10 Questions for Megan Pinto
- By Helen McColpin
I try and go back to the bottom
of the placid blue lake, or maybe
the storm’s calm eye. This is how I bargain
for your love in my mind, like a child.
—from "Chiaroscuro after Caravaggio’s Paul," Volume 63, Issue 2 (Summer 2022)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
In 5th grade my local newspaper had a poetry contest. I remember sitting in my backyard and writing a poem about the beach. I still remember the opening lines: “The foamy waves lap the shore/ the salty breeze in my face/ seagulls fly toward their home/ and me, just standing there.” I don’t remember the rest of the poem, but knowing my 5th grade self, I’m sure it was existential.
What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
In some way, every writer I read influences my work, it all feeds me. But if I had to pick one writer, I would say Susan Mitchell, particularly her book Rapture. The way the speaker’s mind moves associatively across the page is totally breathtaking to me. I’ve read that book so many times, and each time I open it, it feels like a new experience.
What other professions have you worked in?
Right now I work in advertising. In the past I have worked as a teacher, waitress, and as a theatre apprentice.
What inspired you to write this piece?
I wrote Wild Swans thinking about my Dad’s illness. I had just come back from a long trip in North Carolina, spending a lot of time in the hospital. In Brooklyn, I spent a lot of time walking in the park. When I saw the swans walking over the ice, the poem just sort of appeared in my mind.
Chiaroscuro after Caravaggio’s Paul, was a little different. I wrote an early draft of that in February 2020, when I first started reading Susan Mitchell’s Rapture. I was thinking about how her speaker moved between cities and found myself killing time in a hotel on South Beach waiting for dinner, and thinking about my last few weekends in New York.
Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
Yes! My poems circle around Raleigh (where I grew up), New York (where I live now), and Mumbai (where my family is from). I love cities as spaces to encounter strangeness and beauty. You turn a corner and never know which you will get.
Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
I have to write in silence so that I can talk to myself. Often when I am first drafting a poem, I say a line over and over until I get into the music of the poem.
Whenever I am stuck, I go back to a poem by another writer I admire and read it out loud. It’s the music of other people’s language that helps me write and edit. When I can hear the music clearly, I can draft or revise with ease.
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
The only ritual I have is reading. If I am struggling to write, it usually means I am not reading enough work that excites me. But I’m not precious about where or how I read.
As for traditions, I have started many (most?) of my poems while riding the subway. It’s such a creative space for me. Something about people watching, being in motion, and a short burst of time really inspires me.
Who typically gets the first read of your work?
It depends! I have a few different formal and informal writing groups I move between (shout out to Office Hours!), and usually a friend or two. Most recently I’ve been exchanging new work with my dear friend Annie Schumacher. We’ve been workshopping our poems with just the two of us, and it has been joyful.
What are you working on currently?
I am working on resting. I just finished my full-length poetry manuscript and am sending it out into the world. Although I still write lines down when they come to me, I’m not actively sitting down to draft poems. Just collecting fragments. And reading a lot.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Kyle Lucia Wu’s Win Me Something which I adored. I’m about to start reading my friend Kailyn McCord’s memoir in progress. And I am halfway through Traci Brimhall’s The Rookery (thanks to Neil Aitken’s recommendation) which is blowing my mind.
MEGAN PINTO is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Lit Hub, Plume, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships and fellowships from Bread Loaf, the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, the Port Townsend Writers' Conference, and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers. Megan holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson.