Maggie Kennedy

Pine Row Issue No. 5 Summer 2022 - Featured Poet

Only fools seek signsin the elapsing days of August, crickets on rewind,humidity’s woolen drag, squirrels draped as ifdead over branches in the unmoving canopy.I squat between garden rows, a supplicant from the frostyhollows of central air. It’s been weeks since I’ve beenoutside other than passing door to car, car to door.There’s a kind of poverty in diligence. The way one check markseizes another. Between scrounging, the hazy light shifts, and it’s timeto harvest what I missed ripening. Tomatoes overrun their cages,hairy stalks swabbing my arms. Into my mouth, I tossa cherry, and the ball splits its skin, exploding seedsand flesh against my teeth. There is something morethan sweetness here. In the aftertaste,a tartness that bristles. Only fools seek wisdom inwasps buzzing split squash, a striated sky staring muteat me kneeling bereft, bounty stretching my shirttails.I don’t realize I’m crying until the salt reaches my lipsand something loosens in me I didn’t know I was holdingback. You again. If I say I believewill you help me believe? I used to ride thermals of hymns,fashion papier-mâché miracles. I miss that freckled girl. But her Godwould bore me short of an hour. Is that why you only give me halfanswers? A knot of sparrows tugging me up only to unravel. I carrymy pickings inside, screen door latching. For hours, the scent of stalks,pungent, acrid, honest infuses my clothes,clings to my skin until I strip to shower offthe reminder I need saving.

Interview with Maggie Kennedy

by Pine Row Editorial Board

How did you get started as a poet?

I began writing as a young girl, thanks to my mother’s encouragement. I had a very bad speech problem and I wrote stories about animals and insects who did not fit in (much like the “Ugly Duckling”). I remember one story was called “The Ladybug Who Had No Spots.”

My college roommate, the wonderful writer Michelle Mitchell-Foust, encouraged me to take a poetry writing class with her. We were lucky to be taught and tutored by the treasured poet Bruce Guernsey who opened up the world of poetry to me.

Bruce taught me many lessons about poetry. One that I think about a lot is that “the best poetry walks the line of sentimentality.” It’s a very hard thing to write a poem that touches people but is not sentimental.

Favorite quote?

I recently put a stickie note above my desk with a quote attributed to William James: “I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.”

It reminds me to do the things that make me happy, which can include writing (when I manage to get out of my own way and let the words flow).

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I have a several hills of books in my bedroom. This past week, I have been re-reading The Icemaker Sings and Other Poems by Andres Montoya, a magnificent poet who died too young. I’m also reading the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which reads like poetry in many places.

Advice to someone just starting to write poetry?

Give it up for a time. Try not to write poetry for weeks or months.

If you start to feel unhinged, half-baked, disconnected from your soul, then you may be a poet. Start to write again on a regular basis. If you start to feel yourself again, then you have to stick with it. You have no choice. It’s who you are.

Anything else you'd like us to know? (personal website, upcoming reading or new work, etc.)

I’d like to thank the LaGrange Writers Group for their help in refining my poem “Bumper Crop.” It’s wonderful to have a group of fellow writers to laugh and share with.

Maggie Kennedy’s poems have appeared in Epiphany, Meat for Tea, Cloudbank, Atticus Review, and other publications. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family and works as a freelance writer and editor.