Diving into the poetic mind

Poet Mary Biddinger read her poems and answered questions from students on Sept. 16

By Dario Rangel Condor

Mary Biddinger stopped by FSW’s Lee campus on September 16 while on her Florida Literacy Coalition Writer’s Circuit through universities and colleges.

At FSW, Biddinger read pieces from two of her six poetry collections, “Small Enterprise” and “Partial Genius.” The poem’s language drove a sense of disassociation and loneliness. After reading, she held a lecture talking to students about her process and lessons that helped her keep writing throughout life.

The Florida Literacy Arts Coalition votes on two writers that local universities and colleges nominated to visit their campus. FSW nominated Biddinger and was ecstatic with the outcome.

Her message resonated with students and garnered a standing ovation.

“I thought everything she said was really helpful. I am an aspiring writer, but sometimes it feels like I don’t have enough time with school, work, and helping my mom with my siblings,” said FSW student Ashely Burrent. “Sometimes it’s too much, but knowing it’s ok not to always write, and using the moments I can to write, really opened my eyes to opportunities to write in my busy life.”

I asked Biddinger a few questions before her reading.

Rangel Condor: Can you elaborate on the sense of loneliness that your poems give off?

Biddinger: [The] sense of longing when you read the poems can trace back to when I was an adolescent.

Writing is something, for a lot of people, that makes them feel less alone, and a lot of times as writers we feel like we have to put the best version of ourselves forward, but a lot of us are lonely, sad and are yearning for something, even though we are so connected as a society and with each other. But I think being able to write honestly about what you are feeling, whether lonesome or feeling displaced or disconnected from others is worthwhile writing in art.

Rangel Condor: Can you explain your writing process?

Biddinger: In terms of my process, this is where we talk about creativity, I have no time to write. A lot of people that are writers try to give off the idea that they are always writing, but that’s not the way it’s like for a lot of us.

I’m always busy. I’m a mother of two teenagers, work as the undergrad advisor, and publisher for the Akron Press, so life is hectic.

I found that even with a busy lifestyle you have to take the moments in life that you feel that creative urge and act upon [it]. You don’t always have to be writing, but take those moments and make the most out of them and then you have to cheat some of your responsibilities when the window opens.

I have been known to write poems during boring meetings or while I’m cooking. You have to grab it, grab those lines and once you have it you can return to it whenever you can.

Rangel Condor: What’s the most important advice you can give to an aspiring artist?

Biddinger: Become comfortable with not writing and learn how you write best.

Don’t compare yourself with others, I mean, it’s okay to compare in the sense that maybe you both are struggling in the same aspects of poetry, like titles or concepts.

There is solidarity in that, but don’t compare one another in the sense that you are jealous of their accomplishments and you envy their work.

Take good care of yourself, you don’t have to be a tortured soul to be a great writer.

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