Since winning the Vassar Miller Prize in 2015 for her portrait-in-verse collection “Booker’s Point,” Maine poet Megan Grumbling has been exceedingly busy. Recently, she was enjoying a much-needed reprieve at a friend’s cottage in Tenants Harbor, spending few precious days sitting on the porch “watching the harbor change and the sea smoke rise.”
WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
I’ve been writing in one way or another pretty much since I was a little kid, much of it based on my experiences in and imagination about the outside world. I remember my mom (would) take down my stories about fairies who drank milkweed out of acorn caps and so forth. I kept writing poetry throughout growing up. I chose not to study poetry in college or grad school but I kept writing, and I started publishing about the time I finished grad school in New York City and moved back to Maine.
WHAT GENRES HAVE YOU WORKED IN?
I’ve long considered myself primarily a poet, but I’ve also worked in prose and documentary forms. I bring my journalism background to my work as a theater reviewer for The Portland Phoenix, as well as being a book reviewer and reviews editor for The Cafe? Review. More recently, I’ve also written the libretti for spoken operas, in collaboration with composer Denis Nye, including the very recently produced Hinge/Works production ”Persephone in the Late Anthropocene,” which premiered this May at SPACE Gallery in Portland, and a few years before that, a screenplay for a film called ”Carrying Place,” produced by The Sisters Grumbling (yep, there are three of us).
HAS YOUR WORK EVER BEEN INSPIRED BY MUSIC?
Two formative albums from my childhood were The Band’s “Brown Album” and John Prine’s self-titled first album. Those albums were literally how I learned about metaphor and persona poems, driving around with my dad as a 5-year-old and listening to the tape deck.
TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE BRIGHTEST THINGS THAT HAVE COME OUT OF THE VASSAR WIN.
Getting to read from the book for people has definitely been a bright thing. It’s been uncommonly moving to have people come up to me after readings and hear them say that they knew Booker (Bernard A. Booker, the subject of “Booker’s Point”). The brightest thing that could come of this book’s publication, to my mind, is for regular, not-necessarily-literary people to be moved to remember, record and/or write their memories of their own formative and idiosyncratic elders. Once the stories go, they go for good. It’s our job to keep telling them.
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT PROJECT?
Right now I have the opera and a couple more readings. I’m free to think about the next (project). I’m working on a hybrid novel…I don’t normally write prose but it feels like a good moment to push myself. The journalist and poet in me support each other; I have two other complete poetry manuscripts to send out. I’m going to keep writing, keep pushing. Right now, in Tenants Harbor, I’m going to refresh my neural pathways! It’s been a very long, very good few months.
Alicia Fisher is a poet, artist and freelance writer. She lives in Saco, with her husband and two children (aka her favorite people).