This is a guest post by Maria McLeod.

One way to break through the parameters our personal identities impose upon us is through writing persona poetry. Of course, when a poet invokes the “I,” the vast majority of poetry readers assume the “I” is the author, a prepackaged identity. On one hand, the illusion of autobiography might make readers more interested in sticking with the poem — voyeurism piquing curiosity — but on the other hand (the one I write with), I’d rather be recognized for my skills as a writer than to be confused with the characters I create. Wouldn’t you?

Aligning the “I” with the author took root during a poetic movement that came to be known as confessionalism, which marked a shift in what was deemed acceptable in poetry, to take on subjects that seemed personal, intimate, and tied to the events of the poet’s life. But this impulse to examine a narrative for what it revealed of the writer’s autobiography (or, by extension, their psychological state) did not give equal recognition to the art of generating poetic personas. Because, of course, once we put pen to page and invoke the I, we are creating and composing a version of a self. The truth of the “I” of the poem becomes a slippery fish.

This matter of identity leads me to recall a former creative writing instructor’s refrain: content dictates form. Similarly, the identities we construct, and the voices from which we speak, are necessitated by the stories we choose to tell. “I” might wear a mini skirt or hip waders, carry a hatchet or rest a baby on my right hip. Or, like Mary Poppins, I might open my umbrella, leap from a rooftop, and fly through the night sky. In poetry, anyone is made possible.

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Maria adds: “The persona poet I admire so much is Ai, whom I had the good fortune to dine with one evening when she came to visit Pittsburgh. Here is a link to more than a few of her poems posted by the Poetry Foundation.”

Read one of Maria McLeod’s persona poems, “Ghosts of Those,” in The Penn Review.

. . . . .

Maria McLeod is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Mother Want, winner of WaterSedge Chapbook Contest, judged by Kim Stafford, and Skin. Hair. Bones., published by Finishing Line Press. She’s also won the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Denise Duhamel, and the Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Prize, judged by Thisbe Nissen. Listen to Maria’s writing discussed by the editors of Painted Bride Quarterly on their Slush Pile Podcast, Episode 103, and hear McLeod read and discuss her work on Sound Poetry, Radio Tacoma, interviewed by David Gilmour. In addition to writing creatively, McLeod serves as a professor of journalism for Western Washington University.

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Maria McLeod photo by Stephen S. Howie
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April 8, 2019

This should be good. Poet/etc. Maria McLeod conducts a conversation with author Steve Hughes on the subject of his new collection, Stiff, and no doubt other topics. Here’s a brief introduction to the book:

With a hearty helping of Detroit grit, the stories in Stiff pay homage to a city turned upside down by economic abandonment. Steve Hughes pushes the boundaries of realism with characters that seem odd and otherworldly. In his Detroit, witches cast spells to improve their husbands, chickens grow from seeds, and lovers realize their sex organs have minds of their own. The characters in Stiff are all searching for something in each other — a certain wholeness or understanding, a place to rest and call home. In “Ripening,” a man and woman in an illicit affair witness their genitals leaving their bodies for a rendezvous. In “Dexter’s Song,” a drug-addicted saxophone player meets a bored suburban woman who gives him her ex-boyfriend’s sax, which unleashes a series of disasters but empowers him to play better than ever. Readers of contemporary fiction will enjoy this outrageous and evocative ensemble of stories.

Listen in to their conversation on Thursday, April 11, 2019, at 7:00pm, at Village Books in Bellingham.

strong voices

January 2, 2019

You’re invited to look and listen as a group of poets offer their words to accompany the Women Empowering Women exhibit at Allied Arts in Bellingham on Sunday, January 6, 2019, at 4:00pm. Featured poets include Nancy Canyon, Lois Holub, Jessica Lee, Maria McLeod, Rainbow Medicine-Walker, Dayna Patterson, Carla Shafer, Kami Westhoff, and Leslie Wharton.

The opening reception for the exhibit will be held during Gallery Walk, Friday, January 4, 6:00-8:00pm. The participating artists (Francie Allen, Mary Jane Davis, Patti Fairbanks, LaVera Langeman, Erin Libby, and Leslie Wharton) will also host a film and fundraiser for the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival on Thursday, January 17, 6:00-8:00pm, and a Tea Party in honor of the Women’s March on Saturday, January 19, at 2:00pm. The exhibit will remain on view through Saturday, January 26, 2019.

here comes (another) judge…

September 15, 2012

Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and RevelationsThe other day we posted a notice of Boynton judge Jeffrey Morgan’s upcoming appearance at poetrynight. Today’s post is to alert you to a pair of performances of the work of Maria McLeod, one of the judges for the 2011 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest.

This is a family-friendly blog, but be forewarned, Maria’s work is not for the kids and not for the faint-of-heart.

Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and Revelations is a performance of true stories about sex, birth, mothering, menopause, mammograms, wax jobs and what it means to be a woman.

Five women will perform dramatic readings of monologues created by Maria McLeod based on in-depth interviews she conducted with a mammography technician, a nun, an esthetician, a new mother, a transgendered woman, a Buddhist feminist and others. Their stories, told with sincerity, comedy and conviction, are about events that shape women’s lives.

Maria McLeod, who works as a freelance writer and documentarian, is also an assistant professor of journalism at Western Washington University. She is the author of three books of in-depth interviews and has worked as an oral historian for the Washington State Women’s History Consortium, Washington Secretary of State’s Oral History Program, the Washington State Dept. of Ecology, and on private contract. In addition, she publishes poetry and short fiction and has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes for creative works.

Directed by Karee Wardrop (a 2010 Boynton winner!), the readers are Marie Eaton, Sheila Goodwin, Pam Kuntz, Kari Severns and Sarah Eden Wallace.

There are two performances only: Friday, September 28, and Saturday, September 29, 2012, at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven. Tickets are $15 and are available at Village Books and online through Brown Paper Tickets. A portion of the proceeds go to Womencare Shelter. The Friday performance will be ASL interpreted by Lori Abrams and Kathleen Morris.

Find out more about Body Talk on Facebook.

FLAWED by Andrea Dorfman
On May 1, we posted about postcards and a whimsical postcard-making Rube Goldberg machine. In response, Maria McLeod, herself a poet, a principal and partner in How Loud Media and a former judge in the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest, suggested we scurry over to YouTube to view the short animated film, FLAWED, by Andrea Dorfman. Abundantly demonstrating the power of the postcard, this brilliant, poignant and profound piece of film-making is definitely worth 12 minutes of your time. Thanks, Maria!

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