Friday, May 2, 2014

Interview With Mary McManus

 Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'!  

Today we introduce you to Mary McManus, an inspired runner and poetess who has not only survived many traumas in her life, but learned how to thrive in spite of them. And poetry was part of how she did that! 

When and how did you first begin writing poetry?

 It was a cold, dark day in February of 2007. I had been diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease in December of 2006. My future looked grim. 

Rewind to when I was recovering from paralytic polio at the age of 5 when my physical therapist, Miss Holly, read Dr. Seuss to me before each painful session and had me recite Dr. Seuss back to her to help ease the pain of physical therapy. 

How amazing that the cadence of Dr. Seuss remained in my soul to help me begin to heal my life and emerge out of the dark night of my soul. I kept feeling this urge to create in the midst of that bleak winter’s evening and I wrote the poem, “Running the Race.” I discovered the power of visualization and the healing power of writing poetry. A spark of hope, healing and possibility was ignited in my soul.

Which subjects are the easiest for you to write about?

Running, feeling wonderful in my body, transformation, nature especially the ocean

Which subjects are the hardest for you to write about?

 I haven’t found any subjects that are a challenge for me to write about.

When do you feel most inspired to write poetry?

 Often times, in the morning right after my morning meditation. At the beach when I completely unplug.

What is your biggest fear or hesitation when deciding to share a poem with the public?

 That my poems were too raw or on the other end of the spectrum “too trite” but that fear has been dispelled by the reception my poetry has received.

What is the most profound thing you have learned from writing poems?

 That imagination can bring about change in the physical world. In my first poem, ‘Running the Race’, I wrote, “while in my mind’s eye, I focused on winning a 10K race” as I sat in a leg brace, using a wheelchair at times for mobility and being told that I would eventually need to use a wheelchair full time for mobility.  While I never won a 10K race, my unconscious set the wheels in motion for me to run the 2009 Boston Marathon. I expressed gratitude, freedom, wholeness, health and healing through my early poems and as I wrote poems about transformation, a physical transformation followed.

How is writing poetry a spiritual process for you?

As I sat in my living room in February of 2007, I asked for Divine Guidance because my life was spiraling hopelessly out of control and I felt that I was very close to death. I felt as though I had lost touch with my Spirit and I was experiencing physical symptoms that could have resulted in what I now consider an early and untimely death. The answer to my prayers came through the gift of poetry and continues to keep bringing me back to my Divine Self, connected to all that is beyond my self (with a small “s”).

What function has writing poems played for you in your life?

When I first started writing poetry, I realized that I felt no physical pain when I wrote. I was transported to this beautiful space within. Time and space became infinite. Writing poems has been a source of healing but also a source of joy and play. I love playing with words for sounds, for metaphors, for being clever and for sharing a sense of delight with my readers.

Writing poetry enabled me to first free my soul that was trapped by years of sickness and trauma and then to experience a physical transformation. Now it is a way for my heart to sing and my soul to dance on the words that I write. I love to say that my pen is a Divining rod for healing.

 I also love to create original poems to commemorate and celebrate special occasions. I used to have a business, New World Greeting Cards but realized that I was not an entrepreneur. I do continue to create these poems for friends and family.  They love receiving these poems that you just can’t find in a Hallmark card.

Name some of your favorite poetesses.  

Mary Oliver from my home state of Massachusetts is number one on my list. Deanna Faulds, Linda Hogan who I was recently introduced to by a friend of mine. She is a Chickasaw poet and novelist. And of course, the beloved Maya Angelou who is a s-hero of mine.

What effect does reading the poems of others have on you?

  I am transported to another time and place as I experience the gift of the words from the heart of another poet.

Have you publically shared your poetry before doing so via this project?

 Yes I have 5 books of inspirational poetry that I self-published.

What has been your general experience of sharing your poetry on Journey of The Heart?

 I feel so blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to both share my poetry and share what inspired me to write a particular poem. It’s wonderful to go back and reflect on why I wrote a particular poem.

Any last words you’d like to share about poetry?

 Poetry is now an integral part of my life; of my way of Being. I love to share my poetry and read poetry. From someone who always lived in her head, not her heart, writing poetry has been a beautiful journey of transformation and awakening.  Writing poetry helped me on my road to the Boston Marathon and beyond!

I decided to move beyond writing autobiographical poems to publishing my memoir, “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.” I incorporate my poems into the telling of my seven-year healing odyssey that all began with the writing of a poem in February of 2007.

Mary McManus, MSW grew up in Westchester, NY and contracted paralytic polio in 1959 at the age of 5, during one of the last polio epidemics in the United States. She survived 9 years of unrelenting sexual, physical and emotional trauma at the hands of family members culminating with the suicide of her father in 1971 as she prepared to enter her freshman year at Boston University. Mary was at the height of her 20-year award-winning career as a social worker at the VA when she was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease in December of 2006. Mary did not take the diagnosis of post polio syndrome sitting down. Instead, she embarked on a healing odyssey that began with a leap of faith as she left her social work career to heal her life and to follow her newfound passion as a poet and writer. Mary discovered that post polio syndrome was the manifestation of unhealed trauma and the breach that resulted in her mind/body connection as well as the late effects of having contracted paralytic polio.  Her pen became her divining rod for healing as she imagined herself as healthy and whole, even “Running the Race”, which was the first poem she wrote during the dark night of her soul in February of 2007. Mary is a 2009 Boston Marathon finisher, blogger, the author of 5 books of inspirational poetry and her memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility". Mary holds a BS in Public Relations from Boston University, an MSW from Boston College and many fond memories of her VA social work career in her heart. She lives in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts with her husband of 36 years and their four foot companion, Jamie. To learn more about Mary, you can visit her website at

~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~ 

1 comment:

  1. I never cease to be inspired by your story, dear Mary, and the way poetry has served you as an amazingly powerful healing, awakening and transformative force in your life. I look forward to reading more about this in your new book! :) Thank you for giving us this interview. Your courageous spirit shines through it, as it does through all your life's triumphs!