AGNI OnlineA Conversation with Meg Kearney
Interviewed by Alison Lanier

» Meg Kearney's AGNI Author Page and her other content at AGNI Online.

Alison Lanier: You use animals in your poems, sometimes invoking the grotesque and graphic, as in "Carnal," and sometimes, as in "Ode to the Parrot," to invoke "brilliant clown joy." What was it about birds that led you to use them as the basis of these two poems? Did 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names work as a jumping-off point for you, or was it something you found in the course of writing?

Meg Kearney: I never realized just how much animals play into my poems until someone who's read Home By Now pointed it out to me. That's certainly the case at the moment, as I'm working on a manuscript of poems completely inspired by birds. I adore a good prompt, and so am using the descriptions in 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names as my creative spark, steadily working through all 100 birds in this wonderful book by Diana Wells. All the poems aren't necessarily about the birds themselves, but the birds are my jumping-off point, as you say.

AL: You're also the author of several works for young adults -- The Secret of Me, The Girl in the Mirror. As the director of the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing program, one of the few MFA programs with a concentration in writing for young adults and children, what do you feel the MFA structure does for authors writing for younger audiences? Could you give us insight into the culture of the program?

MK: Yes, as someone who also writes for young adults and children, I couldn't found an MFA Program that didn't offer a concentration in that genre! One thing I love about the program's structure is that students are able to take classes across genres -- the fiction writers can take classes on picture books, the creative nonfiction writers can take poetry classes, etc. -- as we all have something to teach each other, and so many of us write in more than one genre anyway. The low-residency structure benefits aspiring writers no matter what their focus; I think it reflects the writing life more closely than full-residency programs do, as our art requires that we spend much of our time working in solitude.

AL: As someone who writes verse novels as well, how do you find yourself working with a narrative line within your short poetry versus in your longer work?

MK: The novels I've written have been in verse, so within them I'm thinking about the narrative line of individual poems as well as the narrative arc of a body of work. The novels need a beginning, middle, and end, and any "holes" in the storyline need to be filled. While there are "leaps" within a verse novel -- each poem representing a scene and/or building a character -- I think perhaps there is more room for leaps within a single narrative poem, but less space (and need) for character building.