Writers talk — Mary-Jane Duffy

Posted on Sep 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Writers talk — Mary-Jane Duffy

MJIMG_5426Mary-Jane and I met at Whitireia and it was after that I discovered she was a poet and what was great was she was working on a collection set around women in Paris in the 1920s.  One of the my two favourite decades of writing – and when I heard her read her poems I loved them.  Here’s Mary-Jane…

Which comes first?  Idea? Topic?  Line?

I have been mostly inspired by subjects — the drama of content as I read it called recently – and images. But recently the poetry of everyday language has been a starting point – things I hear in the media or things people say. Like there was a story on the radio about a dioxin plant in New Plymouth and the journalist talked about ‘contamination remediation’. I was so struck by the sound of ‘contamination remediation’ and the meaninglessness of it… haven’t done anything with it yet, but I will!

Planning – do you plan your entire poem before you write a word?

I have notebooks full of ideas and beginnings and middles and endings so if I’m stuck I go through one and patch stuff together that seems to fit. I think the short answer is, no planning. I like the sense of the poem writing itself or revealing itself to me. The other day for instance I was stuck by our collective use of the word ‘together’ so I wrote something that just works its way through all those uses with a bit of narrative underlay. I love that about poems – the way they can just unfold on the page.

Rituals — are there any riutals you like to observe before you sit down to write?

It depends what I’m working on — rereading would be my only one. My main problem until this year was to have any ritual for writing ie. any routine. In January I went to an art writing workshop in Auckland and the woman taking it talked about the need to fit writing into your life. She gets up half an hour earlier each day to work on her writing. So that got me thinking where I could fit writing into my day. That turns out to be on the train. So now each day when I catch the train I have an hour each way of writing. I was self conscious at first but now it’s ‘whatever just let me at it…’ This has been extraordinarily productive.

Rejection — how do you handle rejection?

I’m so used to rejection that I am more likely to expect it than the opposite. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of the places I have sent my poems and that’s quite depressing reading… This experience has made me very slack about submitting as much as I should. And that’s also bad because the more you are trying to get things out there, the more likely you are working on things… but 2013 has been a good year on the acceptances front.

Success — and where were you when you learned your first poem had been accepted for publication?

I can’t remember where I was when I learned that Sport would publish a couple of my poems — probably at work I think. From memory the news came in an email and I was naturally ecstatic.