Laura McCullough’s eighth book of poetry, DUMB BEAUTIFUL BEAST, is due out in early 2021 from Black Lawrence Press.
McCullough said this book focuses on women, mothers and daughters, being a woman, women’s relationships, and friendships. She said this work also focuses on class and culture as well as gender and politics. “I think one of the areas we don’t talk about is class and how it effects many areas of our life but doesn’t get unpacked,” she explained.
Her previous work of poetry, The Wild Night Dress, was selected by Billy Collins, who was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 20013, as a finalist for the 2017 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. “That was about my mother’s death,” she said of her previous book. Her two most recent books of poetry are a shift from her previous books of poetry, What Men Want and Rigger Death and Hoist Another, which focus on raising sons and “the spectrum of masculinity and violence in the masculine from the female perspective,” she explained.
“Poetry is one of the most intimate of the literary arts. It’s really about eliminating the boundaries between minds, but that only works well when it’s done with skill. That requires study, craft development, and practice” she explained.
McCullough doesn’t only write poetry. “My writing has shifted from the purely creative to more service oriented,” she said. “I do a lot more writing in the wellness field about emotions, empaths, empathy, and the science of those things. I do a lot of research into cognitive science and different things related to stress reduction. I bring that into my creative work,” she said. She also writes memoir, fiction, short stories, scholarly articles, and essays. She edited two anthologies of essays on poetry, A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race and The Room and the World: Essays on Stephen Dunn. McCullough is also the founding editor of Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations.
Just like McCullough does not confine her writing to one genre, she encourages aspiring writers to branch out and explore authors as well as genres. “One of the things that I tell writers who are at earlier parts of their journey is that they can’t do it without being readers. They should read widely and wildly,” she said. McCullough follows her own advice as her list of current reads illuminates: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a book of poetry by Tony Hoagland, Lessons in Love: The Transformation of Spirit Through Intimacy by Guy Corneau, a Jack Gilbert book of poetry, The Sun magazine, It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn, and a book on emotional health by Karla McLaren. “I read everything. I can’t help it,” she said.
“I always have more than one project going,” McCullough said about her writing which mirrors her reading list. She is currently working on another book of poetry and a prose work on emotional literacy and empathy. In addition, McCullough is presenting “Wellness and Emotional Literacy in the ‘Safe and Well’ Classroom” at the Community College Showcase: Promoting Equity and Student Success at New Jersey City University in late July.