We are so thrilled to introduce our new Executive Director, Mary Gannon!
Since 2013, Mary Gannon was the Associate Director/Director of Content for the Academy of American Poets, where she helped relaunch Poets.org (which was awarded in 2017 a Best Website for Teaching & Learning by the American Association of School Librarians). Prior to that, she was the Editorial Director of Poets & Writers, the country’s largest nonprofit organization serving poets and writers of literary prose. She is also an award-winning poet and writer, and we are so excited to welcome her to CLMP.
Since we’re all eager to get to know Mary, we decided to ask her a few questions in advance of her turn at the wheel.
What are you most looking forward to about working with CLMP?
I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to work in service of writers and the literary field for the past twenty years. And during that time, I’ve seen firsthand how fundamental literary magazines and presses are to the publishing ecosystem. I’m especially excited to apply my experience to ensuring these dedicated publishers continue to be supported in innovative and impactful ways. Literature as an art form depends on it.
What excites you about the current landscape of independent literature?
I love the idea that there is a vibrant, growing, wide-ranging, creative community of people dedicated to putting poetry and literary prose out into the world for readers to discover. I think literature has a transformative power in our lives, and it’s an art form that’s especially relevant right now. We’ve seen evidence of this, for example, with so many readers turning to poetry for solace and to recover truth in language. Literary magazines and presses form the foundation of the ecosystem that connects readers and writers, making the whole project possible. And the fact that there are so many devoted editors and publishers working to share with a larger audience the widest possible range of voices, including marginalized stories that wouldn’t otherwise be read, fills me with great hope and excitement for the future.
What is an accomplishment in your career that you’re particularly proud of?
One recent accomplishment I’m proud of was being part of the leadership team that coordinates the Poetry Coalition, a national alliance of organizations working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. When organizations from across the country are in conversation, share resources, and work in partnership their efforts are amplified in a way that’s not otherwise possible. Each year the Poetry Coalition works on programming around a theme of social importance. In 2017, the theme was poetry and migration; last March, the theme was poetry and the body. This year’s theme will be announced in December.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? How do you carry that into your life?
Well, one guiding principle I return to again and again comes from Emily Dickinson: “Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” Or, in the words of another poet, Hyam Plutzik: “Expect no more. This is happiness.” To me these sentiments both point to the importance of rising to the occasion of your life’s work—recognizing what’s before you on a daily basis and meeting it without fear but instead with openness and singleness of heart.
What is the last book you read that you loved? What’s currently on your to-be-read pile?
There are so many books I love! Most recently, I read and loved Jenny Xie’s poetry collection, Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2017), which won the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award and is a finalist for the National Book Award. Currently, I’m reading the essay collection Beyond Measure by Rachel Z. Arndt (Sarabande Books, 2018) and Terrance Hayes’s To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (Wave Books, 2018).