Trouble Child
art + literary magazine

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An Interview with Mara Rosen

Aubrey Asleson sat down with Mara Rosen, marketing associate and poetry editor at Trouble Child, to talk poetry, personality, and life after college.

Aubrey Asleson: When did you start reading poetry? When did you start writing it, and what inspires you to do so?

Mara Rosen: I actually didn’t start seriously reading or seeking out poetry until after I graduated high school. It always felt like a very inaccessible genre to someone living in a very conservative town in Wisconsin. Maybe part of me knew I was missing it, though, because I spent a hell of a lot of time reading the lyric booklets out of my CD collection, and if we’re being honest, I still enjoy a long, romantic walk through AZLyrics.

On the other hand, even though I didn’t start reading poetry until after high school, I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. I have notebooks full of poems from as early as kindergarten. It’s always felt incredibly essential to being alive. From childhood, I’ve had a lot of trouble saying exactly what I mean. I’m not a great speaker, and a lot of my thoughts and feelings are abstract, meaning that they don’t come out quite right in face to face conversations. In that sense, poetry has always been that outlet for me. For someone who lives and experiences so much of life inside of their head, writing is where I get to say what I’m thinking without it feeling wrong, messy, or inconcise.

 AA: What role do poetry and literature in general have in your life now? How has it changed since you were in school?

 MR: Since leaving school, my relationship with poetry and literature has definitely changed. Though I liked many parts of academia, I was never one to derive much enjoyment from analyzing literature or poetry, especially through standard essays. For me, the best part of poetry isn’t pinpointing exactly “what the author is saying.” I think sometimes the author doesn’t even know exactly what they’re saying. A lot of poems are just someone with a strong feeling trying to reach their point, and a lot of my enjoyment comes from the feeling I get watching someone try to flesh that out. Does that make sense?

 Like, take Richard Siken’s “The Long and Short of It.” Do I know exactly what he’s saying? Nah. Have I written a paper about his use of metaphor? Nah. Could I even really begin to explain it to another person? Probably not, but it still makes me cry every time I read it, and that’s the best part of poetry.

 AA: What are you reading right now?

 MR: I’m currently reading I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara, and Ada Limon’s new poetry collection The Carrying. Both are very good. Both are recommended.

 AA: We're both mildly obsessed with personality tropes—something a lot of people consider putting yourself in a box. Why do you think you're drawn to categorizing your personality?  

 MR: Oh boy, our favorite subject. Well, as I said earlier, I have a lot of trouble getting people to “know what I mean.” I’ve expressed this to you before, but I constantly feel like an alien or like I’m operating on some weird frequency that people can’t tune into right. At the same time, my absolute greatest overall desire is to be deeply seen by other people, so I think a big reason I love things like astrology and Myers-Briggs is because they give me something concrete to give to other people. Like, maybe I can’t really get you to “understand” me as a whole person, but I can tell you I’m an INFJ Libra, and maybe that will help a little bit. It also helps me find a ground where I feel connected to other people who have fit themselves into similar boxes.

 For example, we’re both INFJs and very strong INFJs at that. That alone gives us some level of mutual understanding. Like, usually I can’t approach a group of people and tell them about how this one concrete building by my apartment in my sophomore year of college used to make me cry whenever I looked at it. Most people find that stuff to be a little unrelatable, but other INFJs (in my experience) are more likely to be like, “Yeah, sounds good! Wanna hear about how I’m performing different parts of my personality to groups of people at any given time in a desperate effort to connect deeply with everyone all of the time?”

 AA: You graduated from the University of Minnesota a few years ago. What are your thoughts on life after college?

MR: Life after college is certainly happening! And that’s most of what I have to say about that.