INTERCHANGE: M.C. Montague on Un/Familiar, Healing, and Home

MS: I wanted to start this out by asking about how you got started creatively—not necessarily just poetry, but in any kind of creative effort.

MCM: I’ve always been writing. I was a wild kid, but we were always in the library and my family was always reading. And in middle school I started writing songs, first without lyrics and then with lyrics. In high school I got more interested in film, and around senior year I watched a lot of button poetry. I was interested in both the production of the videos, and the stories the poets were telling.

Poetry took over, I think, my freshman year in college because I didn’t have my guitar. It was an easy way to keep my interests in storytelling going, even without music.

I think that’s really cool that you say that, because there’s such a distinct music to poetry.

I guess earlier I sort of lied; I was always a big Watsky fan, too, so spoken word was always in the back of my head—that was the poetry that I was really interested in, not the traditional stuff they make you read in high school.

What does poetry do for you? I guess, what’s its function?

I think poetry is like journaling but a lot less lonely. Freshman year, a lot happened and poetry was great for processing it. At CUPSI, Hanif Abdurraqib said that poetry is healing out loud. I think mine is just a great opportunity at taking something ugly and making it beautiful.

I love that—it’s like taking your feelings and saying “I can use this.”

Yeah, I feel like if I can take something and say it in a more entertaining way I can make it less of a burden on myself and other people.

Ah, you’re a genius.

Ha, I mean, I’ll take the compliment.

The poems of yours we’ve featured have a lot to do with relationships, and how we deal with different kinds of love. Are there any other places you find yourself coming back to again and again in your poetry? I guess in a more pretentious way I’m asking you what you write about.

Well, “Un/Familiar” is more about home, and how it changes. It’s kind of the idea of how I have a weird relationship with every place I’ve lived because I never stay long. It’s about my hometown, Heartland, and how everything looks different. It’s not the place I grew up, but it’s still the same, too. The nostalgia is why I always come back, and it’s never worth it. That’s where the mirage line is.

I didn’t know you were working on a chapbook!

Yeah, I’m almost done! I’m working on formatting. We out here!

Well, I’m glad you also brought up “Un/Familiar.” There’s a point where the perspective changes for just a few lines—it’s the poem’s fifth stanza, you write “If love has an opposite / then I don’t want anything to do with either of them.” That part of the poem just keeps sticking with me, it’s a solid, confident “I” statement in a poem that otherwise speaks for a group “we.” Can you tell me a little bit about your process and how you tend to make decisions in your poems?

If I’m being completely honest, that was an accident. The way I write is very stream of consciousness. What happened was that I was talking with my friend about how as we grow outside our hometown, the familiar there becomes unfamiliar and I decided to write something in both of our voices, so I think that was a point where I could only speak for myself.

It breaks the voice in half, sort of, to a really cool effect.


So, really generic last question to ask, but what are you reading, or watching right now?

I got Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s book Peluda. I’ve not finished that. I also just got Hanif’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, which I’ll probably read over Thanksgiving. I’m reading a lot of books for my queer lit class, too. And I’ve been watching a lot of movies, which is weird for me—I don’t usually like movies because I have like, zero attention span, but I still want to make them someday. For the most part I’ve been taking in news and homework.

So, before we close this up, is there anything else you want to say?

Oh, man, that’s a lot of pressure…No, I trust you that you’re not gonna say anything stupid on my behalf.

Oh, god, that’s a lot of pressure on me, too!


M.C. Montague is currently a Junior studying video production at Ball State University. They enjoy writing poetry and looking at birds. You can purchase a copy of their chapbook, Home is a Noun: An Exploration of People Places and Things, here.

Author: turnpikemagazine

Turnpike is a literary and art magazine devoted to positive themes and underrepresented voices.

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