Interview with Maureen Alsop

Your work clearly expresses a careful consideration of language; lines such as “I give myself over plainly to myth” have remained with me since my first read. How did you approach the construction of these pieces?

I wish I could say where the words come from exactly. I work from a constructionist, sensuous writing process which evolves from fragments. I synthesize these unconscious accounts to progress images and ideas.  I work tentatively, sentence by sentence, often unclear at first where I am headed.

Myth or no myth it is all a mystery. In the context of this prose, myth is a specific form of perception This narrative extracts the dissolution of the body and the mind. The speaker is between worlds, between the living and the dead. From this perspective the narrator is not a singular consciousness, and the intention behind the writing mirrors the push-pull between forms. While I am writing a vision, I am also allowing an entry to understand “that which is to be grappled with.” Language, like fire, simultaneously evaporates and creates structure. The speaker surrenders to the myth of the current plane of existence. This life is as equally mysterious as pre-or post-life. In the realm of the beyond, one gives over, to whatever that may be: archetypes, spiritual transgressions, chaos, transformation. What is myth: a dawning, a compulsion to integrate and to make whole the unknown or residual.

Alongside being a poet, you are also a psychologist and editor at Poemeleon. How has this variety of roles enriched your writing?

As a psychologist in private practice, I am working in a role that I love. In my capacity, I am witness. It is one of the highest honors to be with someone who is actively working toward self-understanding and growth. I admire all the people who I work with and hope I offer compassion and connection to those whom I’m able to serve. My work as a writer is a form of self care. It provides me with a special, private opportunity to understand myself, and to constantly consider the craft of writing. Creating is a gift for the body and mind. I am not sure how the roles enrich one another other than giving me the opportunity to embrace alternative perspectives, to cherish ideas, and consider mystical and metaphysical aspects of living. Many people walk through the world with a greater resilience than most people could imagine. 

I am pleased to be an Associate Poetry Editor at Poemeleon as well as taking the reins last year as the Book Review Editor. It’s enriching to be within the stream of a larger literary arts evolution. As the Book Review Editor, I’ve sought alternative means for reviewing books, and from my reviews I seek response rather than critique. I always learn from the work of other writers. The direction of literary arts excites me. I am most interested in the intuitive and progressive movements of language: experimentation, unique voices. I prescribe to the belief that there is room for everyone’s expression.

What upcoming projects or publications are we able to look forward to from you?

My most recent book, Pyre, is forthcoming from What Books Press. The collection includes both elegiac and collaborative poems written with and to Hillary Gravendyk. Additional elegiac poems were written to and a friend, Joseph Lexa who passed away in 2016. The experimental poetry collection also includes divinations and collaborative poems with Lissa Kiernan and Brenda Hammack. The poems intuitively explore the boundaries of traditional narrative, écriture féminine, applying an approach of spaciousness and rupture.

I’ve compiled a limited edition artist book which is a print series of asemic visual poems based on Pyre (some digital images can be found at The New Post-Literate: A Gallery of Asemic Writing and at The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts).

The poems presented with Hyades are a work in progress. This collection also has a visual  companion. I’ve been creating visual poems (digital collages) based on the text. These have recently been part of a gallery exhibit to celebrate Amnesty International’s 60th anniversary on Magnetic Island and will appear at Umbrella Studio in Townsville in 2022.

Interviewed by Munira Tabassum Ahmed