Interview: Meg Eden

Meg Eden

We talk to Meg Eden about chapbooks, Chat Roulette, teaching and crafting. Meg’s poems “Bollystar”, “Roulette Chat” and “Twelve Little Indians” appeared in issue 37 of Neon.

I enjoyed the role reversal in your poem “Roulette Chat”. Typically one might expect a story where a young innocent is preyed on by an older person online – here it’s rather different. Where did the idea for this poem come from? Have you ever used Chat Roulette?

Haha—that’s very interesting. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, at least not consciously. The poem is quite literal; I had friends in college who did this. I never used Chat Roulette myself, but I walked in on them using it. The whole experience was hilarious, in a sad kind of way. Like how we watch absurd reality TV shows and say, “I can’t believe people are actually doing this”. I would see these men get rather vulnerable in front of a complete stranger (who didn’t even have their camera on). I felt bad for those men. There was clearly some need for affirmation, and a loneliness I couldn’t quite understand at the time. Even so, there was something oddly empowering as a girl, being able to see a man act like that without any consequence on my end. Not a good kind of empowering I think—but we’re human, and we desire to overcome others at times—I think I wanted some of that in the poem too. I’m not sure I’ve got it fully there and fleshed out, but it’s one of those experiences that haunts me.

You mention two collections in your biography. Can you tell us a bit about each (and about your recent chapbook The Girl Who Came Back), and what it was like collecting your poems for publication? Where did the title Rotary Phones And Facebook come from?

So I have written three chapbooks now: Your Son (which is about my relationship with my father, and trying to figure out my identity and role as a daughter), Rotary Phones And Facebook (about my relationship with my mother, and trying to understand definitions of womanhood), and my newest one The Girl Who Came Back (which follows my mother’s relationship to the now defunct theme park Enchanted Forest).

The title for Rotary Phones comes from a poem (pasted below) about my mother and I going into an antique shop, and how she found this rotary phone. She was shocked when I said I’d never used one. I realized then that I’m shocked about her inability to use Facebook, and it was this funny generational gap moment, where we realized we had different skills from different times. It was humbling, in a way.

Collecting poems for publication has been easier at some times, and harder at others. Rotary Phones was a stroke of luck you could say, because I honestly threw some poems together that all had to do with female image and sent them off. And Dancing Girl Press accepted! The Girl Who Came Back and Your Son were much more intentional. There are other manuscripts I’m working on now that have been much harder—where I thought I knew what I wanted to collect, then I realize the poems are fighting in a different direction. That’s difficult, and disheartening, but doable.

Lessons In Rotary Phones And Facebook

At the antique store, Mother runs her fingers
over the row of rotary phones,
I always loved the sound of the clicking,
it’s very calming, a pace I can control—

She dials the number for her childhood
house. It had three nines in it. Imagine
how long it takes when you’re sick
in the nurses office and just wanna go home!

She laughs as each number rotates
to the top then shrinks back into place. It must be
too slow for you, having to take so long
just to dial a number.

I watch, marveled, as she hands
the receiver over to me. I feel the circles
for each number under my fingers and try to call
numbers for people who will never
pick up, who will not hear as I ask,
How do you do it? We remember
we are stranded from a generation.

When we get home, I show her how
to message high school friends on Facebook.
She sighs, The world’s very different, now.

If they are not told, how can they know?
Who cannot know these things? we ask. Isn’t this
One of those life-skills that no one has to teach you,
but that you just know? That it is in your blood.
That is passed down from woman to woman. Some
things cannot be put on the tongue. But we search
for words for them. We try to translate our experiences.

You mention in your biography that you teach, and I notice from your website that you run a small craft business. A common piece of advice given to writers is to “write what you know”. Do these parts of your life feed into your writing at all?

Yes, I want to be a Jack of All Trades you could say… haha. I teach Creative Writing, and sell woodworking crafts at various conventions. I take everything as inspiration for my writing. I don’t write as much about woodworking as I wish I did, but started a young adult novel about it that needs some editing. I also play chess, and have tried to write about that—it will happen at some point! Those that know me well know that I’m a bit of an idea hoarder (or at least that’s what my husband calls me). I take pictures of everything and jot down whatever I can, constantly: on notebooks, napkins, shoes… anything. It drives my friends insane. So I use everything I find and do in my writing, in one way or another. It all comes out, at least eventually.

What’s the best way for readers to keep up with your writing, and find out when you publish something new?

That’s a great question! I’m horrible at keeping my blog updated (artemisagain.wordpress.com), but I have recently started a Facebook page: Meg Eden Writes Poems. Please like it, check it out, comment! It will highlight my readings/publications/etc, but also great (and free) contests, giveaways, and whatnot. There will be opportunities for followers to be published and spotlighted as well, so it should be a good time.  I’ve also resurrected my twitter account @ConfusedNarwhal. Even though I’m in the social media generation, I am horrible at maintaining social media. I’m beginning to understand it now though—there’s so many writers doing so many exciting things, and even with social media, so many things fall through the cracks

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Meg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received the 2012 Henrietta Spiegel Creative Writing Award. She was a reader for the Delmarva Review.  Her collections include Your Son (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award) and Rotary Phones And Facebook (Dancing Girl Press). She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at artemisagain.wordpress.com.