A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Mary J. Oliver

with Mary J. Oliver

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Mary: Over ten years ago, when I was sixty. My background had been in the visual arts. But something very dark happened, triggering a desire to find out who my father was … a mysterious presence in my life. So I started researching and, over a ten-year period, it turned into a book that surprised me by getting published and it’s now being made into a stage play and a film. So it’s never too late!

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Mary: Too many to mention. I read very widely. But I’ve not studied literature academically. I just read and absorb. Read and absorb. And by some process of osmosis, I think I have been influenced by those I love most. A book I read recently (after my own book was published ) was ‘A Month in Sienna’ by Hisham Matar and I just cannot stop rereading it. I can’t get enough of it. It’s mysterious and wonderful, sensitive and profound beyond words, and somehow, I feel, it would be relevant to everyone, if only they read it.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Mary: Always wanted to be one or the other. But it wasn’t until a traumatic event in the family occurred that I felt driven to write about it. I hadn’t planned on publishing it, just wanted to do some research. And it grew. I was in my 60s by then.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Mary: Locally, I was influenced by the poet Penelope Shuttle. She liked the poetry I was using in my memoir and suggested I recast more of the prose as poetry. Which I did. It enable me to distill my material to its essence, which I think is crucial to the book’s success. Thank you Penny!

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Mary: I grew up in Cornwall, UK, but spent my young adulthood raising my two daughters in Scotland. I adore both places.
I travelled to Canada and Italy while researching ‘Jim Neat’; that was pretty influential obviously.
I’ve travelled and worked in Ghana and Himachel Pradesh which influenced my artwork considerably.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Mary: Jim Neat

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Mary: Boxing. Walking. Chilling with partener, friends, family. Photography. Travel (before Covid). Table tennis. Scrabble. But I love my work so much, I’m incredibly happy doing that!

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?


From ‘Bliss in Cape Town 1921:
I done find Jim in dockyard
lying on shed floor. He look scare,
I close door gentle.
No worry, I say, I call Bliss,
an I kiss him rose flower mouth.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Mary: No new book. I put everything into Jim Neat. But I have reverted to making visual work which I’m combining with text – and working collaboratively with a group of artists based in the SW and the NE of the UK. Very exciting.

Mary J. Oliver | Facebook

www.serenbooks.com/author/mary-j-oliver (publisher)

https://t.co/6gPQytKunm?amp=1 (Guardian poem of month)

www.buzzsprout.com/411730/2265008 (podcast)

www.jimneat.com  (website)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBDTo-1fK2M (Seren interviews)https://bit.ly/3lkXZNN (Canadian radio broadcast)

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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