This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
Mary Buchinger is the author of Aerialist (Gold Wake Press, 2015; shortlisted for the May Swenson Poetry Award, the OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Prize, and the Perugia Press Prize) and Roomful of Sparrows (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Her poems have appeared in AGNI, Booth, Border Crossing, Caesura, Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, Existere (Canada), Fifth Wednesday, New Madrid, Nimrod, PANK, SAND (Germany), Salamander, Silk Road Review, Slice Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, Versal (The Netherlands), and elsewhere; she was invited to read at the Library of Congress, received the Daniel Varoujan and the Firman Houghton Awards from the New England Poetry Club, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Originally from rural Michigan, Buchinger served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and holds a doctorate in Applied Linguistics from Boston University; she is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University in Boston, Massachusetts. Several of her poems appeared in issue 1.2 of The 3288 Review.
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3288 Review: How and when did you start writing? Was there a specific event or moment which sparked your interest in the written word?
Mary Buchinger: The first time print held meaning for me was reading The Fire Cat by Esther Averill (author and illustrator—I love the drawings!). The main character is a cat, Pickles, who has big paws and gets into trouble until Mrs. Goodkind adopts him and realizes that he needs to do big things with his big paws. She takes him to the Fire House where, with persistence and determination, he learns to slide down the fire pole, and also becomes a brave rescuer of cats caught in trees—the same little cats he used to bully around. The idea that Pickles was not inherently naughty but only needed the right circumstances in order for him to truly shine was important to me—still is. I read this book on the living room couch with my mother, who’d wait for me to say “Pickles” whenever his name appeared, so I would scan the text and be ready for my turn to ‘read.’ The intimacy with my mother, whom I shared with five older siblings, the fantastic art—including a drawing from Pickle’s perspective of climbing up a tall ladder with a proud Mrs. Goodkind waving from far below, the protagonist (growing up on a farm, cats were among my dearest companions), and the idea of someone who is acting badly being truly good at heart—all colluded to make me fall in love with words and reading and books. Writing for me was learned hand in glove with reading. My older brothers all worked on their homework at the kitchen table and I did too, long before I entered kindergarten.