Meet Mallory Nygard
Tell us a little about yourself
I'm Mallory! When I'm not working on my poems-in-progress I am an elementary/middle school librarian in Tennessee where I am doing my best to build a strong community of young readers and writers. Outside of the school day, I love baking, biking, and alliteration.
Tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now? How does it influence your writing?
I was born and raised on the plains of North Dakota and that landscape - wide open, seemingly empty but actually rich with life, immense in a way that demands consideration - is foundation to who I am and the images I use to write. The landscape of the Great Plains especially underlies my image of God and seems to inevitably come out when I am trying to write about Him.
I left the North Dakota for college and - after a few moves - am now making my home at the foot of the Great Smokey Mountains in Knoxville, TN.
How did you get started writing?
The professors I learned from as an English major at The Catholic University of America really opened to me the experience of being moved by a poem, a story, a sentence. Understanding the context and goals of writers from past helped me see that what I wanted to accomplish with writing wasn't some unique, unusual, out-there thing and, with that realization, I was able to give myself the permission to try - and often fail! - to turn the scraps of poems I had been stashing into something finished and real.
What does your writing routine look like?
Maybe it's due to years of writing so many papers in college, but writing on a computer feels much too permanent to me. So I work out my poems in a notebook with a pencil (not even a pen!). Working in a physical notebook reinforces to me the reality of the thing I am writing: the work exists outside of myself. That means I also have the ability to put the notebook down when it's not working and take some space when I need to. This kind of freedom enables me to write, but my favorite time to do it is Saturday mornings while sitting in the neighborhood cafe, with a pencil in one hand and a cappuccino in the other.
What are some things you do to get yourself in creative thinking mode?
The main thing that consistently pushes me to write is reading. When I read something beautiful that I can feel in my chest, something that makes me set the book down for a minute to rest in the feeling, my next move is to pick up a pencil and write in response.
Which authors inspire you and your writing? What about them particularly moves you?
My favorite poet is Franz Wright; the simultaneous sharpness and tenderness of his poems are incredible. I also return often to the mysticism of The Dream of the Rood, the mundane infused with the sacred in the writing of Ron Hansen, and Great Plains experience in Willa Cather's stories.
What was the inspiration for the piece included in our issue?
My poem published in issue 2 of Ever Eden, "The Vault of Heaven," is actually the third version of this poem I've tried to write. In the fall of my senior year of college, both my grandparents passed away. I wasn't able to attend my grandma's funeral, but my grandfather's funeral was a profound experience of faith and life for me. As I stood in the cemetery among my family while we prayed, I knew that a poem could be written about that moment.
A few months later I finished what I thought was the final version of this poem, but it kept returning to me and I could tell I hadn't quite captured the experience I set out to. The turning point in the writing of this poem was when I returned to the liturgical prayers of the funeral rite. In fact the title of the poem, "the vault of heaven," comes from the prayer over the grave when the priest asks God who "created the earth and shaped the vault of heaven" to "set us free." While writing this poem didn't free me from my grief, it did help me reach out to the God who loved me enough to give me a heart that desires a love deeper than death.