Writer Marina Pruna Moré is originally from Argentine Patagonia, but now has roots in Miami, FL. A recent graduate of Florida International University’s MFA Program, her work has appeared in Flatmancrooked’s Slim Volume of Contemporary Poetics where she was a finalist, Hinchas de Poesia, and The New Poet. She divides her time between writing, co-editing for Sliver of Stone Magazine, and enjoying the zoo that is her pet-filled home.
In this interview with editor Dariel Suarez, Marina talks about her mentors, the importance of a community of like-minded people and the responsibility of a poet. Plus, some advice for young poets and a Carl Sagan reference.
Dariel Suarez: When did you first get into poetry? Were there any poets that you found particularly inspiring?
Marina Pruna Moré: I feel as though I jumped into the poetry pool twice. The first time was in high school with the Romantic poets. Something about the way they viewed the world through a nostalgic and lyrical lens (I’m thinking of Wordsworth and Keats) spoke to me. But, the real plunge happened in college. By this, I mean the moment when I realized that poetry was happening today, that there were actual live humans doing it right now. I’d been interested in language, discourse, literature, art, all of my life. I just gravitated toward it. But, my plan had never reached beyond getting a degree in English Literature. I have to confess that I was ignorant of the MFA worlds out there, the lands of performance poetry, the sounds and rhythms of today.
During the time I was to focus on my Master’s in English, I met a great group of poets at FIU. I found that I had more in common with them and was more energized by their voices than I was by those in my MA path. What had seemed like a dream, that of being a poet, began to materialize through these wonderfully creative people with whom I was spending more and more time. Eventually, I built up enough courage to change my path.
For inspiration, I call on so many! Kasischke, Olds, Hoagland, Reece, Terrance Hayes, Komunyakaa, Oppen, Transtromer, Moscaliuc, Tracy K. Smith, Simic, Lee, Hass, Gluck, and then from the grave, Plath, Frost, Whitman, Dickinson, Blake. I could go on and on.
DS: How would you describe your work? What themes are you most interested in exploring?
MPM: Wow, the first part of this question is always difficult for me. I don’t know that I’m the best at classifying any kind of poetry, let alone my own. I’m bothered by labels because I find that we’re all a little obsessed with them and for no good reason. Narrative, lyrical, ultra-talk, imagist, surrealist, etc., the second that I pick one of these terms, I’m probably wrong. I prefer to just let a poem work on me on its own terms. I’ll bring my experiences and memories into the reading, but I’ll leave the classifying out.
That said, I can tell you that I’ve been told I’m a lyrical poet. In terms of focus, I love to split hairs. I like to dwell on the silence between a couple right after a fight or in the body of a woman while she pays close attention to a tree on fire. Whatever moment is charged with emotion, fat with expectation, and capable of beauty.
DS: I took a Writing Poetry class with you, taught by Campbell McGrath, at Florida International University. How have the professors there helped you as a writer? What was the MFA experience at FIU like?
MPM: If you could see me right now, you’d see that I’m gushing. FIU in general, and the MFA in particular, have been a beginning writer’s safe place to go wild. Campbell McGrath and Denise Duhamel, my poetic parental unit, foster an MFA environment that truly focuses on finding and nurturing voice, supporting risk-taking, and gently pushing a writer to his/her best. I know that I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the MFA. This is not to say that an MFA is required to be a writer. Not at all! Every writer’s path is different. I just feel that my path’s having trekked through FIU’s MFA just made me that much better equipped to handle things out there (submissions, rejections, book construction, community and networking, etc., to name a few practicalities). And honestly, I could write a book about what Campbell and Denise mean to me personally and as mentors, what I’ve learned from their poetry, and how insanely knowledgeable they are about prosody, technique, style, other poets . . . a book in several volumes!
Most important is community. The MFA encircles you in a time and place where everyone is equally passionate and invested in what you’re passionate and invested in. That can become a rarity later on when you’re on your own.
DS: What social role do you believe poets play in today’s world? What responsibilities does a writer hold?
MPM: I can’t remember who I heard say this: a poet is the custodian of today’s consciousness. I love that idea, even though it scares the crap out of me too. Who wants to walk around with that responsibility? But, when I get scared, I think about who else would do this job. And then I realize I don’t want anyone else doing it. I think about how right Carl Sagan was when he wrote Contact. When Ellie goes out into the universe in the little pod, she sees the immensity and color of it all and says they shouldn’t have sent her. They should have sent a poet.
DS: What advice would you offer to young poets who are looking to make a career out of their writing?
MPM: Write, write, and write some more. Don’t get discouraged. Remember that this is what you chose to do. Do it. Enjoy it. Throw yourself into it. Tell your ego to take a hike.
Try not to take all the rejection too seriously (the people rejecting your work on the other side are also sending their work out into the world and meeting rejection). What is accepted into journals/magazines and e-zines is more related to taste and preference than you might think.
Go to readings, talks, workshops, and conferences everywhere. See what’s happening out there so that you can be inspired, grow, and pave new roads.
DS: Can you tell us a bit about the history behind your poems featured in Middle Gray? What inspired you to write them?
MPM: First off, thank you for taking two of my poems! I am so proud to be a part of this journal. The Race is a poem I wrote a long time ago and one which underwent numerous revisions. The impetus was my job at the time. I found myself playing a role in corporate America, and I didn’t like it. I felt trapped. As I began to write the poem, I had planned to rant against my boss. But, as the poem developed, a kind of rhythm and pacing appeared, until finally there was a horse. Given that we usually call the 9-5 corporate office world a kind of rat race, I decided to abandon the more rant-like component of the poem and just ride the horse to wherever she took me.
The War Poem is a much more recent poem and had a slightly different journey. I had finished reading through Kevin Young’s anthology, The Hungry Ear, and decided I wanted to write a sensual poem about food. My garden was a mess at the time, except for some blueberries I’d planted. So, I figured I’d focus on those. I started with close observation, a go-to tool for me, and then just let my mind wander. Before I knew it, the poem had taken on a voice with something urgent to say. At that point, I got myself out of the way, and just listened. I don’t even know how it happened, and I have to admit that it was one of the most enjoyable writing experiences I’ve had. It was the first time I’d really gotten my ego off the page. I wasn’t trying to control, dissect or analyze anything. When it was said and done, I read it over and came to learn the poem didn’t have much sensuality to it in the way I’d first planned. What I saw was a couple of grandma’s sitting out on a sunny porch remembering a war. Maybe they’d lost their husbands, had raised their children on their own, and now had no one to curl up next to on Sunday mornings.
DS: What projects are you working on at this time?
MPM: Writing new work post MFA is the main one. I also put together a chapbook with some thesis poems and new work. I’m trying to get that out the door as well. Reading as much as I can - keeping the poetic muscle as agile as possible.
DS: What can readers expect from you in the coming years? Are there other places where they can find your writing?
MPM: Well, I’m really banking on more poems, and hopefully different ones. Bigger scope, tighter lens. I will admit I’m a terrible submitter! I should be more disciplined about the whole thing, but I’m a master at distraction. When I set out to write, I submit. When I set out to submit, I write. It’s a bad habit this distraction thing. In addition to Middle Gray, my work has appeared in Flatmancrooked’s Slim Volume of Contemporary Poetics, The New Poet, Hinchas de Poesia, and is forthcoming in Soundings Review.