A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Lisa Mary Armstrong

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Lisa: I’ve always been an avid reader. My mum would take us to the local library every week which I loved. I read a lot of Roald Dahl and Enid Blayton when I was younger and then moved on to the “Sweet Valley High” series by Frances Pascal and “The Vampire Diaries” when it wasn’t as well known. I was bit of a romantic soul and starting writing teenage love stories in my first year of high school which probably weren’t very good.

Q2: Who is your biggest influence today?

Lisa: I am an eclectic reader and it needs to move me. Right now, I am a huge fan of Louise Peterkin whose debut collection “The Night Jar” is simply stunning. I love Mary Oliver, Dorothy Molloy, Tishani Doshi is a tremendous talent and my good friend Elizabeth M. Castillo writes so beautifully. Being the romantic that I am and having an appreciation for the Spanish and Greek language I just melt when I read the likes of Neruda and Cavafy.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?

Lisa: I grew up in a small town called Johnstone which is in Scotland. I do tend to write about my childhood as we lived near the countryside, and I have very fond memories of Lochwinnoch where I spent a lot of time with my nana.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced your work/describe?

Lisa: I have traveled all over Greece and it’s a country that I love to visit. I’ve always been interested in Greek mythology and how women are represented in Greek myth so it does feature a lot in my writing.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/poet?

Lisa: I suppose I’ve always wanted to be a writer because I don’t believe there is anything better out there than seeing something you’ve created come to life on a page. I didn’t get into poetry until I was much older. I’ve only been writing poems since December 2020 when lockdown happened.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Lisa: I grow roses and enjoy getting out into the garden. I play the piano and music has always been such a big part of my life. I’m also a mother of five so that keeps me on my toes and relaxing isn’t something that I’m able to do often.

Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work?

Lisa: I’m working on my first collection and have a few poems that are due to be published in The View Magazine which provides a platform for criminalised women and campaigns for social justice https://linktr.ee/The_View_Magazine

Q8: Favorite lines from your poems/songs, or favorite piece from another?

Lisa: My favorite line is taken from a Mary Oliver poem “Tell me what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” She had such a wonderful way of looking at the world and her poetry helped me through some really difficult times during the pandemic. I emerged with a greater appreciation of nature and felt more connected to the world.

New and Selected Poems: 2: Oliver, Mary: 9780807068878: Amazon.com: Books

Q9: Who has helped you the most with writing?

Lisa: I think just having the support of the poetry community and having my work published has really spurred me on and great journals like “Fevers of the Mind” provide a wonderful platform for poets of all ages and abilities like me. I love my Twitter friends in the poetry community. Elizabeth M. Castillo is just a phenomenal writer and genuinely one of the most beautiful and supportive people I’ve ever met. Elizabeth Bates who runs Dwelling Lit is another kind and gorgeous person, Anisha Kaul, Annick Yerem and Zahirra Dayal. There are just too many to mention.

2 New Poems by Elizabeth Castillo : New Start & Black Dolls for Christmas

3 Poems by Anisha Kaul : “At the Dead of Night” “Flight of Tragic Wings” “A Commotion of the Holy Ones”

Bio: A writer/poet/mother living in Scotland. A big fan of Greek Mythology and feminist reimaginings, old Hollywood Actresses/films, the theatre, ballet and music. I’ve always written creatively for the catharsis and only started tinkering with poetry in the pandemic. My inspiration comes from poets such as Mary Oliver, Carol Ann Duffy, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Anne Stevenson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Molloy, Derek Mahon, Dylan Thomas – the list is endless. To read more about Lisa go to her website at https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website

Links to Lisa Mary Armstrong’s #Poetsinthepandemic @earlgrey79_lisa Interviews from her blog

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series with Julie Larick @crookyshanks

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-1 with Katie Manning @whaleroadreview

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-2 with Kathleen McCoy @Kathleenmccoypoet

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-3 with Nikki Dudley @nikkidudley20

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-1 with Elizabeth Bates @ElizabethKbates

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-4 with Ness Owen @ness_owen

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-5 with Mary Ford Neal @maryfordneal

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-6 with Fred Shrum III @fshrum

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-7 with Jared Beloff @Read_instead

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-8 with Elizabeth M. Castillo @emcwritespoetry

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-9 with Annick Yerem @missyerem

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-10 with Lujain Benatia @LUjain13_

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-2 with Kayla M King @KaylaMKing

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-3 with Diane Elayne Dees @womenwhoserve

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-4 with Anisha Kaul @anishakaul9

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-5 with Tina Anton @Dean_is_Batman

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poetsinthepandemic with Ioanna Papadopoulou

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poetsinthepandemic-1 with Michelle Moloney King @moloneyking

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poetsinthepandemic-2 with Theresa Rodriguez @thesonnetqueen

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poetsinthepandemic-3 with Louise Peterkin @Louisepeterkin

For more of Lisa’s site click below

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/blog

Bio: A writer/poet/mother living in Scotland. A big fan of Greek Mythology and feminist reimaginings, old Hollywood Actresses/films, the theatre, ballet and music. I’ve always written creatively for the catharsis and only started tinkering with poetry in the pandemic. My inspiration comes from poets such as Mary Oliver, Carol Ann Duffy, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Anne Stevenson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Molloy, Derek Mahon, Dylan Thomas – the list is endless. To read more about Lisa go to her website at https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website

Lisa Mary Presents: The Poets in the Pandemic Interview Series: Elizabeth M. Castillo (March 4, 2021)

About: Elizabeth M. Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer and language teacher living in Paris with her husband and two children. Elizabeth grew up in the Congo/London/Mauritius, speaks a few languages, and studied Latin American History & Politics, & Modern Languages in the UK, and spent a year teaching and researching in Santiago, Chile. @EMCWritespoetry shopega.wixsite.com/emcwritespoetry

  1. Do you come from a literary background?

My parents are missionaries, so we traveled around a lot growing up before settling in Mauritius. Both are avid readers: mum loves romance, non-fiction, memoirs, and my dad has eclectic taste and likes the classics. As a family, we always give each other books as presents, and my sister has gone on to become a best-selling author. I’m so proud of her!

  1. What did you enjoy reading as a child?

I was always given books and told to read – it was never a choice really. I mostly read classics like, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, Jane Eyre, Beatrix Potter, and A Book of Nonsense’ by Edward Lear. My parents encouraged me to read poets such as Kipling, TS Elliot and Emily Dickinson.

  1. How did you get started as a writer?

After going through a series of difficult personal situations and losses over the last two years I decided to start taking my writing seriously (although I have always written in some form or another.) It was odd how I got into it. I caught Covid and was very ill, stuck in bed for ages, so I spent time rereading and watching old period dramas and all the classics (Richard Armitage is such a snack!). I discovered fan fiction and got in touch with a writer on Twitter who encouraged me to write my own retelling of Gaskell’s “North and South”, and a year later she’s one of my best friends and biggest supporters!

Ever since then words have been falling out of me and I discovered that the well was deeper than I ever thought- that there was so much I could write about, even outside of fiction: PPD, anxiety, travel, language, motherhood, ethnicity and race – that I had a voice. It was then that I decided to take it seriously and I’ve received a lot of encouragement and support from my husband, family, friends, and the online writing community.

  1. Who are your favourite poets/writers and what are you reading now?

I still enjoy classical poets and writers such as William Blake, CS Lewis’The Great Divorce is my absolute favourite!, the Brontës, Austene and Edward Lear. More modern writers and poets, or 20th century at least – Gabriel García Marquez is a favourite of mine, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Roque Dalton, Warsan Shire, Angela Carter (I’m reading the ‘The Bloody Chamber’ at the moment) and Ijeoma Umebinyuo – there are too many to name. I recently bought ‘The Mum Poet Club Guide to Self-care’ which was also really very good.

  1. Where does your inspiration come from and do you find writing easy?

Someone on Twitter recently asked ‘what is a theme that reoccurs in your poetry’ and I jokingly said “me”! I guess that’s because I feel more comfortable writing about what I know personally and the world around me: motherhood, languages and language, those I’ve loved and lost, depression, and living as someone who is mixed raced which has its challenges. I hardly ever lack inspiration- what I lack is organisation! And time! I do procrastinate and tend to leave things unfinished which I’m working on. Now I try to schedule time to focus on my writing.

  1. Do you encounter any specific challenges as a writer?

I can find endless sources of inspiration but it’s time, energy, and my busy lifestyle that make it challenging. I teach, and home-school my children (by choice), and run a small, language services business. Any time I am able to carve out for creating is rejuvenating and refreshing.

  1. What are you working on right now and do you have any projects in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?

I’m working on a number of projects – a children’s poetry podcast, picture books, baby board books, a webcomic about PPD, poetry and short fiction collections, and a handful of plays and novels.. I also have several poems coming out between now and April with Tuna Fish Journal, Pollux Journal, Fevers of the Mind Press, and three trilingual poems with Authylem. The first poem I ever had accepted was “Crocodiles” by TunaFish Journal (which was recently published with a video reading) it’s about the pain of miscarriage and grief.

Previously I self-published a fan fiction retelling under a different pen name and would like to put together a bilingual collection as I love experimenting with language and languages. I would also like to write and produce a film back home in Mauritius.

  1. Any advice for aspiring poets/writers out there?

I’d say do the work, write the words, and most of all: be nice.

  1. What are your favourite literary magazines at the moment?

Selcouth Station Press is fresh, inclusive and fun, Pollux, Authylem, Harana poetry, Feral. I recently discovered Dreams Walking and Hellebore which is an American lit mag that creates space for underrepresented creatives.

“Is it wrong to fancy Daddy Pig? What a baritone!
I sink my teeth into their stodgy sweetness.
Perhaps I will find my voice in amongst the serotonin rush.”

Two poems that resonate:

You have chosen “Like You” by Roque Dalton and “Mum Poem” which was written by you and first published by Selcouth Station Press. Can you tell me a little bit more about why you chose them?

“Like You” is a translation of the original Spanish “Como tú” and doesn’t do it justice in my opinion. It was given to me by someone very special to me, and since deciding to take my poetry seriously I find myself coming back to it time and time again. I just love the simplicity of the Spanish language and the poem is about how poetry is for everyone- it’s part of life, “I believe the world is beautiful and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.”

“Mum poem” is the first poem I wrote about motherhood. I’d never really thought about it before. I was in the garden with my girls planting anemones and came in and started writing it. It’s about losing yourself as a person when you become a mother, and getting lost in the business of homemaking and childrearing, and thinking, where has the time gone? where the heck have I gone?

Mum Poem by Elizabeth Castillo

I dig my hands deep into the soil-
soft and cold, and crumbling.
There are anemones to plant, and lavender,
and the moss you scratched up from the forest.
Then, suddenly: the cat's tail! The bumblebee!
A sword fight with the trowel! And then, again, you're hungry.
I dig my hands into the dirt,
to see if I can find a piece of me.

Clamped to my leg.
The deadly, peanut butter chokehold.
I eat chocolate pressed up against the bathroom door.
How many of you are there? It feels like 7, but i'm told I've only had 2.
My mouths holds more Lindor than it ever has before.
And now, I heard crocs pounding on the stone tile floor.
Like the last words spoken in the Mines of Moria,
I whisper to myself, "they are coming."
Moments later I count out 10 marshmallows.
Is it wrong to fancy Daddy Pig? What a baritone!
I sink my teeth into their stodgy sweetness.
Perhaps I will find my voice in amongst the serotonin rush. 

Evening comes, la hora ingrata,
thankless hour, literal crunchy crunch time.
I marvel at your productivity:
twenty questions in half as many minutes,
the upside-down turning of evening space you occupy,
and your ability to forgive my bad days with such aplomb.
And the mustard? Where's the spotty mustard?
In the fridge door, where we last put it,
where it always is! Where it belongs!
My soup is cold, and too thick to show me a reflection.
I study it all the same, wondering where my face has gone.

Alone, and gloriously so, I ache
in places and parts I have never heard of.
I feel I have done nothing, but all day I have not stopped.
You are alive, clothed, schooled and fed.
I should go to bed, but perhaps I'll stare at my screens a little too long. 
Things wobble now, that did not used to.
Like Bono, I haven't found what I feel I've lost.
But it is there, right there, for this chapter, for this reason:
smeared on the wall; in my panda eyes;
in the soup; the sweeties. There, in the soil;
in your sticky faces; the dinner left untouched...

I love you so much! I love you so much!

But, oh, how much more do I love when you're asleep!

This interview is from Lisa Mary Armstrong's page see below.
https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series-8

Also, check out these poems from Elizabeth on Fevers of the Mind.

2 New Poems by Elizabeth Castillo : New Start & Black Dolls for Christmas

Lisa Mary Presents: Poets in the Pandemic Blog Series: Interview with Julie A Larick

ABOUT: Julie is an eighteen year old Serbian-American poet/fiction writer from Northeast Ohio.  She attends The College of Wooster where she is majoring in English literature and minoring in Spanish.   


1.       Do you come from a literary background?

No I don't my mum is a vision aid specialist and my dad an analyst in progressive car insurance although my parents have always been very supportive of my writing.  I was encouraged by people like my 2nd grade teacher and teachers in high school which gave me the gave me the confidence I needed to continue with my writing. 


2.       What did you enjoy reading as a child? 


I used to read authors like Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan, J K Rowling and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 


3.     How did you get started as a writer?


When I was younger I'd write and illustrate books.  Currently I'm a college freshman at the College of Wooster and the creative writing manager for The Incandescent Review.  I'm also interning at GASHER Journal editing prose 


4.     Who are your favourite poets/writers and what are you reading now?


Right now I'm reading the Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  Poetry wise I like to read a lot of what my peers have published because I can relate to what they write about.  I also like Elizabeth Bishop, Jericho Brown and Jean Valentine.


5.      Where does your inspiration come from and do you find writing easy?


I'm inspired mostly by my teachers and writing coaches.  I tend to write more visceral poems and talk about my own experiences.  I like motifs about nature as I have a bird feeder in my back yard and we have a lot of wildlife e.g. bunnies, squirrels.  I don't write about the pandemic specifically but my poetry is indirectly prompted by feelings like isolation and longing.  

  

6.      Do you encounter any specific challenges as a young writer?


I tend to only submit to teen lit mags because I find the issues more relatable.  I also feel that I am at the same skill level as other contributors as I am relatively new to the literary world. 


7.       What are you working on right now and do you have any projects in the pipeline 
you'd like to share with us?


I have some poetry coming out this year in The Hearth Magazine Issue IV, "Do You Have a Plan, The Augment Review Issue I, "Tell Me Something Real" and Lanke Review Issue I "It's Only Tuesday". 


8.      Goals and aspirations?


I want to edit in the future and keep on writing.  


9.       Any advice for aspiring poets/writers out there?


Probably stay off of social media as it can be discouraging for younger writers just starting out.  You should give yourself time to develop your confidence and ability.  Don't compare yourself to others and write what you want.  When submitting your work to lit mags read past issues and stick to the theme if there is one. 


10.     What are your favourite literary magazines at the moment?


I'm a big fan of perhappened as I love their mission statement, Indigo Lit, Adroit Journal and Ogma Magazine.


"I understand the brown tufted bird because he sings so softly"


Two poems that resonate:  


You have chosen The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop and Questions About The Big Bang  a poem you wrote which was  first published in @ogmamagazine.  Can you tell me a little bit more about why you chose these two poems in particular?  


The poem by Elizabeth Bishop was one of the first poems I analysed.  We were assigned to read it and looked at how the working parts fit together.  I loved the imagery used in the poem especially the lines, 


"While his Gills were breathing in 

the terrible oxygen 

- the frightening gills fresh and crisp with blood, 

that can cut so badly -

I thought of the coarse white flesh 

packed like feathers,

the big bones and the little bones,

the dramatic reds and blacks

of his shiny entrails,

and the pink swim-bladder

like a big peony."


I was inspired to write my poem after looking out of my window and seeing a bird sitting in my backyard on it's own.  I thought he looks so lonely and wondered what birds would think about the big bang if they had that ability.  I also love space documentaries and so all of this culminated in me writing Questions about the big bang. 



Questions About the Big Bang 

by Julie A Larick


How do I understand the brown tufted bird? 

The one that serenades you from your spindly backyard tree 

and sobs every freezing night under the half-moon glow, 

the sounds of Earth deafening, the pulley of light his 

weighted blanket, his tiny beak frosted from snow, 


the one that cries for the emptiness before 

The Big Bang because he was there,

 vat of open space stuck like  

a frozen telephone pole on my tongue 

and his fresh eyes saw only for the blank line, 

the composite of every base chemical and every  

word that would appear in every love poem  

not yet founded and still just  

empty.  

I understand the brown tufted bird because 

he sings so softly.

Original post from Lisa’s site below:

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/post/poets-in-the-pandemic-blog-series

About Interviewee Lisa Mary Armstrong & her site:

https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website/about-me

4 poems feature for Lisa Mary Armstrong

Frankly My Dear (previously published in Aurora Journal)

I’m a heroine waiting in the wings
for a Great Gatsby of a man
Heart teetering on the edge
Wuthering Heights

My life a sad old black and white movie
Rickety, running off the tracks
but I always dream in splendid technicolour

In my dreams
even the rain sings
bouncing melodiously off the ground
as we dance in time

We are Bonnie and Clyde tonight
snatching one last kiss
When the curtain twitches
I know it’s time to leave

Intermission …

I resume my role
the heroine tied to the rail-road tracks
hearing the warning chug of the steam engine
Panic rising!
Clark Gable is nowhere to be seen
Gone with the Wind

Now I must live out
that tired old trope,
the damsel in distress

Flaming Hearts

I never could tell if you were
The man of my dreams
Or the man in my dreams
But I’d pictured us
Two celestial planets
Orbiting each other’s
World before the fall

We had a quiet love
An easy alliance
In the bedroom was another matter
We’d wait until the dusk had fallen
Then combust in each other’s arms
Our skin tempered by our flaming hearts
This is how I really want to love you
I’d whisper

Lovers Graveyard

My heart is a graveyard
filled with those loves
I’ve buried
A landfill of lovers
long passed

Sometimes I’ll pause for a moment
and reminisce
the what ifs
Give thanks for
the lucky escapes
and mourn
the quietly unrequited

The one that still wanders
my heart
Day and night
Night and day
Sometimes I wish he’d leave
Sometimes I beg him to stay

And so, I lay a gilded wreath
At his feet
and a wild thorny rose
for the next lover
and the next

The False Messiah

The contractual agreement
Stated that you must love
Him in blind faith
And so, from that moment
You worshiped him dutifully
He was your God
And you his faithful servant

When night fell
And all your body craved was sleep
You were the selfless
Seductress shimmying into
The bedroom
Draping yourself across the marital bed
An offering to your Man God

After your children arrived
The hours and days shrunk
Cook clean rinse repeat
No mean feat but his
Wants and needs still
Came first and yours last

When you finally realised
He was no God
A false messiah
You confronted him
But he only shrugged and said

You put me on this pedestal I never claimed to be divine
The more I take the more you give
Dear wife of mine

Bio: Bio: A writer/poet/mother living in Scotland. A big fan of Greek Mythology and feminist reimaginings, old Hollywood Actresses/films, the theatre, ballet and music. I’ve always written creatively for the catharsis and only started tinkering with poetry in the pandemic. My inspiration comes from poets such as Mary Oliver, Carol Ann Duffy, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Anne Stevenson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Molloy, Derek Mahon, Dylan Thomas – the list is endless. To read more about Lisa go to her website at https://lisaarmstrong2179.wixsite.com/website

feature photo by Davide Ragusa