with Maxine Rose Munro:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Maxine: I started writing and submitting in 2014. Prior to that, barring when I was a small child, I made poems up in my head a lot but never wrote anything down. As a child I loved to write poetry at school and memorised a whole book of Spike Milligan poems, a few of which I still know to this day. I also loved Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Maxine: I always say I prefer poems over poets. Give me an anthology over a collection any day. What motivates me is hearing a wide variety of approaches and voices. I find it so refreshing that poetry can be so varied, and that there is a place in it for me. Saying that I do find myself drawn to Scottish poets. I think, being Scottish myself, I recognise the lyricism and syntax in the poetry. Such poems always feel a bit like ‘home’ to me.
Q3: Any pivotal moments when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Maxine: As I said, I loved it as a child. Sadly, I did rather badly at poetry in high school – I think I rebelled against being told there were rules, and being made to feel I had to give up my childhood poets in favour of Slyvia Plath or Wilfred Owen. So I stopped writing. Then in 2013 I went through a very bad patch and, as so many people do, I turned to poetry. Right then I knew this was what I needed to do, and keep doing.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
This is a tricky one. I’m an introvert and prefer to hide my work in the shadows until I submit it. I have done a course with The Poetry Kit, which got me from wannabe to published. And the twitter poetry community is a huge support, even for someone who suffers from Social Media Anxiety, like I do. But most of all I think those editors who accepted my poems, and those who rejected my poems, helped me develop and grow. I jumped in the deep-end, and it is the editors who have helped me sink or swim. And, thankfully, I’ve not yet drowned.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
I grew up on the Shetland Islands, the most northerly part of the UK, and it is EVERYTHING to my writing. I always write as a Shetlander adrift. I don’t know any other way. I was a particularly sheltered child – my dad was weaver, which sounds romantic, but meant we lived on the breadline and so holidays off the islands never happened. When I finally left, aged 18, I had never seen so many of the things people take for granted – tall trees, motorways, trains, cities, and so on. I still feel shocked by the difference all the time, decades later. The flip-side is I did take for granted things like seals, otters, northern lights, dark winters and white light summers, the sea, and the beauty of language.
Travels occasionally make it into my work, though rarely in a direct way. As someone who still finds mainland Scotland mind-blowingly different, travels further afield tend to overwhelm the poet in me. One exception is ‘Babel’, published by Fevers of the Mind and nominated for Best of the Net (thank you!). Situated in France, it is a poem about language and how it connects or separates us.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
This one is almost impossible to answer – I might give you a different answer if you ask me on another day.
But I would say that two poems spring to mind – ‘Mother Tongue’ (first published by Acumen, though it can also be found as part of Wave Five on the Iamb website, complete with reading), and ‘Sjusamillabakka’ (published by Fevers of the Mind). Both are poems about being caught between extremes.
‘Sjusamillabakka’ uses the metaphors of being caught between sea and land, one language and another, yet somehow never actually being properly in either, to talk about always feeling an outsider. And of course, there is a literal truth in the poem for me – I am caught between two languages, yet I never feel I belong to either.
Most people read ‘Mother Tongue’ as being about my parents. But although I wrote that story into the poem, that’s the one thing the poem isn’t really about! ‘Mother Tongue’ takes the ideas in ‘Sjusamillabakka’ further, into that of earth and sea; practicality and imagination; the concrete and the abstract. The poem has many layers built into it (some only visible to Shetlanders, such as the Shetlandic Scots language is one without a single abstract noun). At its heart ‘Mother Tongue’ is about the Shetland people, all these apparent dichotomies you will nevertheless find existing side by side within every single Shetlander there ever has been, or ever will be.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Maxine: Read! There can’t be a poet alive who wouldn’t put read high on their list. I like to go camping, spend time in the garden, watch history and science programmes on the tv. I’m also quite big on doing nothing. So many poems come out of a bout of sitting about doing nothing very much. Doing nothing is an under-rated pastime in my opinion.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
“For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea”
from maggie and milly and molly and may, by E. E. Cummings
As for from my own work, I used to think it was quite vain to quote your own lines. These days I realise that after all the work I put into them, enjoying them is no sin. But I have no favourites, it changes with my mood.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Poets just starting out, or those looking for a reader for a manuscript, should take a look here
My prices range from free to very reasonable, and I have had very positive feedback about my feedback!
Bio: Maxine Rose Munro is a Shetlander adrift on the outskirts of Glasgow. She writes in both English and her native Shetlandic Scots, and is widely published in the UK and beyond, both
in print and online, including in Acumen; Ink, Sweat and Tears; and Southlight. Find her here