Interview posted July 18, 2014


Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Momma, aka Michele McDannold


Blot Lit ReviewsJulie

Michele McDannold, Momma to those she has helped along the way, has been an avid ally of writers struggling to find a home outside of  the popular marketplace. She is the founder  of The Literary Underground , a grassroots effort to bring writers and the small press together through collaboration and events. Her newest endeavor, This is Poetry, gathers talented poets for an online anthology. The project has moved forward and will be in print on August 2. In conjuction, McDannold plans an enormous event  for the release of the first volume of This is Poetry; in addition, her first full length collection of poetry, Stealing the Midnight from a Handful of Days, will also be realeased. Blotterature cannot be more excited for all of Momma’s accomplishments and wish her the best of luck. The interview below will give you more insight into the working mind of Michele McDannold.

Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your writing.

I live in downstate Illinois, a short twenty minute drive from the very small, rural town I grew up in. Jacksonville, or Jhole as I like to call it, is basically just a larger version of my hometown with a few modern conveniences like Wal-Mart and cable broadband.

There are some beautiful places here, country roads all around that work better than Xanax when it all gets too much. Good people too. Poor mostly, so poor they don’t even know they’re poor. When you grow up in a small town, even if you hate everyone around you, you’re still in it together. At least, that was my experience. Some of the best people I know are rednecks, trailer trash, outlaw criminal castaways. I put them on the chopping block out of love. Anyway, I suppose this place and all about it, is home in a way no other place can ever be for me. Good, bad and ugly, it’s my point of view and I imagine it always will be to some extent no matter where I go.

How do you generate new ideas for your work?

Often the poems drop in the brainpan in a flash–complete–with minimal editing required. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Living life generates work, I guess. Sometimes it starts with one line or thought that gets stuck in my head until I write it down and it spills from there. I used to get really worried when I didn’t write for a while, as if I never would again. I don’t fuss over it much anymore but if I am thinking about it, it probably has been a while so I’ll sit down and just start writing anything. Grocery lists, letters, rants, randomness. Sometimes putting pen to paper is enough to get it going, like a nice strong cup of coffee in the morning. Nevermind. I change my answer. It’s all about the coffee.

When have you been most satisfied with your work?

Hmmm. Well, I dunno. I have issues with feeling satisfied. I was at a party recently when this hot little mama came up to me and said she heard me read my poems last year at a show and she really liked them. A spaced-out moment later, she told me I had really big tits and she would kinda like to touch them which she immediately did and ran off giggling. Basically the same thing… satisfaction with my own work is awkward and fleeting yet still kinda tingly.

Any feelings towards baseball?

I love baseball for almost purely nostalgic reasons. It’s best listened to over the radio with a cold beer or a night game but you must eat everything in sight, don’t forget the Cracker Jacks. Also, one could argue whether or not the Cardinals are the best, but the Cubs suck. That is a well-known fact.

What is your biggest pet peeve with writers, trends, publishing, etc. today?

My biggest pet peeve is without a doubt the ego on some of these writers. I understand that you need to believe in and be invested in your own work whether it’s your own writing or other publishing projects etc. I am guilty of getting busy and wrapped up in my own stuff, thoughtlessly neglecting what I feel is absolutely necessary for literature to thrive—to recognize and lift up other writers and writing. But to set about drawing imaginary lines in the sand, consciously undermining your fellow writers and ultimately limiting yourself as well, well that’s just ridiculous. I see it happen over and over again and some even make it work for them somehow. Still, I wonder… what kind of miserable fuck does one have to be to consider that a success.

I’m bothered by the extent that marketing, projecting an image (false or not) and networking are at play in what people read. I suppose it’s the reality of a saturated market working on a lazy public. The upside is that you don’t need a publishing conglomerate behind you to create a platform. Smart people with important things to say need to figure this out. Some really dumb people have already stumbled onto it and are using it to make potato salad. #helpamerika

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the biggest project and event I have taken on yet… “This Is Poetry.” It’s a four-year project to gather up some of the best poetry happening now and promote those writers and publishers doing it. Volume one of eight has just been completed and will be released on August 9th at a kick-ass event in Springfield, Illinois. Poets are coming in from all over to share their work and celebrate. We have great music and all kinds of fun stuff…comedy, drag queens, a PowerPoint presentation for punk mothers… good books, awesome books. I don’t know what else. It’s 3am and I’m delirious. The fact is, when these kind of creative people get in a room together, beautiful things happen. Sometimes frightening yet somehow necessary things which I cannot be legally held responsible for just sayin.

Surprisingly, I’ve also been writing a lot. For now, it goes in one pile or another until I have time to do something with it. hahahahahaha

What are you reading right now?

Besides textbooks and PR copy?…

Well, I’ve read my own manuscript about five bazillion times in the last couple of months… I would kind of just like to set it on fire. So very thankful for the most amazing work coming in for This Is Poetry which keeps me fairly busy but I’m also reading through the new issue of Red Fez and Justin Hyde’s An Elephant Hole from Interior Noise Press. Good stuff. Finished reading Bud Smith’s Everything Neon not long ago. I don’t know, he has this way of perfectly blending the fact of the matter into a dream sequence that is somehow realer than real.