Girldom, Megan Peak
Megan Peak received her M.F.A. in Poetry from The Ohio State University, where she was former Poetry Editor at The Journal. Her first book of poetry, Girldom, won the 2018 Perugia Press Prize from Perugia Press, the 2019 The John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters, and the 2020 Philosophical Society of Texas’s Book Prize in Poetry. She lives in Fort Worth, TX with her son, Auden. Her book can be found here.
Here, Megan Peak talks photography, nature, and the routines behind her process.
Bina Ruchi Perino: How long did working on Girldom take, from conception to publication?
Megan Peak: Girldom took about five years total—to write and place with a publisher. I spent three years at The Ohio State University getting my MFA, writing poems, reading, teaching. At the end of my three years, I had a thesis, but it wasn’t quite a book yet. So, I spent another year revising and submitting, revising and submitting. The manuscript got a lot of nods: semi-finalist, finalist,etc. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride kind of thing. I remember speaking to a former professor who told me to keep submitting, and one weekend I decided to change the name of the book to Girldom, add a few more poems, and then next thing I knew I was getting a call from Perugia Press about winning their 2018 competition!
BRP: How do you feel about deadlines? Are they a good or bad pressure for you?
MP: Oh, I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. I’m typically intrinsically motivated, so deadlines can help push me to get something in that I normally might not have submitted or applied for; however, I’m also of the mindset that sometimes what a writer, or person, really, needs is time! If I rush to submit to a contest or journal instead of putting the poem in a drawer for a while and coming back to it with fresh eyes, I usually regret it.
BRP: Who are you crushing on arts-wise?
MP: Ruth Wilson, hands down. She’s an actress, but the way she acts reminds me of a poem. She acts from the crown of her head down to the tip of her toes. Everything about her movement and character-building feels so intentional. Here is a recording of her reading “There was a Boy” by William Wordsworth. Swoon.
BRP: Besides writing, what other daily rituals do you participate in or feel are important to your writing?
MP: My morning coffee is pretty ritualistic. I like to drink it while scrolling through snippets of poetry on Tumblr. Being outside, whether walking or sitting out on my porch, is also something I feel is important to my daily life. It helps me to slow down and focus on being aware, which is such a vital practice for writing poetry.
BRP: What is a favorite piece of advice from a mentor of yours? How did it help you with your writing?
MP: I had an undergraduate professor tell me once after a particularly difficult month that feelings are just temporary. Feel them and let them go. I have carried that with me for so long. I think it applies to writing in various ways, but it helps me most when I feel stuck in my writing. I used to get so worried that I wasn’t producing enough, that I wasn’t prolific enough, but now I know that being “stuck” is just temporary. I will write again and often do once I let go of those expectations to produce poems.
BRP: Do you keep a journal, or do you prefer to write on anything you can find?
MP: Both. I keep a journal to help stay organized, but I’m not opposed to writing notes in my phone or on slips of paper, napkins, magazines. It’s always such a delight to find those scraps of poetry around.
BRP: When and how does inspiration find you? For example, do you go outside to find it in nature, or does it suddenly come to you in the middle of the night?
MP: Going out in nature is definitely one of the ways I find inspiration. I also listen to instrumental music while I write or think, and that seems to kick the creative juices into gear.
BRP: If given the choice to spend 24 hours in a museum creating something, what medium would you prefer?
MP: Oh, good question. I’m not sure if this would apply, but I love photography. I think I would want to do something with a camera. It’s just another way I like to pay attention to the world.
BRP: Being that Girldom was your first collection, what are some things you learned from creating this debut book? What is some advice you could give to poets putting together a first collection?
MP: Patience. Resilience. Believe in your work, but be realistic about your expectations. It’s a competitive market, and there are so many great poets out there submitting to the same contests. Just because your favorite press has an open submission period doesn’t mean your work is ready. Love every word of your manuscript, every line break, every arc before submitting. Then, whether it gets accepted or rejected, you still have that love for and faith in your work.
BRP: If you could describe Girldom in three words, what would they be?
MP: Fierce, Tender, Important.