pandemic, I felt a bit paralyzed as a writer, so I made a deal with myself—I needed to note things down, but there was no requirement to elaborate or delve into things. The result was a lot of lists, some of which have slowly grown into poems, some are just lists, or maybe that is a form of poetry. And I will confess to being a tad behind on submitting work because with all the wear and tear on our psyches these days, I'm not sure I want all those rejection slips on top of that!
These days you may be writing more in sentences, maybe even paragraphs, than lines and stanzas. Might you share what you’re writing these days, either in way of themes you’re exploring and/or what form(s) your writing is taking? What might be next for you?
This is a good question ☺, a bit of a mystery at the moment. I have multiple projects that may and may not grow up to be work that actually gets out there. I've written some poems about quilting and I keep thinking it would be fun to do something with those, not so much a full collection, but maybe a hybrid work of some sort. I have also messed a bit with some long form writing essays and memoir pieces and probably have enough poems for another collection, need to dump those out on my dining room table and see what they actually look like together. I tend to let the work decide where it is going rather than start a preset destination in mind, I'm mostly just along for the journey.
And I have to add that I was so thrilled when you agreed to take over the reins as the host of the DiVerse Gaithersburg poetry reading! As much as I have enjoyed doing it, it felt like it was time for me to move on to other things and now we both have new adventures ahead of us.
I hope I can keep it as vibrant and inviting as you did for years. I appreciate the opportunity to try!
Answering these questions has really been fun, and I so appreciate that you wanted to do this interview! Thank you!!
Thank you, Lucinda! I am grateful for this conversation and look forward to continuing to follow your creative journey. Thanks for all of the dynamic poetry and art you put out in the world.
bio: Lucinda Marshall is the author of Inheritance Of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Global Poemics, Broadkill Review, Foliate Oak, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Poetica, among others, as well as in the anthologies “Poems in the Aftermath” (Indolent Books), “You Can Hear The Ocean” (Brighten Press), “Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me?” (Beautiful Cadaver Project), and “We Will Not Be Silenced” (Indie Blu(e) Publishing). Her writing has received awards from Waterline Writers, Third Wednesday, and Montgomery Magazine. She is also an award-winning artist who has worked in a variety of mediums, including her most recent work in improvisational quilting.