The Poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: The nostalgia in “Honeysuckle” is very deeply felt. Was there a specific time frame in the human life that you channeled for your speaker?
Maggie Bailey: This poem is absolutely nostalgic, and I was drawing from my own childhood summers spent in Wareham, MA on the Cape Cod Canal. For me, the poem lives in that space where you are old enough to roam freely but young enough to be unbothered by puberty. So around 10 to 12? We lived each day until we were exhausted and then did it again the next day.
RR: We saw that you are releasing a chapbook, Bury the Lede. Would you tell us a bit about it?
MB: I am thrilled that my chapbook is now available on Finishing Line’s website as well as Amazon. The title poem works with the journalism concept of “burying the lede.” In that sense, you wait to get to the point of the article until well into it. And I think we do the same thing with poems. I might write a poem about deer, but buried later in the poem is how I feel about my mother, etc. The images open up into truths that couldn’t otherwise be explored. It also means a lot to me to have the poems all in one place; they range over about twelve years of writing and gradual revisions. It is incredibly gratifying to have the book exist as a whole. And beyond humbling to have readers engage with it and, hopefully, enjoy it.
RR: “Honeysuckle” deals a lot with the tension between two aspects of summer, both its beauty as and its more grotesque aspect as well. Can you tell us a bit about how you decided that this tension was the one you wanted to write as the central focus of the piece?
MB: Great question. I think it started for me when I noticed a honeysuckle bush, and I thought back to when my dad taught me how to draw the stamen out and taste that one drop of nectar. It felt, when I was a child, like the most magical thing, but in reality you are just sort of licking a plant? And so much of childhood is like that. When we are younger, we don’t worry about being gross, having blisters, letting our hair mat from too much time in the ocean. We concentrate on play. I miss being open to experiences in that way. I want to be better at embracing that “grotesque” component of the natural world.
RR: In “Honeysuckle,” each stanza is composed of three lines until the last one, which is only one line. Tell us about how you decided to arrange this piece. Is it similar in form to other pieces you have written?
MB: Great question! I do like tercets. I feel like it isn’t as dramatic as a couplet but still paces your reader through a series of images. I don’t often end with a single line, since that is really dramatic, which makes me nervous. But as I revised the poem, I realized that the idea of ache, how aching holds that tension you have asked me about, was where every image pointed. So, in that way, I decided to give the line it’s own space. In revision, I am always testing that the form supports and complements the content. I hope it does so here.
RR: Juxtaposing somewhat harsh imagery next to very relatable experiences creates an interesting tone in “Honeysuckle.” Would you say that the speaker’s experience in the poem is a positive one or up for interpretation?
MB: That is a tough question. On the one hand, I want the reader to see the value in the moments and experiences I value. There is something inherently positive in value, in memory, in what we miss, or even ache for. But on the other hand, there has to be room for interpretation. The poem exists separate from me and my intentions. It is the reader’s now. So, if they feel the moments I created and leave the poem with some other word than positive, that is their call.
Maggie Bailey appears in Rappahannock Review Issue 3.3
Maggie Bailey has poems published or forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia, Tar River, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Bury the Lede, is available now from Finishing Line Press. For more work, please visit here.