Interview with Mathew McGuirk

Why poetry? 

I think poetry is unique in the fact that it can elicit emotional connection, profound thought and deep discussion all with using very few words. I’ve always found it really interesting to read and analyze through college and now as a high school English teacher and have always written it on the side, but just recently carved out time on a daily basis to devote to my craft and really work at improving my writing. I also think my approach to poetry is a lot different than my approach to fiction because I write them both and would say I’ve published a similar number of each. Fiction generally pops into my head as a thread of the story, maybe a character or a scene and then I go from there. Whereas, with poetry it normally all starts with an image that pops into my mind or that I see in everyday life. 

Who are you currently reading? 

Outside of my reads from Twitter/indie author friends on there, I’ve read a lot of Cormac McCarthy this summer and have found his prose to be beautiful and arresting at the same time. Stephen King seems like a standby for me on a pretty consistent basis as well. 

What poets/artists have had the most influence on your work? 

I’ve always found Stephen King and Ray Bradbury to be inspiring with their world building and consistent production of work. I hope that same enthusiasm comes out in my writing too. I’ve always admired Kerouac for his voice and recently read Bukowski and felt both produced writing that seemed authentic to who they were. I’ve always said that with poetry, fiction, and even genre fiction there is always a sliver of truth in what is being said, no matter how outlandish it might seem. To add another, I suppose the sort of cliche answer is Robert Frost and his imagery of New England and New Hampshire in particular really resonate with me because I’ve lived in the area my whole life. I feel like I’m constantly reading and am excited to see if this trait impacts or shifts my writing as I move forward. 

What’s one area where you feel your poems have developed most? 

I think taking one or a few images that really resonate with me and forming the poem from there is an area of growth for me. The first poems I wrote were a little more straight to the point, but I’ve found the use of symbolism or images to create this point really helps strengthen the poem in my mind. I’ve also found the daily vss365 prompts to be helpful for spark words and space limits for the genesis of ideas for future poems or the heart of future poems.  

So a poem starts with an image, does it usually simmer for a few days or do you have to write it down immediately?  

Most of the time, the image or “concept” associated with that image comes in and I’ll get the feel for where the poem is going pretty quickly. Sometimes the image or word is provided through the daily vss365 prompts and that is where the tweet length version of the poem is formed. I then add things and cut them to more fully develop the idea or connect it to related ideas. Other times, I’ll stash the idea on an “additional stories/poems” list I have going and come back to it when more of the piece comes to me.

How long do you usually spend on a single poem?

Normally they come pretty quick to me and I write them in maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then I’ll come back to it the next day or a couple days down the road and reread it and make any necessary changes. After I feel good about it, I let my wife(first reader) have a look. She likes most of my work, but is a very honest critic as well. I’ve had times where I’ve changed things with some of her insight and other times where I like the piece as is and just leave it alone, but I always appreciate what she does giving me that early set of eyes on my work. 

How much does place (you mentioned living in the New Hampshire area your entire life) play a role in your writing? 

I feel like place plays a huge role in a lot of my work. Most of the natural imagery in my pieces is derived from places I’ve been in the state or New England in general. I think the variety of places I’ve lived(rural farm growing up and apartments in a small city during college and a little after that) also play a role in what I write and the concept of movement plays a large role in my work as well.