This week I conducted an interview by email with Airen McNally, an Iowa writer currently living in Kansas City. His answers are so elegant I give them to you as they are--unaltered.
LII: How did you get started with writing?
McNally: I began writing at an early age. In the beginning, I would squiggle colors (sometimes in figures). Then, I learned the Alphabet and, soon enough, I could write words. When I learned cursive, I became infatuated first with writing my own name, then with short phrases and fragments of song lyrics (Guns n' Roses, in particular). At age twelve I began writing song lyrics, though I couldn't play an instrument. At fifteen, I got a guitar for Christmas, and began writing songs with musical accompaniment.
That very same year, I began writing poetry. Now, poetry is my primary artistic medium. My writing began as drawing and, as it became infused with music, grew into poetry
LII: What have you published?
McNally: I've published features articles for the Waterloo/ Cedar Falls Courier. As far as prose goes, that's about it for "professional" publications. (Though I have also written for a handful of fanzines and student papers. Incidentally, I love fanzines. If any of you readers run one, look me up! I might very well be interested in contributing.)
As far as poetry goes, I've done pretty well for myself. Most notably, I published a short collection of work with the fine letterpress printer Caveworks, out of Reinbeck. (www.caveworkspress.com) It's called Out of the Blue. You can also check it out at the Hearst Center for the Arts. That came out in 2007.
I've also published two collaborative works with the poet and bookmaker Friedrich Kerksieck. They're out of print, now, which brings me a feeling of satisfied accomplishment.
And I've had a handful of poems appear here and there. The North American Review, for example.
LII: What do you specialize in?
McNally: At this moment, not much! I'm currently a grocer, so I'm spending much of my time specializing in becoming something other than a grocer!
I'm 9/10 of the way done with a Master's degree in English at UNI. Some folks consider me to be somewhat knowledgeable concerning the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
LII: What inspires you as a writer?
McNally: I am a deeply, emotionally affected person. The moments when I turn to writing are the moments in which I feel a strong, physical need to attempt to translate the mystery of the forces surrounding me.
LII: Why is writing and literature an important part of Iowa communities?
McNally: Iowa is a do-it-yourself place. One doesn't wait around for someone else to start a new music venue or dance company. If someone wants to hear music or see dance, one starts her own venue or company.
That is a good thing for writing. Iowans don't need to be told how they feel, they're perfectly capable of expressing themselves. So it is that many Iowans write. There's nothing glamorous about it. It's like growing your own food, which Iowans have also been doing for a good long time. It serves a purpose, and it's delicious. Form and function. What more could you want? It's sustainable, and it's sustenance.
LII: What is/was your favorite part of being a writer in Iowa?
McNally: The nice thing about being a writer in Iowa is that people actually read you, and they remember what they've read, and they'll tell you what they think of it. In short, Iowan readers are honest, in the many senses of that word. I don't just mean frank or straightforward in their responses. They come to your work from an honest perspective in the first place, and they truly read it. That's worth a helluva lot.
LII: How can readers contact you?
McNally: You can email me at airenmc [at] gmail [dot] com. And all my modes of communication will be rendered available should you hook up with me on Facebook. [Here he gave his mailing address. Should you wish a copy of this email me--in respect to his privacy, I'm not publishing it here. --d'Artagnan]