Oyster River Pages: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
Madeleine Gallo: If I could tell my younger creative self anything, I would tell her not to pretend to be anyone else. You can't fake your own voice, and you can tell immediately when someone else tries. Tell the stories you want to tell in the way that you want to tell them. Maybe not everyone will listen, but someone will.
ORP: When did you first learn that language had power? What was that experience like for you?
MG: Language has always seemed powerful to me – intimidating, even. I have always been extremely shy. Even now speaking can be hard for me. When I was younger, oral language was a weapon of sorts, something that everyone possessed but I couldn't seem to master. It only seemed natural then that I should start writing. I could find the words on paper that I wasn't able to say out loud. I don't think I really realized this fully until my undergraduate modern poetry class when I couldn't speak a single word in class, but wrote essays that I loved (and my professor thankfully loved too) with all of my heart.
ORP: What does becoming a “better” writer or artist look like to you? How do you define success?
MG: I don't like when people define success by how much money they make or how many publications they have. I know that answer sounds clichéd, but it's true. For me, becoming "better" is finally sensing the potential I know that my poetry has, but that I haven't yet experienced in my recent poems. A few poems ago, I wrote exactly what I wanted, how I wanted. I felt successful because I saw the story that I had envisioned in my head come to life through that poem. This poem, titled "Third Party" has now been accepted for publication in the online women's journal Voice of Eve.
ORP: Who are your biggest influences?
MG: I could name the poets who first influenced or inspired me to take poetry more seriously – like Wallace Stevens and Yeats, but they were not my original influences. I grew up surrounded by writing. Both of my parents write and they would read me their poems and stories. Sometimes I found my father's poems left open on his computer screen. My mom wrote children's stories. I have always been close to my parents and wanted to be like them, so I learned to want to write like they did.
ORP: Does having a work published alter the way you think about it? Does it alter the way you think about yourself?
MG: I feel good when a poem is published, of course, but it never changes how I feel about the poem. If I didn't like the poem before it was published, I won't like it much after, either. I know what my poems need and I don’t love them until I feel that they've reached the point where they fulfill all of my original goals for them. Publications validate me in the sense that I remember other people will enjoy my writing even if I don't, and that's why publication is so important. Writing, as solitary as it may seem, is ultimately a community.
Madeleine Gallo is currently a first year MA student at Wake Forest University. Her work has appeared in Susquehanna Review: Apprentice Writer, Fermata, Sun and Sandstone, Belle Reve Literary Journal, The Pylon, Sigma Tau Delta Review, Into the Void, Litro, and Rattle. After graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in Contemporary American Poetry. Find her poetry here.