Domenica Martinello in Conversation with Megan-Jane Renshaw

Megan-Jane Renshaw is a past contributor. Her poems “Space” and “Old Fashioned with Black Walnut Bitters” appear in Soliloquies 17.2. Recently, Megan-Jane sat down with our Senior Poetry Editor, Domenica Martinello, to talk about attitudes towards women's writing, being yourself, and the future of poetry in this digital world. 

Domenica Martinello: I'll start us off with the eternally recurring and open-ended question: Why poetry?
Megan-Jane Renshaw: Ouf. I tend to lean towards poetry because of how forgiving it is, and how removed you can be from the algebrization of language. I heard once that poets are attempting to find the most pure way to talk to themselves--and I've never been good at structuring my thoughts or things external to me so it makes sense that I'd talk to myself in poetry. My love of hip-hop probably has a lot to do with it as well.

DM: I have heard something like that before too: poetry as the act of overhearing yourself, or listening in on an internal conversation. This really emphasizes the private, personal nature of the act. On the other hand, you're slated to read your poems at two events this month*. How important are the oral and performative aspects of your work?
MJR: The only thought I have given the performative aspect of my work is how nervous it makes me.

DM: Fair enough. You gave a great reading at the Soliloquies 17.2 launch last year, though. I believe you started things off with a poem you wrote as a kid about loving horses. Does it help to have a good sense of humor about it all? And how important is it for you to map the ways in which you grow as a poet?
MJR: As over seasoned as this is, I think it's important to just be yourself when you're doing a reading (and hopefully when you are not doing a reading). As for mapping ones poetry, I'm never satisfied with my work and I like to look back on the pieces I've created and question why I don't like them, and where I can go from there.

DM: We've already established your love for hip-hop and horses, but are there any specific poets or literary traditions that you align yourself with or draw inspiration from?
MJR: I'd say my two biggest inspirations are Wallace Stevens and Lauryn Hill. The former because I like how emotionally charged he can make a simple object and the latter because I think her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill contains some of the best writing we've seen in popular culture.

Lauryn Hill for MJ interview
Lauryn Hill for MJ interview

DM: Like Stevens, you imbue the lives of the inanimate with emotional resonance in poems like "What the Chair Said." And it's interesting that you mention Lauryn Hill, an artist who has concerned herself with love, social injustice, and female empowerment. "Old Fashioned with Black Walnut Bitters", published in Soliloquies 17.2, is a quipping, satirical take on what could be considered feminist issues. Could you speak more about some of the recurring themes in your work? What issues (in poetry or otherwise) preoccupy you as a female writer?
MJR: Any themes that pepper my work are usually just what I tend to concern myself with outside of poetry, and obviously when I write everything sort of gets flushed through that form. In terms of being a female writer, one of the main reasons I look up to Hill so much is because she doesn't shy away from topics that can be dismissed and referred to as "woman's writing" topics. I hate that there can be a negative attitude towards a woman writing about love and emotions but I think if you want to write about social injustice and exclude the topic of love than you've missed the point.

DM: On that note, what is your favorite love poem?
MJR: This piece causes some nostalgia for a time filled with a lot of love for me.

from Angle of Yaw by Ben Lerner.

from Angle of Yaw by Ben Lerner.

DM: Speaking of nostalgia, describe the trajectory you think poetry will take in this increasingly digital age. What challenges do you think poets face in a future saturated in social media?
MJR: It's really hard to say what form poetry will take in the future. All of this social media can hinder poetry if your idea of poetry stays stagnant, but it also offers a huge amount of opportunity in terms of sharing work and self-publishing. I kind of like how the big corporate publishing company is being undermined by a bunch of kids on tumblr. In terms of the anxiety surrounding the loss of the physical book to a digital one, I think it works the same for albums: true love is buying the book or album even after you've illegally downloaded it.

DM: What's the last amazing book of poetry and book of prose you have read?
MJR:  I recently lost my copy of Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in Americaso this summer I set out to buy a new one. Now, it's a pretty difficult book to find in the used bookstores of Montreal, but the first one I walking into--Westcott--I asked the older man with the cat if he had a copy and he happened to--at that moment--be reading it under the desk. He gave me the copy for half-off, which was great.

Richard Brautigan for MJ Interview
Richard Brautigan for MJ Interview

Megan-Jane will be performing at Kafein’s 8th installment of Poetry Night on Tuesday, September 17th (1429 Bishop). Readings begin at 8pm.

She will also be reading at The Void’s 10th Anniversary party at Brasserie Beaubien on Thursday, September 19th (73 Beaubien est.). Doors at 8:30pm, readings at 9:30pm.

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Mega-Jane Renshaw: Raised surrounded by apple trees and horses, I made my pilgrimage to Montreal in hopes of catching a glimpse of Leonard Cohen in a park; I am fairly certain he checked me out one time. I am currently studying Philosophy and Literature at Concordia and never finish anyth