Interview with Mary Buchinger

Our featured poet for volume 5 is Mary Buchinger. Below is the first poem from the series of six that we are proud to feature in this issue. 

You can read the rest of Mary Buchinger’s poems here. Following is an excerpt of our interview with the poet, which you can also read in its entirety at the link.

Interview with Mary Buchinger

Border Crossing: The metaphor of the heart is central to these poems and each builds to create a larger landscape. Could you talk about your different uses of this metaphor? Are these poems part of a larger project? If so, could you discuss how they fit into the themes of a larger narrative?

Mary Buchinger: These poems, taken from a collection called Vagrancies, push on the boundaries of metaphor by describing transmigrations, or wanderings, of the ‘heart,’ a kind of stand-in for the self. In each of the poems, the heart is personified and animated. I’ve always been fascinated by the Gnostic notion of “homoousios,” an identity of substance between the generating and the generated and these poems come out of that fascination. I feel identification is a way of experiencing the world—that is, identifying in some complete way with what is radically different.

BC: Could you talk specifically about how one or more of the poems published in Border Crossing use this notion of “homoousios”?

MB: Essentially these are persona poems and what is given voice are non-human objects or creatures. In “Forked” the speaker is a dowsing rod, a tree branch used to detect underground water. I like the idea of a tree branch collaborating with the person holding it to divine some unseen essential source. Making the self/heart that branch of willow or witch hazel (the usual kinds of wood used) and inviting the physical encounter of calloused hand against bark suggests a particular kind of relationship—one of discovery born of trust and desire, heightened by an urgent quest. This kind of identification with an object opens up possibilities for describing relationships that would not have contained the subtleties that are evoked by this persona poem. Likewise, in the poem “Say I am a river” I explore the relationships between a river and a rock and a river and a tree. In entering into the dynamic world of a river and objects typically associated with it, I am able to explore meanings of other close and mutually defining relationships. River water courses around a rock; the rock is a kind of obstacle but also an opportunity for the river to move differently, yet the rock is gradually shaped by the movement of and contact with the river.  The tree, which sways, grows, and changes seasonally, is faithfully reflected in the river surface. Ultimately, it is difficult to know what constructs what—tree, river, rock are existentially interdependent. On the other hand, the poem,  “The heart is its own ocean,” is less about a relationship to another and explores a more internal landscape—the restless and forceful movement of tides that cleanse and pulse can be related to strong emotions. The ocean is also subject to outside forces (gravitational pull of the moon, storms, currents), which impact internal detritus, both bad and good—oil slicks and krill alike. The ocean gives me a way to consider how emotion and one’s sense of self are subject to both internal and external forces.


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Mary Buchinger is the author of Aerialist (Gold Wake, 2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (Finishing Line, 2008). She is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University in Boston, Massachusetts.