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Poet Maureen McDole enjoys life’s ‘Feast’

Bill DeYoung



"I can’t believe that I actually get to do what I love all the time, and be in creativity all the time," gushes Keep St.Pete Lit founder Maureen McDole. "I don’t know that I would be able to start Keep St. Pete Lit now, at this stage the city’s in. I got right in during the renaissance of the arts scene." Photo: Off the Walls.

It was about three years ago when Ray Hinst, owner of Haslam’s Books, told Maureen McDole upfront he wasn’t a fan of poetry, but because she was local agreed to stock her two books anyway. Weeks later, Hinst confessed to her that he’d picked them up and read them, and she’d made a convert out of him. He liked her poetry.

“That’s probably the greatest compliment I ever got,” McDole says.

Never doubt the transformative power of the written word – not only can it do impressive things for the reader, it can be a form of healing and catharsis for the writer.

The cover of “Feast” features an illustration by Maureen McDole’s daughter Lily, whose drawings also appear inside the book.

That’s Maureen McDole’s big takeaway from journaling, which she does religiously, and from writing poetry. Her third volume, Feast, is published this week by St. Petersburg Press.

“Life is tricky,” the 46-year-old explains. “We’re all in one existential crisis after another, if we’re honest. If we’re wanting to evolve and grow. So I write my way out of it.”

Feast arrives a decade after its predecessor. It was a hellacious ten years, she says – the first few, anyway. It’s all been a cumulative time of tremendous growth and self-actualization for her.

Eight years ago, McDole was clawing her way out of a marriage that was going nowhere fast. Many of the poems in Feast speak of betrayal, hurt and loss.

An equal number, however, are optimistic. For one thing, raising her daughter, Lily, has become a focus for her, and a tremendous source of pride.

And she poured herself into her writing. “I write three pages in my journal every day,” McDole says. “Just processing my life. I’m a seeker. I’m always trying to place where I am in the universe, at this moment.

“I’m a creative and I’m very passionate. And I’m always trying to understand what my role is.”

Not long after the divorce was finalized, she found her role. A St. Petersburg native, McDole wanted to give something back. “I manifest everything that I want. It might not be exactly how I see it, but I write it out as a way of placing myself in the world. To be intentional.”

She created Keep St. Pete Lit, a nonprofit with a singular goal – give resident writers, readers and literary-minded types a consistent diet of available classes, groups, readings and events. To keep the written word where Maureen McDole firmly believes it should be, front and center.

That’s because she knows how powerful it can be.

Feast is an acknowledgement and celebration of her personal rebirth. “My whole life is different,” she says. “Most of my friends, ninety-seven percent of my very dear friends now, came after the divorce. My whole career with Keep St. Pete Lit, after. All of it.”

Every once in a while, she’ll think back on who she was eight years ago, “A single mom with a degree in English, heavily in debt and living with her mother in Seminole, driving a car with no air conditioning, and the driver’s side window would not roll down. But that was my life.”

Keep St. Pete Lit rose like a phoenix from the ashes of what she’d left behind. “I had no nonprofit experience and no money. And I didn’t know anyone with money. But I tried it, and it was fun. I needed fun. And it was cool to be unencumbered. That’s really what’s been the transformation.”

Maureen McDole and fellow poet Sara Ries Dziekonski will read, and celebrate Feast (and Dziekonski’s Marrying Maracuyá) Thursday, Nov. 4 at thestudio@620.

Feast is available from St. Petersburg Press, and at Tombolo Books.



















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