Mercedes Lawry's impish poem, "This Be The Day", featured in the Summer 2014 edition of Agave Magazine, comes in stark contrast to her short prose piece in the inaugural issue, "My Nuisance". She is a reader and writer of many things whose motivation to communicate and commitment to doing so authentically is constant, but whose methods are multifaceted.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: “This Be The Day” is a light, airy poem – did it come into existence in a light, airy way?
MERCEDES LAWRY: As best I can recall (full disclosure – my memory falters), the first line came and the poem just went from there – often the case for me. I spend a lot of time in the garden (not that it appears that way) in the spring and so that is where I am primarily centered, or was when the poem came along. I am always cognizant of insects because many of them bite me.
How often do you write?
I would love to say I write every day but I would be a horrid liar. I am dreadfully lazy, easily felled by depression and willingly distracted by a Netflix show. I tell myself I am always brewing some piece of work in my head but that too is actually a lie. I write when I write and feel twinges of guilt the rest of the time. More in fall and winter, less in summer.
Alongside poetry and fiction, you also write humour. What are the particular challenges of the latter, and how do you address them?
My “brand” of humor tends to be dark or wry and I am well aware it’s not for everyone. It’s about being true. When I find something (or someone) funny, I try to discern why I find it so. Where is the line between glib and funny? You must kill your darlings when writing humor as avidly as you would in a poem.
You’re an avid reader – what do you like to read? Do you find that your favourite books are often similar somehow to your own writing style?
I read a lot of contemporary fiction. I tend to scour the longlists of the Bookers, the Gillers, National Book Awards, etc. and look for things I might not have come upon otherwise. I am usually reading a book of fiction and a book of non-fiction at all times (as well as a book of poetry). I have my 50 reserves at the library booked and read as books become available. I don’t think “favourites” have much to do with my own writing aside from the fact that some may inspire me (George Saunders, Lydia Davis). I am still thrilled to find an author I hadn’t been aware of who stirs my soul.
Who are your favourite authors and poets?
Favourites come and go and frequently morph into someone else. I do like Hilary Mantel and have read everything she’s written. I’m a hopeless Anglophile. Poetry-wise, I like Linda Gregg and Jack Gilbert. Lately I’ve read and enjoyed Hadara bar-Nadav. It’s more a question of the specific book or poem. Even favourites disappoint.