Writer Mary Spadoni’s work was featured in issue #14 of Newtown Literary. Below, she reflects on the process of completing her two poems for the journal, entitled “Ok, Cupid” and “Even a frat boy gets the blues.” For more from Mary, check out her website, and her Instagram @maspad.
I’ve been interested in mythology since I was a little kid. I suppose it was because of my dad—he used the stories of Greek gods and goddesses to keep me entertained during long car rides to my grandparents’ house on the South Side of Chicago. These were the days before iPads and satellite radio, and I remember being captivated by tales of Olympians versus Titans, Sisyphus and his never-ending task, and how the planets in our solar system got their names. It continued from there: a robust social studies class in grammar school devoted an entire semester to studying different mythological belief systems, and my freshman-year English class spent weeks reading the The Odyssey in its entirety. Those instances, combined with what I can only assume was too many viewings of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, caused me to form not just a lifelong fascination with all things mythology, but the habit of envisioning ancient gods in modern times.
I am (slowly) cultivating a series of pieces weaving mythological characters and stories into current scenarios, and it was with this angle I approached writing my two poems found in the current issue of Newtown Literary. In “Ok, Cupid,” I asked the question of why we so often date the wrong people. But rather than get lost in the weeds of psychoanalysis, I simply blamed a drunken Cupid. It was quite fun to imagine poor Cupid, constantly getting his couplings wrong, trying so hard to get one right but messing up yet again.
It was Dionysus, god of wine and revelry, who I tapped for “Even a frat boy gets the blues.” After wondering what three thousand years of hard partying would do to a guy, I arrived at Danny, alone at his bar stool at the end of another long night. Compiling elements from some of the dingier bars I’ve patronized helped me set the scene. One thing I’ve come to learn is the most vivid details are the ones that spring from real experiences—watching a bar cat use an ashtray for a water dish was a gift I didn’t know I’d been given at the time, but when I started to write this poem I knew exactly which moments from my life I could use to pepper the stage with memorable details.
In my non-poetry-writing life, I’m an event coordinator for a non-profit and before that, spent twelve years as a theatrical stage manager for regional and Off-Broadway productions. It is extremely easy for me to disappear into a logistical black hole for weeks at a time, entirely removed from the creative writing zone. But what I try to do, no matter how many spreadsheets are screaming at me, is jot down any random phrase or observance which catches my attention. This usually results in a completely nonsensical collection of iPhone notes I eventually piece together in a Google Doc days (or months) later, my memory triggered by a few key words to help me flush out the experience in question. Then, whenever I need to describe a seedy bar, for example, I can go back to my notes about the time I visited such a place.
I’m a very slow, methodical, writer. I can barely scratch out a sentence without revising it three times, and it takes me a long time to get to a finished product. It’s partly because I’m picky, partly because I don’t actually have a daily writing habit (though it’s on my to-do list). But one thing that helps me get words onto paper is to view my plot lines through a mythological lens, Greek or otherwise. How would Hera react to something? What would Apollo do in a particular situation? These questions and answers are intriguing to me, and I suppose that’s how I pick what to write about—if I’m going to live with these people for the foreseeable future, there needs to be something to hold my interest for quite some time.