Interview with Karen McMillan from Mother Truths
Our very first interview (or Q&A, as it’s all done over email) is with the brilliant Karen McMillan, who recently published a book of poems on early motherhood entitled “Mother Truths”.
When did you first start writing poetry?
I can vividly recall the first poem that I wrote. It was a poem called “That First Year”. As Casey’s first birthday approached I had a ton of feelings about the first (and hardest) year of motherhood.
I sat feeding him back to sleep at 3am and suddenly the words “two became three. No more hot tea” came into my head. And I think I was trying to channel Hollie McNish in some way because I was saying the words in her cool accent in my head. And strangely the rhymes just kept coming. So once I put him to sleep, I sat on my couch and furiously typed them into my phone.
I excitedly showed Spence the next morning and he was like “Er, ok” (he’s not one for poetry) so I posted on my facebook instead and people seemed to like it. It gave me a real boost after the hardest year.
How did motherhood impact your creativity and the way you write poetry?
Motherhood literally gave me the ability to write poetry, as strange as it sounds. And I attribute it to the sleep deprivation because the best lines always came to me during his wakeups. And now that he sleeps through (mostly) I can’t write poetry anymore. It’s the strangest thing! So I write prose now instead.
How do you write poetry? How do you find the time?
I didn’t really set aside time for it. Inspiration would strike at random moments. So I’d jot them down in my phone. I’d recite and refine poems when walking him around town for his pram naps. It was only when I decided to publish a book that I would use every naptime to work on that.
How do you feel when you’ve written a poem?
It’s the best feeling. Of having finished something that you’re happy with. A feeling of accomplishment, in a day of tasks that often become undone again.
Who do you share your poetry with and why?
My sister Lauren encouraged me to create an insta account. So I now share on insta and facebook under the alias of mother truths.
It’s strange, I feel more self-conscious about people I know reading my stuff than complete strangers. Old workmates must be thinking “oh god is she blethering on about breastfeeding again”.
What has the response been to your poetry?
I have been so surprised by the lovely response and the number of mums who can relate to the same things I’ve struggled with as a new mum.
You get the odd bit of backlash. Which used to sting at first.
How did you feel when you published your poetry book?
It was really exciting and a bit scarey. I had wanted to do it for so long. It felt like an itch that I had to scratch. Which was a new feeling for me. But there was part of me that felt like “Oh god is this actually really rubbish? Who am I to write a book”
What poetry do you enjoy reading?
I like accessible, uncomplicated poetry that makes you feel something. I really like Hollie McNish. Her poetry about motherhood is so honest, raw and just brilliant. I also like Tony Walsh who wrote “This Is The Place” after the Manchester bombing.
My favourite poet of all time is Maya Angelou. Her poem “We Wear the Mask” makes me cry everytime and there’s just something about the rhythm of it that makes me want to read it over and over.
What tips do you have for others writing poems about their experiences of motherhood?
I would say don’t worry about offending anyone. Motherhood has so many touchy subjects but you simply can’t appeal to every mum. If you try to your writing will become wishy washy and diluted and lose the feeling. Write what you know and feel about your journey as a mother.
Write the thing that you’re scared to write. It’s been the poems that I’ve been most hesistant to share that strangely seem to be the best received. Many a time I’ve posted and been filled with dread. I see that as a good sign now.
What tips do you have for anyone who would like to give writing poetry a go but hasn’t done it before?
If you have a thought or a feeling just write it down…no matter how short or fleeting. You can build on it later. Just write one true thing. One sentence that you know to be true to you.
In a nutshell, what are your reasons for writing poetry?
It sounds dramatic but I genuinely believe that poetry and writing saved me from the temporary madness of early motherhood. I wrote myself out of it.
Karen’s beautiful book of poems “Mother Truths: Poems on Early Motherhood” is available on Amazon and comes highly recommended by The Mum Poem Press.
For more poems and musings on all things motherhood follow @mother_truths on Instagram.