'In the Spotlight' interview with Cara L McKee for Lucent Dreaming

Cara L McKee in the Spotlight

Cara L McKee, whose poem ‘She Does’ is published in issue 6 of Lucent Dreaming, is from Yorkshire, but she’s now ditched England, and lives with her young family on the West Coast of Scotland. She currently gets to work in her local library, but Westminster’s austerity measures mean it’s hard to know how long that’ll last. Cara’s poetry has been widely published in places including Gutter Magazine, Severine, The Interpreter’s House, The Speculative Book 2019, 404 Ink, and Dodging the Rain, and she’s got her first chapbook coming out in summer of 2020 with Maytree Press.

So, what inspired your piece ‘She Does’? Can you tell us a little more about what it’s about?

‘She Does’ is one of my favourites of the poems I’ve written, and I was delighted that Lucent Dreaming chose to publish it. It’s also one of my favourite poems to read, but I’ve heard someone else read it out loud, and I think I could have done a better job on the punctuation because she struggled! It’s the last poem in my new chapbook, First Kiss, and I know people have been sharing it with friends, so I’m delighted about that too. 
I was inspired to write it after I heard a podcast talking about the war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn. She was an amazing journalist, and such a capable woman all round, but still the first thing many people say about her is that she was married to Ernest Hemingway, briefly before she dumped him because he was trying to control her. I wanted to be as capable and confident as Martha Gelhorn, so I imagined myself into the role, and that’s where She Does came from. 

What are some of your favourite books and art (including shows, videos, music) – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?

I could answer this question for a week! I’ll try to do a quick roundup. 
Books – Fiction – Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu trilogy for questioning gender and making it sexy. George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (please finish the next book, George) for knowing the rules and choosing to break them (I also loved the Game of Thrones TV series for bringing new ideas to the world). More recently Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo which I think is amazing and deserves all the prizes. Poetry – There is so much interesting poetry right now, but poets I’m currently obsessing over include Jacqueline Saphra, Jessica Traynor, Amanda Huggins, and Jonathan Kinsman. I read a lot of poetry magazines, favourites right now include Lucent Dreaming, Butcher’s Dog, and The Interpreter’s House. You didn’t ask about computer games, but I’m playing a lot of The Sims 4 at the moment, and loving the new Eco Lifestyle extension. I start stories in The Sims! Music – I have been avoiding listening to the news and politics lately, and have been enjoying listening to music on Spotify, I’ve put together a playlist for a plague year, with the songs that have been going around my head recently. Lots of old favourites like My Chemical Romance, The Cure and The Rasmus, and some newer stuff too. Here’s the playlist if you fancy a listen: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2QisvItMJg4xAyoAEzhW1p?si=L4Vr5MnfSvO3tn5IkedQ2Q
Art – I am really enjoying the colourful work of illustrators  like Wednesday Holmes (@hellomynameiswednesday on Insta) and Rebecca Strickson (@rebecca_strickson_illustration). I am also blown away by the gorgeous picture we got to use for my new chapbook – it’s Ophelia by Annie Ovenden. We were inspired to use it because I have a poem in the book about Ophelia by Millais, which uses Lizzie Siddal as a model. The poem is comparing Ophelia’s silencing in Hamlet with Lizzie’s silencing as a model, and my own silencing as a teenage girl. I love Annie’s Ophelia because she’s not some blank thing that things happen to, there’s anger in her eyes, and understanding.

What, if anything, are you looking forward to right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?

My new chapbook came out 22nd May with Maytree Press, and I’ve not been able to launch it properly yet, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that, I’m hoping to do some live readings and some poetry workshops when we can all hang out together again. I’ve just had an arty poem come out in the Queer Quaranzine from The Queer Dot, which you can get from Artificial Womb on Etsy. I’ve been posting quite a lot of poems with photos on my Insta (@caralmckee) during lockdown and I’m really enjoying putting images and words together. I’ve got poems coming soon in a Sad Bitch Chronicles anthology, in Brittle Star magazine, and in a series of chapbooks coming from the Scottish Writer’s Centre. I’m hoping, maybe when the kids go back to school in August (hopefully full time), to start putting together another chapbook, loosely themed around little gods, because that’s been a theme in a lot of my writing, and it’s something I really want to explore more.  

Can you tell us about how you got into writing and art? Is there anyone whose support or encouragement really inspired or motivated you?

I won some competitions with poetry and writing when I was a kid, but I guess I didn’t feel it was proper work, so I trained up and became a social researcher. I worked for the Scottish Government, doing their research on antisocial behaviour. It was useful stuff, but I felt I wanted to be more creative, so took the opportunity to focus on that when I became a mother. I started off trying to write books. I’ve drafted a few now, but they didn’t come to life. Poetry was what really came alive for me. When we moved to Largs, on the west coast of Scotland, I joined the local writing group and met a marvellously grumpy woman called Rose who thought my poetry was good and I should get on with doing something about it. I took her advice and sent my work off. I’m still doing it. The worst thing that can happen is that they don’t reply. Even then you get to work on the poem again and send it back out.  

Where can people see more of you and your work? 

I have a website at https://skeletonarchitecture.blogspot.com/ where you can buy a signed copy of the chapbook, and find more information on where I’ve been published to date. I’m also on social media @caralmcee on Insta @caramckee on Twitter, and at /caralmckee on Facebook.

Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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