In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—Meg Eden
Your poem “Estate Sale” in Volume 23 starts out really funny and lighthearted until about the time when the speaker finds sales tags on used underwear. Then it shifts into some very thought-provoking territory on the longevity of material objects and our inevitable deaths. Can you walk us through how you conceived of the emotional depth in this piece? What was your inspiration or intention with this poem?
I think I just walked through my own thought process as I went through this estate sale in Arizona. First, I was laughing at the absurdity, the bizarre things unearthed at these sales, but then I saw that underwear on the toilet and it struck me how uncomfortably intimate it was, how nonconsensual. I mean, what kind of person volunteers to sell their used underwear with stains on it? How many people really consent to estate sales in the first place? This was a retirement community in Arizona, so it struck me in that moment that most of these are sales after death, not from moving or other reasons. It got me thinking about how brief we are on this earth, how we can take nothing with us. I can’t help but think of that verse 1 Peter 1:24-25: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That verse suddenly took new meaning at that estate sale.
There’s the line “how no one keeps secrets for the dead” in your poem that I keep thinking about; how nothing ever truly stays private even after we no longer remain. What does that line mean to you? What does privacy mean to creative writers?
This is such a great question. When I first started writing, I was shameless! I let everything hang out, to a fault. It was a form of coping, of admitting to things in the dark I’d never talk about in daylight. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more reserved. I can’t control what will remain or be forgotten once I’m gone—I don’t think any of us can, even writers—but I think I’m more conscientious now of doing everything in my power to clarify my message.
This issue was birthed during this pandemic and the political and social unrest that’s been spilling over on the streets in cities nationwide. It feels like day after day we witness more violence and division, and we felt that the title “hunger for tiny things” took on a multi-faceted poignance for this issue. I’m curious—what tiny things do you hunger for these days?
I think the big (tiny) thing I hunger for these days is fellowship, particularly writing conferences, conventions and workshops. I also greatly miss travel and exploring new places. I miss looking forward to things—these days, the biggest things I look forward to are getting take-out on the weekends and movie nights! I also greatly look forward to a respite from doing dishes. I don’t feel like I’ve ever done this many dishes in my life. Maybe that says something about my bad eating out habits!
Writers tend to write what haunts or obsesses them. What are some themes/topics that are important to your writing, or tend to show up a lot in your work?
So many things! The overlooked people and things. How brief we are, and how quickly we’re forgotten. Coping with change. Coping with limitations (I’m a spoonie on the autism spectrum, but only recently discovered this). I think the things that haunt me most are usually spiritual lessons I still haven’t learned. Writing teaches me, slowly but surely, and I keep growing–but some lessons are ones that linger with us our whole lives.
What projects are you working on right now?
I am between projects and it’s the worst feeling! I just finished edits on a middle grade novel in verse, and want to try to jump into some more middle grade or young adult work, but haven’t quite settled on the next thing. I’ve also been writing down some poems here and there, and am trying to put together a new chapbook manuscript.
Meg Eden’s work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017), and the poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020). She runs the MAGFest MAGES Library blog, which posts accessible academic articles about video games. Listen to Meg read “Estate Sale” on our YouTube page. You can follow her on Twitter (@ConfusedNarwhal) and learn more about her work at her website.