Meet Your Local Poets: Spotlight on Mary McCue
Ivy resident poet Mary McCue is originally from Norfolk, Virginia. For many years she focused on her beloved violin and played in chamber ensembles. When hand surgery took her ability to play professionally, she moved to Charlottesville and studied poetry through coursework by teachers such as Charles Wright and Gregory Orr.
Q: Tell us how you began writing poetry.
Mary: I wrote poems in the beginning to describe pleasure or gratitude. I remember writing one to my dentist as thanks for never hurting me. My family loved sailing and after a particular, eventful day I wrote a poem that was published in the Chesapeake Bay magazine.
Q: And your first poem?
Mary: Here is my first real poem which I entered in a contest sponsored by Verve, a literary journal somewhere in California. I did this at a friend’s suggestion and it won first place with a prize of $50.00 and publication:
I live in a house with books
two pianos and back-steps
to the second floor. Someone
calls me downstairs with my violin.
I play like a garden rose
nodding on its slender stem
My mother smiles, herself
a velvet flower.
The others sip their whiskey.
At night, under the bedcovers, I read
about orphans. I begin at the end
when the child crouching in a corner
is finally loved.
Q: What makes a good poet?
Mary: Something has to burn in the heart. I’d say the engine of a good poet is an emotional one, and to write, get it out in whatever form, is relieving and often revealing. Reading poetry, not just the timeless poems like Wordsworth, Keats Goethe, and Dickinson, but forgettable ones is invaluable; seminars and workshops too, but expect to be humbled and surprised.
Q: Just for grins, what is your favorite curse word?
Mary: I wish I could spell the Japanese expletive my husband learned in the Navy. Sounds something like sockahocchi, definite, easy on the tongue and a substitute for shit which is definitely not musical.
Q: Influences? Mentors?
Mary: The most profound and richest influence on my poetry is music. I was born and bathed in it. I remember periods in my life when I knew I was sad but couldn’t cry. Instinctively I listened to an achingly beautiful violin sonata or a piece of chamber music to fill a room and bring forth tears.
Tell Me God
Why do we despise what we cannot stand
in the middle of—the day’s fire,
our own shadow, the sea’s trembling?
Every day things forgotten or unknown seep out
like pure waste. People and places turn away
from our closed faces and cloudy eyes.
I want it back, yesterday’s streets
the uninhabitable rooms and furnace roar
and, yes, the flow and swirl of grief.
Mary McCue is the author of Raising the Blinds, available through Finishing Lines Press.
—Sharon Ackermon, Poetry EditorFollow us!
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