Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Life of a Poet - the Other Mary!

by Sherry Blue Sky

Kids, it must be Wednesday, because here we are again! It occurred to me that, since we featured Mary last week, it would be very nice to spotlight the Other Mary this week. Yes, Mary Bach, of Writing in the Bachs, is here. Mary is another long-time member of Poets United. Pull your chairs closer to the screens, pour a nice creamy latte with lots of foam, and let’s take a walk with the Bachs!
Poets United: Mary, I have been curious to ask: is there a story behind your name Other Mary?

Mary: When I started ‘Writing in the Bachs’ and linking in to Poets United, I used just my first name, Mary, but I soon found there was someone else called Mary who turned out to be Mary ........  She contacted me and we decided it would be confusing for us both to link in with the same name.  So as she had seniority, I would change.  Seeing as I was quite literally the ‘other Mary’ I figured that would be a funny, if not terribly creative, name.  That’s how I became the Other Mary.

Poets United: I love it! Set the scene for us, Mary. What is life like at your house?

This is where we live – an old farm house.

Mary: I like to say I live in the middle of nowhere.  More specifically, in an old farmhouse in western Wisconsin with my husband Tom Filla, and a whole gaggle of animals.  Tom is a veterinarian and we own the practice, and a clinic that is separate from our house, which mainly deals with dairy cattle.  In spite of that though, we currently have 1 horse, 3 dogs and 12 cats in residence.  Wait…I’m really not a crazy cat lady, in fact Tom is allergic to cats – so they all live in our barn. 

And here it is in winter

Poets United: Oh, it looks and sounds absolutely wonderful! And all those animals! You are so lucky! I only have half as many!
Mary: We also have two children who are at that age where they only live with us part time.  Mike is 23 and Kate is 21, and both are going to school and working right now. 

This is the only recent picture I could find of the family, along with our dear friend Francis at my son’s undergrad graduation in May, 2011.

Poets United: I was about to ask what you do for your day job, but given an on-site business, and all those critters, I think you have already answered that question!
Mary:  I’d have to answer it like Hugh Grant in ‘About a Boy’: Nothing.  Yet I never seem to get it all done! I have worked at quite a variety of things, from making beer signs, cleaning office buildings and selling shoes to teaching.  Most recently I worked at our vet clinic.  This was fine for a while, but ultimately reinforced the adage that spouses are generally happier if they don’t work together.  I still answer the phone or hold a dog on occasion, but I mainly do volunteer work now. 
Poets United: That's wonderful, Mary! When did you write your first poem? Do you remember it? 
Mary: The first poem I remember writing was in about sixth grade.  It was about a deer that was shot, and it was long and pretty terrible.  If I recall correctly the second half rhymed, the first half didn’t and it was very, very sappy.  But in spite of that I didn’t quit.
Poets United: What led you to choosing poetry as your means of creative expression?   
Mary: Well, I have always wanted to write ‘The Great American Novel’, or even a ‘Mediocre but Published American Novel’ and I’m actually still working on that. (I read Little Women when I was a little girl and wanted to be Jo in the worst way.)   It seems that poetry is a better medium for me though, because the length of a page is a better match for the length of my attention span.  Also, I like to pare down my words to get the most from the least, and I like the way different readers seem to get something a little different from a piece, depending on what experiences they bring to the page.

Poets United: What style of poem do you write the most? Are there any forms you avoid, or find difficult to write or read? 
Mary: I write both free verse and formally structured poetry.  One thing I like about linking up to Poets United, and other sites, is learning about different poetic forms.   I tend to stay away from the longer poetic forms, and those with lots of repetition (such as the Sestina) because of my aforementioned attention span, and I also like the idea of having things pared down and compact (which seems to contrast with my question-answering style).  I also have a mix of serious and humorous poems, because even though lots of things are serious, I try not to take myself too seriously.
Poets United: What, most often, triggers you to write?  
Mary:  I tend to go in streaks of writing and silence.  I’m not sure if it’s about time to process, or just about not being able to multitask and manage my time well enough!   I write mainly about things I observe in nature or human nature.  It can be something I see, or a memory or an interaction I observe or am involved in.  Frequently I take a small thing, something in the edge of the picture and expand on that.  I’m much more aware of little beauties and ironies because I write. Also, I like to draw out a metaphor, sometimes even to the point of absurdity.  As Richard Lederer said, ‘I never met a four I didn’t like!’  I don’t often write political pieces or ‘rants’ not because I don’t care or follow current events, but because I don’t like the way my writings about them turn out.  Sometimes just the sound and the feel of a word in my mouth can be the impetus for a piece.  I tend to be quite visual too, so I really like a lot of the photo prompts from different online sites; they make me consider things I wouldn’t otherwise.
Poets United: What led you to the world of blogging?   
Mary: Oh, it all started at a post-Christmas party in 2009.  That year I made the New Year’s Resolutions for 2010 that I would floss more regularly, not throw food at people, (don’t ask), and write more.  I belong to a writing group in town that meets once a month, and while my Pen Pals are wonderful, I needed something more.  So, my geeky sister-in-law, Flash, sent me to the blogosphere.  

Poets United: And we're so glad you did! Do you have a favorite poem, written by you? 
Mary: There are a couple poems that I’m fond of... This first one is about St. Francis of Assisi:
you have
the spark
my peace
I give unto you.
Down through the years
 this shall be our rule of life:
give -
give it all away.
Fiorettie along the path
birds, animals, powerless poor
treat with most exquisite tenderness

Brother Sun
sing your canticle
Sister Moon
shine bright, precious and beautiful
Sister Death
simplify all things

Stripped down
enter the fire
and emerge Francis

Next one is a cinquain:

When do I reach
the line I dare not cross?
Teetering on the edge - will I
risk it all and fall into the abyss;
or will I pull back from the ledge
just in time to live a
smaller life of

And finally a little twisted humor:

It strikes like a bolt of lightning out of the blue;
and we are left
wondering where to hide the bodies.

Poets United: I love them, especially the one about St. Francis. Do you have a favorite well-known poet?
Mary:  I have several, including HD, Sylvia Plath, TS Eliot and Ted Kooser…and about 417 others…but I’ll spare you.
Poets United: Who would you say has been the greatest influence on your writing
Mary: Oooh, Really?  Let’s see…I’d like to thank the Academy… Sorry, just going for the laugh.  That’s a difficult question, because it changes as I change and grow as a writer, and quite honestly I don’t think I’ve really ‘found my voice’ yet, whatever that means – so stay tuned!  I’ve learned a lot from many writers I’ve ‘met’ online, and many I've read. I suppose though, I would have to say I have learned the most from my parents, because they have shaped my personality so much (my goofy sense of humor from my dad and my bleeding heart empathy from my mom) , and ultimately my writing is an expression of the way I see the world.
Poets United: I love your sense of humor! Why do you write?  What is it that keeps you at it
Mary: I tend to go in spurts. I need to get into a certain mindset…and I find it difficult sometimes to be really present and effective in my daily life, and also be a writer.  Those two things aren’t seamless for me.  And, oops…I’m answering a different question.  I think what keeps me writing is a need to express myself.  Also, I find that through writing I sometimes clarify my thoughts and ideas about a subject, and gain a deeper understanding than if I didn’t write. Sometimes it's even kinda fun (not always, but enough), and for the times it isn't, it helps to be stubborn.  And, it may not be cool, or ‘writerly’ to say this, but I really get a kick out of other people reading and responding to my poetry.  I was surprised to find such a great online network of readers and writers to share with.
Poets United: Oh, me, too, it still blows me away. What other poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit?
Mary: The three, if I have to limit it, would be Hedgewitch who writes 'Versescape’, Tess Kincade who does 'Life at Willow Manor’ and  Beth Winter who has the blog ‘Eclipsing Winter’.  Um…all women, but there are a lot of men out there I read and enjoy regularly – honest!
Poets United: Great picks. When you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?   
Mary: Ok, first thing is, I love humor, and attempt it regularly.  With that in mind:  Long walks on the beach…lol, ok really:  I like to travel (and want to travel more. Soon!)  But when I’m home, I like to garden and dig in the dirt. I also like to read and draw, and I’m interested in music and all the arts.  I collect quotes, both profound and silly. I love books, old and new.  I like to possess them, but I also love libraries.  Imagine…all those books I have access to - any of them I want!   Animals are also a big part of my life. In fact, as I kid I worked at a stable in exchange for riding lessons.  I like walking and biking- but because of my bionic knee I don’t do long distances.  I love the night sky, though I’m no astronomer.  I’m a fan of Public Radio (Wisconsin has the best public radio programming ever). And, I have been known to enjoy a glass of nice, red wine on occasion – lots of occasions!   And finally I’m a great, big nerdy Dr. Who fan. 

This is a picture of most of Emma, Otis and Rusty.
And here is a link to the poem I wrote about Living Room Carnage!

Flowers make me happy :o)

I’m such a big Dr. Who fan I even have my own TARDIS (cookie jar)
Poets United: On your profile I note you are an appreciator of music. Do you play?
Mary: Music is such an amazing thing.  Besides classical and some world music I’m also crazy about rock, alt. rock, some jazz and metal too! But, in spite of Great Uncle Johann, I only play the radio.  When I was a kid I went through four or five torturous years of the obligatory piano lessons.  I even played trombone for a while in middle school until I got sick of the kids on the bus knocking it over.  But I think that talent must skip a generation, because both my kids are very musical!   So…while I can read the music and count the beats, I don’t have that special something true musicians have; however, I do recognize and appreciate (and envy) it in others. 

[image from For those of you who dont have a giant screen and huge type, like I do, of necessity, this says "Rex's Bach was far worse than his bite". You can see why I couldn't resist!]
Poets United: Me too, Mary. ExACTly! Is there anything else you would like to share with Poets United? 
Mary: I would just like to thank you and Poets United for the chance to do this.  And, I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes:
-Thomas Merton
I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast
– Lewis Carroll
Poets United: Great quotes, Mary. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. It has been such a pleasure!
     ~~~~~     ~~~~~     ~~~~~     ~~~~~     ~~~~~
Well, kids, once again, we get an intriguing inside look at a writer’s life. Isn’t it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Always nice to see somebody familiar pop-up in the "Life of a Poet" feature here at Poets United. Congrats on being featured, Mary!

    (Those who haven't already, go read Mary's blog!)

  2. Congratulations Mary! Excited to read more about you, and learn how many things we have in common, Wonderful interview!!

  3. Mary~
    You live in a little bit of paradise! What inspiration. Good to learn more about "the other Mary."

  4. Hey thanks Eric, Ginny and Kim! And thank you to Sherry and Poets United, this was really fun to do!

  5. Great interview, Sherry; and nice to learn more about you, Other Mary. Interesting that the two Mary's I have encountered (you and me) both live in the same state.

  6. Thanks first Mary. Yes, I noticed you are from Wisconsin too. I'm on the west side of the state now but grew up north of Milwaukee. Your interview was very interesting too. Sherry does a good job.

  7. Thank you, I loved reading about Mary. This interview has such a happy feel to it! And what a bonus to meet another Dr Who fan. :)

  8. I really enjoyed reading this insightful and funny interview on the Other Mary.

  9. I meant seeing the funny side of Other Mary.

  10. I just have to say anyone with a TARDIS cookie jar is A ok in my book!! I want my own personal sonic screwdriver My wife and I are Who junkies too!! Loved learning about you and always love the articles Sherry puts out.

  11. What a wonderful interview with the other Mary. :) I love your sense of humor, Mary, and your life seems so interesting. Living in a farm house and being married to a vet sounds like fun. Thanks for this interview, Sherry. I look forward to learning more about the poets here and now when I think of the other Mary, I'll smile thinking she has probably thought of something funny again. I think a sense of humor is one of the best qualities in life.

  12. Just wanted to say hey to you Dr. Who fans, and those who appreciate some humor. Thanks!

  13. Fascinating interview. Thank you Sherry and Other Mary. I love the variety that emerges from the poetry scene.

  14. Even though I am late reading this, I am glad to meet the Other Mary. Such a busy and interesting life you have. Wonderful interview!


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