I stopped by the M3 Coffee Shoppe the other day for an extra-large dark (no pollutants please) and a few of those buttery, flaky pastry things that Red makes in the back. I wanted to talk about her book of poetry, Mantra for a Muse, and knew her busy schedule would make grabbing a few minutes of her time difficult, but I had a secret weapon to entice her into an interview.
With coffee and pastries in hand, I glanced around surreptitiously and whispered, “Want to hear a secret?” and then walked over to my favorite table by the window. The tapping of heels on the floor followed me and I knew I had her.
MJ: I’d ask you for your publicist’s description of you, but then you are a publicist. Instead give us a brief history of Red, and then I’ll get to Mantra in a minute.
RD: “Red is a writer turned mother turned paralegal turned mother turned manager turned mother turned author, who happens to be a grandmother and poet. She has done a bit of nearly everything and mastered a good many. Her life makes soap operas look like documentaries, and she does it all in silk and six-inch heels.”
MJ: A legal-minded mother who happens to write poetry. Quite possibly a mischievous lad’s undoing if my own childhood is any clue. When you look back on that journey that brought you to the here and now, to who Red is today, who do you think of?
RD: My children. In the very early going, there were none of the miniature humans which were my progeny: they were proxies from others. Once mine came into the big picture, they helped fertilize what was already a fertile imagination. They also taught me some valuable lessons I had forgotten from childhood…the most poignant of which is a sign in my kitchen: You never know what you can do until you try to undo what you have done.
MJ: There are more than a few things I wouldn’t mind undoing, but then our mistakes help shape our futures. Publishing is very different today than it was even a few years ago, with many new options for authors beyond traditional print. What do you see in the future of book publishing?
RD: Electronic libraries. With the blossoming of self-publishing and the proliferation of ISBN, I believe the Library of Congress will revamp their restrictions and open the door for digital media, particularly ebooks, to be a viable resource. Text books are already making the conversion at the university level. It should not take too much more time before traditional books become the collector’s items.
MJ: Each day of the week, M3 has a different feature. Those features change over time, and I hear whispers in the wind that more changes are coming. Muse for Monday is one feature we hope won’t become a collector’s item. Will Mantra continue to tickle our imaginations now that your book is published?
RD: Yes, there are some more changes coming soon. Muse for Monday is not one of them. Mantra has plenty to say and has begun a new notebook with some which will find their way into a new book and others which are going to make their way to M3.
MJ: This is not the first time you told me that Mantra writes poetry in a notebook. Is that the case? Why write that way in this day of laptops and notebooks?
RD: Mantra writes by hand. Of all the poetry over the last 30 years, there have been less than ten which were written on the computer, and only one of those, The Lament of Social Media Addicts, which was over four stanzas. The computer is not intimate enough. Not only is it a notebook, each poem is written in pencil: not one with an eraser, but a pencil. I have poems scribbled on other surfaces…the most common of which is a grocery receipt, but for the most part, they are written in a notebook.
MJ: Maybe if I could read my own handwriting, I might try writing that way. On Mondays you take the stopper out of the lantern and Mantra comes out to take us for a poetic ride. She seems so different than the Red we know and read the rest of the week. Give us a peek at Mantra and what inspires her.
RD: Mantra is a soul watcher. “Soul Watcher” is the name of the banner on M3, which appears in the trailer of the book. Where Red is pragmatic to a fault, Mantra is less bothered with the consequences of her actions. She rather enjoys them. The roller coaster effect of the poetry is the chaos which otherwise has no outlet. Where Red’s purpose is to lead, Mantra’s is to probe. She is far less patient…she expects you to figure it out on your own. She has seen many a cracked soul. Healing only comes through self-discovery.
Red inspires Mantra more often than I care to admit. I have packed a lot of life into my years on the Blue Planet. Some of the things I have seen have been wondrous. Some have been horrific. Between them, the flashes of memory and connection to the hearts of those far my elder, Mantra has fodder for another dozen books, provided I sit down somewhere comfortable, with a steaming cuppa, a pencil and a notebook.
MJ: There’s a lot of poetry in this book that hasn’t been seen by anyone which I’m sure will interest your fans. Anyone reading M3 for any length of time knows you write poetry. Have your fans inspired you to put this book together and write some of the poetry for it?
RD: Without the M3 Readers this book would have stayed scribbles fading in a notebook. Were it not for the support of the fans who negated quite a few years of overwhelming criticism for my poetry, I would never have put the book together. Mantra has taken a fish-eyed view of some of the M3 audience, and more than a few of the hatemailers. Occasionally, she will identify some remote, clandestine characteristic and explore it in all questions…which rhyme.
MJ: Some of the poetry you’ve written could wrench a man’s heart out. What inspires your dark, sad poetry? Is it all life experience, or do you just find it inside you?
RD: The darkness is not something I readily share with M3. M3 is the paragon of Carlinism and frankness which reveals life is only as complicated as you make it. Living virtually does not offer a full view of anyone’s life. The darkness and sadness in the poetry comes from real life, real tears, real people, real heartbreak. Thanatos and I have a healthy respect for one another. The poetry shows it.
MJ: I read a poem like Treasure (at least six times now) and every time I have to ask myself, ‘Am I being all I should be, or am I failing?’ Do you intend poems like Treasure to carry a message, or is Mantra simply expressing herself?
RD: Even my humor, albeit often snark, is carrying a message. If you act without purpose, you are wasting your time. Yes, all of them carry an offer to the reader to explore and expand life to its fullest.
MJ: Rope takes me to a place where life has become so dark, we wonder why we hang on. We cringe and remember those moments when we clung to the knot and didn’t let go; or maybe we think about times when we were part of the burden someone else was carrying. Where does Rope take you?
RD: Rope for me is about how we miss the point. It is the inverse of why we keep photo albums. Our albums are filled with the joy and celebration we want to remember, yet when times are bad, it is not to the albums we turn. Instead, we turn to the rope and remember all the knots. If we had our lives by the short hairs, we would be looking at the spaces between the knots for strength.
MJ: And then we come to something like Transplant, a quick, easy read. I start out scratching my head in the beginning and then the last stanza makes you chuckle. Is my first impression correct that it was inspired by your inbox? How often does Red’s inbox inspire Mantra?
RD: (Laughs) Transplant is a snarky view of inane behavior. While I could easily attribute it to the stupidest inbox in the blogosphere, it would be false. I wrote it whilst still on the telephone with my inspiration. The inbox inspires my inner snark, which is the driver for Friday Follies. It is rare I take the SIB to enough heart for Mantra to notice.
MJ: Well the phone is certainly a stupid inbox at times. Is it ever hard to not take the stupid hate mail personally, especially if it refers to your poetry?
RD: No. The hardest hatemail to ignore are the ones which are evident the sender understood it perfectly, but is offended I would come right out and call the spade a spade. Mantra has a tendency to make people think. When it makes their brains misfire, it normally makes me laugh. (See the 9th edition of Friday Follies for a prime example.)
MJ: Internet Trolls. I’m so certain that Around is about trolls I’d bet one of these pastries on it. Please tell me I’m right or point me in the right direction.
RD: I had to read that one again. I see trolls in it, but I did not give you a fair shot at it. It is not a poem in the Laughs chapter. It falls in Discovery. I have watched as people around me have sought something using the same technique which allowed the prize to evade them in the past. It is a similar story to the one presented in Unknighted, but far less intimate.
MJ: Unknighted seemed (to me) so much about failure through apathy rather than failure through action. I really didn’t think Around was funny, I just often feel trolls are those who are unwilling (through apathy) to try something different and move past their lame, circular arguments.
RD: Unknighted is definitely about the complacency which breeds apathy and the lament of the status quo in absence of change. Around is more about insanity. People do the same thing over and over and complain of getting the same result. Unfortunately, troll logic is doing the same (ill-mannered) things over and over, but they do succeed with it occasionally.
MJ: Now I know this question is going to be hard, so take your time. Give us the publicist’s version of your book please.
RD: Wow! After my reviews, I have scrapped my one-liner half a dozen times. How about…
“Peel away the garlic leaves to discover yourself in a new world with Mantra’s poetry.”
There you go.
MJ: Indeed. Your readers will discover it takes more one look to reach the full depth and breadth of the imagery and meaning within Mantra’s poetry.
Dearest M3 Readers,
You are already at Red’s space, The M3 Blog. If you are not already, click the Facebook widget to follow the 5,000 page and the Twitter widget to follow there. About Momma contains all the other social media links and more information about yours truly.
Mantra for a Muse is available for Kindle on Amazon and in paperback from CreateSpace. See the latest SEP for more details about which one is for you. Autographed copies are available. T3: Survival Guide is also available both places.
Stay tuned for the next book, Darkness Introduced, due out on the Redmund Productions Launch.
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Until next time, keep reading,
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(c) Red Dwyer 2012
Original interview (c) MJ Logan
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