M. Ocampo McIvor

Pine Row Issue No. 6 Winter 2022-23 - Featured Poet


Auntie grabbed me

by the scruff of my neck

pulled me up to my toes

dragged me to the kitchen

shook me like a ragdoll

as if expecting loose change

to drop from a hateful, cheating

vending machine.


Her banshee battle cry

a question,

the wrath of a god betrayed.


She struck my cheek,

one, then the other.

The sting was even now

though her rageful eyes saw no justice—

the demons must be punished!


Her fist rammed the back of my neck

and my throat burned while her chest

heaved with an anger still unsatisfied

a festering hurt still unexpressed.

Now go back and kneel in front of the altar

and pray for the Lord’s forgiveness

you wretched child!

Frozen on her knees beside me

my sister whispered:

Shut up. Just shut up.

Auntie folded her hands in prayer,

calm once more, and hateful.

Now read properly this time.

My jaw teemed with spikes.

James 1, verse 26

I read from the Book, my voice a low growl.

I bit down to stop the acid

from scorching my eyes.

Righteous, I seethed to the Lord:

I do not forgive you.

Interview with M. Ocampo McIvor

How did you get started writing poetry?

In 6th grade, a boy I liked asked me to write a rhyming poem on a card he made for a girl *he* liked, heartbreakingly. Soon, other kids were asking me to write poems for their crushes. But it wasn't until high school and we were studying Shakespeare that I really fell in love with poetry, especially Shakespeare's sonnets. It struck me then how a line of words strung together a certain way could awaken a universe of emotions inside me. I wanted to move the mountains inside people like that.

Who has had the biggest impact on you as a poet?

When I graduated from high school I won the literary award, and as a prize, was given a book called Six Centuries of Great Poetry. I read that book front to back several times. I especially love the work of the Romantics, like Wordsworth and Tennyson. Because of this, the Romantic verse became my favorite style of poetry. But I am constantly evolving along with my surrounding culture and environment. In fact, I deem Eminem a great poet, as are Leonard Cohen and Fiona Apple. In terms of the biggest impact on me, there is not one "who" I can pin it on, but definitely at the start I would have to say Shakespeare.

What inspires your poetry?

Life! I'm a very sensual person, so anything that engages my senses: music, literature, art, nature. The adrenaline rush of cliff-jumping or doing something I'm afraid of or have never done before. The peace I feel gazing at a full moon by the water. The smell of the woods on a hike. The sound of crashing waves. The excitement at discovering something new. The joy and pleasure of spending time with friends. Even the rage I feel surrounding social injustice or my frustration around politics. Human suffering as well as human tenacity. The highs and lows of life. LOVE.

What is next for you?

My second novel will be published this spring 2023. It's called Who Knows You Best. It's about the consequences of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Most of all, it's about friendship. It has a lot of heart and a touch of magical realism. It even has some physics. I hope it makes you laugh, cry, rage out, but always always think, and in the end, sigh with hopefulness.

Anything else you'd like to share? (website, etc)

Yes! Please do read my first novel and tell me how I did: Ugly Things We Hide. I love the story--it's taboo, it's shocking, and very, very sensual (of course!). It follows a poor Hawaiian surfer who moves to the mainland and gets sucked into the bizarre life of a sex worker for the wealthy. It's at times dark and disturbing, but also heartbreaking, tender, and sweet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I labored writing it. You can find it for sale on Amazon.

M. Ocampo McIvor was born in the Philippines, raised in Toronto, Canada, and currently lives in Seattle. After a career in technology, Ocampo McIvor has returned to her roots to follow her calling in literature. Her work has been featured in The Bangalore Review, Burningword Literary, and Rigorous, among others. She is the author of Ugly Things We Hide. Her second novel will be published this spring 2023. It's called Who Knows You Best.