Counter Culture
October 10, 2019 posted by Unity Wellington

Interview | Mary Macpherson

Interview | Mary Macpherson

Mary Macpherson will be launching her debut poetry collection, Social Media, (The Cuba Press) 6-7:30pm Wednesday 23rd October 2019 with readings by The Meow Gurrrls. All welcome. In the lead up Mary shared some of her literary favourites including Teju Cole, an author who also has many valuable insights into photography.


ABOUT THE BOOK

For a while, living a digital life was like being
a successful swan. Dignified gliding over the lake
like you understood the way the world worked,
the world being hard bright stones at the bottom
of the lake and you on the surface, held up.

Is our identity more of a composite than we realise?

We often think of ourselves as formed from our core values or our DNA, but in Social Media, Mary Macpherson explores identity as a creation of the interactions we have with others: friends, family and the wider world, and the evolving role technology now plays in this. A playful and provocative debut poetry collection that drills into our social and media selves using elements from short stories, art projects and films.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mary Macpherson is a photographer and poet. Her photography has been widely exhibited and her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Sport and Landfall and as part of the collaborative work Millionaire’s Shortbread. She has also been published in Etchings, Snorkel and Turbine.


WHY DO YOU WRITE?

To have an adventure and discover where I might end up from the scraps of ideas and phrases I write down. Plus I love the feeling of shaping work and seeing something unexpected emerge – more particularly when it’s going well. 

WHERE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE?

I jot a lot of things down on my phone, then try to remember to transfer them to the notebooks in my study. Every so often something leaps out at me and I have to write about it.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?

I’m currently reading Jenny Bornholdt’s new collection, Lost and Somewhere Else, and enjoying the combination of her clear voice and emotional depth – discovered at Unity Books of course! Also Tina Makereti’s The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, which is a really well written and thought provoking novel, which a kind friend lent me. I’m absorbing a terrific photobook by American photographer Joel Sternfeld called Our Loss. It’s a series of photographs taken through the seasons of the site in Prospect Park, New York where a distinguished attorney burnt himself to death to protest the environmental damage to the planet. It’s a profound and moving work that I discovered in the New Yorker and was able to order through – Unity Books.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?

I’m currently loving Rachel Cusk’s trilogy of novels and the way the accounts of peoples’ lives, as told to the narrator, form the story. I like the way the books experiment with what a novel can be and also the sense of contemporary lives and challenges that come through. It’s like being present at a series of very good conversations.

WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?

I have a bedside windowsill and floor where there are the aforementioned current reading plus poetry by Nick Flynn, Lucie Brock Broido, Anne Kennedy, Kaveh Akbar, a book of conversations about photography by David Campany, Craig Cliff’s new novel, a book of photographs and poems by Bruce Foster and Gregory O’Brien and more – it’s all a bit of a riot and we don’t have any more shelf space.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?

This is a favourite book to TV series adaption – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I loved her Neapolitan series of novels – the account of the friendship between two women over time, the feminism, the account of political struggles and the deep sense of place. It was great that the TV adaption captured the themes and the place so well. I hope they do the rest of the novels.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?

I re-read most poetry and photobooks I like over and over to catch the essence of what’s being portrayed and how that’s done. I don’t re-read novels or non-fiction so much, although recently I re-read Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things and loved finding the nuances in the essays and new pieces that I couldn’t remember from the first time.  

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?

Kinsey Millhone, the detective in the late Sue Grafton’s ‘alphabet series’ of crime novels.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?

 I can’t remember! But I’m intending to read Rebecca Priestley’s Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica soon.

WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?

David Campany who is a fabulous writer about photography, Elena Ferrante (or her translator if Elena won’t come) and Teju Cole.

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?

Yikes. Something that could all be put in one pan at the beginning of the day and would taste delicious in the evening, with minimal fuss on my part.

HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?

There’s a dim attempt at ordering by type and size of book. Favourites have shelves in accessible places.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?

“— you are as real and unreal as the shadow of an airplane” — Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016).

Share This Article

Leave a Reply

Posted By

Unity Books Wellington - Proudly committed to local writing and publishing since 1967, and dedicated to keeping a dangerous variety of world literature too. 100% independent and Wellington owned. Come check us out at 57 Willis St and ask the staff for a recommendation - we know our books.

Related Posts