Monday, January 19, 2009

Wendy Mnookin

Karen Rigby of Emprise Review interviewed the poet Wendy Mnookin.

Rigby's introduction and one exchange from the Q & A:

Wendy Mnookin is the author of four poetry collections, The Moon Makes Its Own Plea, published in October by BOA Editions, What He Took and To Get Here, also from BOA, and Guenever Speaks, a collection of persona poems. She has recent poems in the Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner and Salamander. She has won a Book Award from the New England Poetry Club and a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mnookin graduated from Radcliffe College and the Vermont College MFA Program. She teaches poetry at Emerson College and at Grub Street, a non-profit writing center in Boston. Her poetry website is

Mnookin and her husband live in Newton, Massachusetts, where they raised their three children. Besides reading and writing, she loves walking, gardening, and cooking.

Many of the poems use domestic scenes or natural images but are not only about daily life. There seems to be an underlying tension, a waiting in the dark or hesitancy. What do you make of the speaker in these poems?

On one level, this tension refers to my own life experience. My father died when I was two. He and my mother and I were in a car accident; we lived and he died. This sudden loss (which I write about in What He Took) has been central to my life. My way of being in the world is filtered through an awareness that you lose the people you love. Of course on some level we all know this—we are all mortal—but I think losing my father at a young age hard-wired the experience of loss into my brain. In some primal way I know that loss happens, that it can happen unexpectedly, that it doesn’t go away.

I did not explain the back story in The Moon Makes Its Own Plea (though I refer to it in “The Way Back”) because I think everyone lives with a sense of threat, whether it’s a fear of losing someone they love or the more generalized threat of living in the world with all its dangers. The challenge becomes how to live in relationship to others despite the risk of loss.

Perhaps, then, I would describe the speaker in these poems as a woman trying to sort out identity and relationship while acknowledging the inevitability of loss.
Read the complete interview.

Visit Wendy Mnookin's website and check out Garrison Keillor reading one of her poems.

Writers Read: Wendy Mnookin.

--Marshal Zeringue