Jennifer Powell
Jennifer Powell asked Mary Mackey:

I loved your Earthsong Trilogy, and I see that you've also branched out into writing poetry. What do you enjoy about poetry versus novels? They seem like such different kinds of writing, so I am curious why you do both.

Mary Mackey For the first 10 years of my writing career, I was known almost exclusively as a poet. During that time, Shameless Hussy Press published my first novel "Immersion" but it too was written like a long prose poem and like so many of my poems, it gave a lyrical vision of the tropical rainforests.

Since my novel "McCarthy's List" was published by Doubleday in 1979, I've been known primarily as a novelist and have written 13 novels.This is all to say that I haven't so much branched out into writing poetry as gone back to my first love.

Actually, I love writing poetry and novels equally because each offers me a different experience. II write all my novels on my computer and all my poems out in longhand in a special notebook. Novels are more public. Poems are more personal.

Novels take a long time to research write--a year, two years,sometimes more. They are long projects that absorb you every day. They're complex--you have to keep track of thousands of details and make thousands of decisions. You create characters, fall in love with them, hate to leave them when the novel is finished. You get to tell stories, entertain yourself and other people.

Writing poetry is different. Poems come to me in a single burst, as if a voice were speaking in my head.. I can finish the first draft of a poem in a single sitting. I'll have to revise it many times, but in the space of a few hours, I can have it in front of me, from beginning to end. Poems engage more of my emotions. They're more personal even when they aren't autobiographical. They touch my inner, spiritual core: my feelings and ideas about life and death, about the ambiguity of the human experience. They allow me to play with words and metaphors, to twist language, reform it, even invent it.

So I guess the simple answer to your question "why do you do both" is that prose gives me a kind of creative pleasure that poetry can't, and poetry gives me a kind of creative pleasure that prose can't provide.

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