Local author finds inspiration for poetry from feathered friends
NEW IPSWICH – For writer Meg Kearney, inspiration for her prose is often found just out her window.
The author will be reading works from her latest book, “All Morning The Crows,” and will be joined by her invited guest, writer Sally Rosen Kindred, during a live Zoom event being held on Thursday, June 10 at 8 p.m.
Kearney said that writing poetry and using birds as creative analogies dates back two decades.
“I wouldn’t say that my using birds as a launching point for poems is new,” she said. “My first book of poems that came out 20 years ago, “An Unkindness of Ravens,” and being that it was my first book, it was much different than this one. But the middle section of that first book is made up of a sequence of Raven poems based on dreams, whereas with ‘All Morning The Crows,’ my starting point was a book called, ‘A Hundred Birds and How They Got Their Names,’ by Diana Wells.”
That realm of thinking provided Kearney with a prompt that she gave herself to write 100 poems using the descriptions of each of the birds in that book as a starting place, and she said, “It morphed into this kind of whole other thing that became the new book.”
Kearney said it wasn’t really about what birds represent to people because each entry is very different from the next.
“I can’t say I used the same strategy with each one,” she said. “While birds play a role in every poem and some poems will mention more than one kind of bird, for some of them, they’re not really about birds. They go someplace all-together different.”
Sometimes Kearney draws on history in general, and some of the material is drawn from her own personal history. “All Morning” was years in the making.
“It wasn’t a pandemic inspired book, definitely not,” she said. “For poets who are dealing with small presses, once a book is accepted, you’re really lucky if it comes out the next year. It’s almost always the case that if your book wins a prize that your book comes out that fast.”
Her first book, was accepted in 1999 and came out in 2001. That she said, is more of a normal wait. She began writing the poems that appear in “All Morning” in 2012 and she did write the initial 100 poems (51 appear in teh book), but set it aside because she was under contract to write a third book in a trilogy, “When You Never Said Goodbye.”
“I had to write that, so I really took a year and a half to two years off after writing that initial slew of poems,” she explained. “I picked it up again in 2014 or ’15 and have been working on it since then. It’s been a long haul with this new book.”
Growing up, Kearney said she declared that she was going to be a writer while in the second grade.
“I grew up and was writing short stories then,” she shared. “And then I started writing poems when I was about 12 and never looked back.”
Kearney was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Hudson Valley in New York State before moving to the New Hampshire area in 2005.
“I moved to start and direct an MFA in creative writing program at a college near Boston,” she said.
Kearney writes almost every day and said she thinks about writing everyday but has always had a full-time job, so she has always had to find a way to incorporate writing into her daily activities. She added that she often works on multiple things at the same time.
“When I have carved out my writing time for a particular day, I’ll think to myself, ‘Am I writing something new today? Am I revising?’ It just depends on my schedule and how much time I have.”
Kearney said the hardest thing about writing is staring at the blank page.
“Once you have something down there to go on,” she said, “it’s really helpful. Sometimes I’m scrambling and feeling stuck. So, then I might go and revise something or give myself a prompt like I did with the bird book in the beginning. That’s how I got myself rolling.”
While a reader of Kearney’s works doesn’t need to be a “birder,” per se, someone that might be one might actually draw parallels or the symbolism.
“I really lucked out on so many levels with this book,” she said. “Not only did it win the Washington Prize, but the editor I ended up working with at the Word Works is a birder and knows so much about birds. And one of the first things she said to me is, ‘You’ve got it all right.'”
Kearney has been a casual bird observer all her life; her mother was very much into birds. But Kearney doesn’t claim to be a bird expert.
“I consider myself an apprentice,” she said. “But I guess there’s material in there that people with inside knowledge of birds will get more layers perhaps out of some of the poems.”
Ultimately, Kearney hopes that readers will take away some sense of being moved by her words.
“I guess it’s a book about survival as a woman in this world,” she said. “But with any poem I write, I want to make people feel something. Whether I make them laugh or I move them emotionally – that’s always my goal. So, I hope people feel multiple emotions as they read the book.”
For information about the live Zoom event, visit toadbooks.com; or for more information about Meg Kearney, visit her website, megkearney.com.