Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Magdalena Munro

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Magdalena Munro

is a Los Angeles based painter and poet with a passion for nature, language, and a desire through poetry and art to loosen the steely umbrage of a boxed-in existence.  Magdalena’s abstract expressionism paintings are meant to evoke visual metaphor of life, death, the after life, and the return back to life.  Her free verse poetry is unapologetic and cutting and she endeavors to say what others avoid for fear of falling.  In her writing she burrows into the sinew and marrow that imprison us in cages of our own design and through abstraction and metaphor, busts you out so that, at last, the air you breathe is singularly yours.



The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

As a teenager, I was drawn to language, words, how vowels and consonants slid and danced on the tongue and believed (and still do to this day) that poetry is an art form that rewards individual words to receive their due accolades that might otherwise be lost in longer works of art.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I suppose I did; my earliest journal entries were poems but at the time I did not realize this was the case.  I observed and wrote about sounds and colours (injured spring birds with deflated red chests, the cruel barks of an angry father) to keep myself afloat.  Like many out there, I had a sad childhood and took refuge in letters.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

As an undergraduate I studied philosophy and theology and recall being particularly drawn to Shijing which is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. How wonderful is it that the Book of Songs, written so long ago, is still relevant today? I also recall reading the Tao Te Ching for the first time, crying, and thinking to myself, this is neither philosophy nor theology, this is poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I am a single mom with a full-time job. Additionally, I am an abstract expressionist painter and as such, need to maintain a regimented writing schedule. Seven days/week from 4:00-6:00 AM is when I write. If I have ideas, words, or lines pop into my head during the course of the day, I text myself and follow up the following morning.

5. What motivates you to write?

The evasive answer is to look at the converse of this question. What happens to me when I do not write? My head feels as though it’s going to explode. I have too many words sashaying about in my hippocampus and they need to be released!

6. What is your work ethic?

I write from 4-6, don my Mommy cape from 6-8, from 8-5 I slog away at my corporate job, from 5-8 PM I wear my favourite maternal hat, and from 8-10 I paint. It’s a crazy schedule but I am very happy and fortunate that I can squeeze it all in to make for a pretty good life. Weekends are reserved for hiking and outdoor activities during the core daytime hours. I have a strong work ethic and hold myself accountable for my many goals in life.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I was most influenced by Le Guin, C.S. Lewis, Dickinson, and Whitman in my youth. I have always been drawn to writers for whom Jungian archetypes prevail and Le Guin’s work struck many chords with me. I just finished reading “So Far So Good” and it was bittersweet to read these lovely poems of hers. I’m still sad she is no longer with us. The first time I read “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain” I felt less alone in the world. “Leaves of Grass” was/is my bible and still rests faithfully by my night table, and when I first read “The Four Loves” by Lewis, my definition of love was gleefully expanded from a box to an endless vista.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I am very active on All Poetry and admire many poets that are not household names in the writing community. I enjoy David Yezzi for his clarity and strong narratives. I love Chiyo Kitahara and encourage everyone to read “A River of Pearls – Barroco” – I am particularly fond of this book because it’s based on images which, as a painter, run deep and wide for me. Her writing is gorgeous and subtle.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I write to preserve my sanity. I have so much to say and our lives are short, yes, and there is an urgency to write and paint all that I can with the time I have in this body.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

That is easy. You just write. Anything. Write. Just the other day I gave my son a sheet of paper, a pencil, and the prompt was simply the word courage and he wrote a damned good poem.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I finished a comprehensive year-long project entitled Rivulets which is a collection of 30 paintings and paired poems and am in discussions with several art brokers at the moment about a long term installation. My son is in love with Shel Silverstein and as a side project I told him I would self pub a book of poetry for him this year that is a tip and nod (and a wink) toward dear Uncle Shel. I wrote 150 poems last year and am pleased with 50% of them which is not bad – as awful and boring as editing is, I’ll be spending a big chunk of time this year editing last year’s poetry. Today/this month I am finished a painting for a group art show– the theme/prompt is fear. I’ll leave you with my poem that I wrote to accompany my painting entitled “The Canvas”.
The Canvas
Pouring ciphers of oily letters and
simile onto desiccated December skin.

My paints are cracked, an unprimed
canvas arched and furious —

Unremitting deadlines pluck at
scabs and dandy hairs.

Mustering fear to spit on a piece
that culls joy.


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