teaches writing, humanities, and public speaking courses at Saint Leo University. Before academia, Glover worked as a writer and editor for more than fifteen years. She is currently coeditor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review, and her own work has been widely published in various journals and anthologies. Her first full-length poetry collection is Let Go of the Hands You Hold: Poems (Mercer University Press, 2021). Learn more about her at www.marissaglover.com.
How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Thank you for asking me these questions. I’m so grateful for your time and interest—it really means a lot to me.
The book’s official release date was April 1, 2021, so it’s not had much time to change my life. However, being offered a book contract by a university press changed my life in that it showed me that dreams can come true and raised my confidence level as a writer and poet to new levels. I will forever be grateful for this gift that publisher Marc Jolley and his team at Mercer University Press gave to me.
The poems in Let Go of the Hands You Hold were a long time in the making and accurately reveal the kind of writer I am and the work I do. While I always hope to improve as a poet, these poems show me to be a writer for the page and a writer for the stage—and they are true to my voice. No matter the topic or form, these poems sound like me.
That said, the poetry feels different from what I’m writing now because this book is largely an angry lament about how disappointing life in this world can be. My next book is less angry, though still biting at times (it’s my voice, what can I do?), and less a tome of grief. Still, there is humor in this book—I’m a firm believer that we need to laugh to survive. Sometimes it is a dark humor, but the laugh can get us through the night.
How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I’m not sure. I read a ton of novels at a young age—lots and lots of books with horses as the main character. But when I started writing in my teens, I started with poetry. In my twenties, I took some time off from creative writing (decades, actually) and wrote academic and nonfiction only. When I came back to creative writing, I naturally returned to poetry first. I like the economy of it. The whimsy. The musicality. The rhythm. The romance.
Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
For me, a poem usually begins with an idea. Occasionally, I’ll get a word or phrase or line stuck in my head, and I’ll write it down so I can revisit it later. I’ll mull the idea or line for a while, and when I’ve ample to time to wrestle it onto paper, I will write a first draft. I won’t send a poem out for publication until it’s gone through multiple drafts and feels “finished,” but I put that in quotation marks because it seems my poems are rarely ever finished. I usually revise them again before including them in a book manuscript, and I may tweak them again during the proof stages. I’m happy when an editor or publisher tells me enough, because I can get a tad obsessed with making a poem “perfect.” I don’t know that I’ll ever be satisfied with my work. But I can say that this particular book took shape after I’d published about 80 individual poems and could see a connective thread in about 50 of those pieces. I then wrote the rest of the poems to fit the book. My next book was a book from the start. Who knows what manuscript number three will be?
Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
One of the courses I teach at Saint Leo University is a class
on public speaking (a class I created actually); and I’ve given several
lectures/presentations/workshops on poems for the page vs. poems for the stage
that offer tips for public readings. So I guess you could say I’m a fan of
Other people often call me a performance poet, but this book hopefully captures both sides of me. I write poems for the stage—and readers can listen to me recite those spoken word pieces because of the QR codes in my collection—but I also write poems for the page, which are meant to be pondered and sat with and read more than once for deeper understanding.
I would be honored to do any sort of readings for this book. In the past, I’ve often performed at concerts, conferences, retreats, open mics, etc. and find the experience to be both humbling and exhilarating. Folks can check out this video performance and interested folks can email me at MarissaGlover@outlook.com.
Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
The only question I’m trying to answer with the work in this book is Why. Why. Why. Why. Which is probably the question I’ve been trying to answer about everything my entire life. I’ve studied and taught theory, but I’m not a big fan of trying to insert theory into my creative work. I will leave that to the plethora of scholars infinitely brighter than I, those much more qualified to analyze literature.
What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
To answer this question, I share my poem “Ghostwriters” published in The Night Heron Barks. This poem is not in my collection, but I think it fits here well.
Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I myself have been working as an editor for more than 20 years now, so I definitely think editing is essential—the more eyes, the better. But I also know that some people don’t value the work of an outside editor—at least not the way they do a graphic artist or web designer. I often encourage my professional writing students to learn as many skills as they can (photography, photo editing, layout and design, etc.) because if folks only have the budget for one or the other, most people will think they can speak and write the language well enough to proceed to print, and they’ll opt to pay for an artist or designer with computer skills rather than an editor.
All of that said, nothing is essential. Beneficial, yes. Essential, no. People should write because they want to write and say what they want to say. Readers can decide what they want to read.
What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
An invaluable advice was given to me by esteemed poet and critic Dana Gioia, a professor of mine during undergrad. He told me to read three times as much as I write. And to go live life so that I’d have something to write about. I took his advice very seriously, and very literally.
What fragrance reminds you of home?
Anything connected to Christmas. Spices, evergreens, firewood.
David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Everything influences me. I take inspiration from whatever I see or hear or taste or touch or smell or sense in the world. Lots of my poems react to world events; other poems feature scientific theories; of course my poems respond to art and nature and music too. This book also alludes to ancient texts like the Old and New Testament, as well as Greek mythology. You’ll notice pop culture references too—I teach humanities courses because I love it all, everything. I love to read about it, learn about it, teach about it, write about it.
What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I would like take a train ride up the west coast of North America and stay in a cabin somewhere wild. With my poetry, I’d love to partner with a creative team to make short movie-like videos for my spoken word pieces. If you know anyone . . .
If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Well, my occupation is actually teacher (used to be professional writer—marketing, ghostwriting, editing, etc.—before I transitioned into academia), and most days find me very grateful for my career. I used to want to be in politics or on the stage, but I also used to want to be a quarterback in the NFL, so . . . who knows what I would be if given the chance. This reminds me of a recently published poem—one that will likely be in my next book: “Self-Concept” from The Adriatic.
What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I joke that writing is cheaper than therapy, but it’s true. I don’t know that I could stop writing, even if I wanted to, though there are many other things I wish I could do instead—like paint, cook, garden, sing, dance . . . my artistic talents are limited so I use them the best I can. Ultimately, I write to tell a story I think ought to be told. I feel like the epigraph in my book sums up and explains the impulse perfectly.
What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Sadly, I’ve not read much over the past year. The pandemic and surrounding fallout has left me less focused than usual, so I haven’t read much—or watched much, really. I’m always a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Dead Poets Society always moves me.
What are you currently working on?
I recently completed my second poetry manuscript and have sent it off for consideration. Fingers crossed. I’m currently on a personal writing hiatus as I focus on teaching (and grading!) and freelance client projects. After a brief respite, I hope to return to my poetry projects—several chapbook ideas are brewing—and also write some academic articles, publish some popular articles, and relaunch Friday Night Open Mic, the community event series I pioneered several years ago that was sadly affected by the pandemic. Friday Night Open Mic is a welcoming creative community that adds beauty to the world—F.N.O.M. for short, where all it takes is courage to be FNOMenal!
Thanks again for this interview. I’m grateful.