The Transmitter: Mary Buchinger Answers the Questions That Matter

Mary Buchinger discusses current favorite books, influential fictional characters, and the dangers of leaf blowers.


The Coil: Describe your writing style to someone who’s never read you.

It’s a dodge, but I’m going to quote Yusef Komunyakaa answering a similar question: “I wouldn’t even know how to describe my style, but it’s informed by everything I’ve known, everything I’ve read, everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve dreamt.”


How would The New York Times categorize your writing?

Quoting my husband here: “Poetry that is profound yet luminous; also, earthy with hints of lavender and mushroom.”


What was the catalyst that made you start writing?

Trying to make sense of life on Earth.


Your favorite —

Whisk(e)y: An old smoky Irish.

Wild animal: Moss piglet.

Waffle topping: Strawberries and whipped cream.

Poem: “The Hollow Men” by T. S. Eliot.

Scientist or inventor: Einstein.

Broadway musical: Fiddler on the Roof.

Badass getaway vehicle: My blue Peugeot bicycle.

Movie to watch alone: Anatomy of a Murder.

Quote: “Listen to the air.” — Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions.


Tell us about your favorite books or authors.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is my favorite novel; Louise Glück’s A Village Life is (maybe, today, one of) my favorite book(s) of poetry.


If you could witness or participate in any historical event or time period, what would it be?

MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech in D.C.


Which underrepresented cause do you want to bring to our attention?

The ecological disaster of leaf blowers.


Weapon of choice:

My cat.


If you could invent something that is missing from your life, what would it be?

Something that could intelligently tidy up my house and office.


The perfect soundtrack to your writing:

Anything by Arvo Pärt.


Which literary figure, dead or alive, would you want to —

Take tea with: Frederick Douglass.

Arm wrestle: Gregor Samsa.

Ice skate with: Emily Dickinson.

Drink under the table: Eeyore.

Get a blurb from: Zora Neale Hurston.

Beat in a duel of wits: Seymour Glass from J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.

Have on your side in the apocalypse: Mrs. Ramsay from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and / or Scout Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Write your next book for you: Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò from Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees.

Clean my house: Mary Poppins.


The one thing in your writing routine you couldn’t live without:

Walking.


Set the perfect scene for you to write your next masterpiece.

A three-month residency on an island in Maine.


When writing makes you rich, you will:

Divide my time.

MARY BUCHINGER, author of e i n f ü h l u n g / in feeling (2018), Aerialist (2015), and Roomful of Sparrows (2008), is President of the New England Poetry Club and Professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University in Boston. Find her at her website.