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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Life of a Poet at UMB

The author, Shea Donavan Mullaney
The author, Shea Donavan Mullaney

This past Tuesday afternoon I sat down to a cup of tea and invigorating conversation with UMass undergraduate and local poet S. Donovan Mullaney. All writers strive toward, and few undergraduates achieve, what Mullaney has accomplished – a book publication. The charming S. Donavan Mullaney, known by friends and classmates simply as Shea, had his collection of poetry spanning almost eleven years published with Colorado based MJS Publishing Group. This January Follow the Wolf Moon came into print. The book’s title and its month of publication correspond ironically; the Wolf Moon is the first full moon in January. In signature Shea style the practicing Buddhist explained the importance of his book’s title, which reflects the peaceful demeanor his peers have come to recognize. “I have a thing for wolves; they are amazing creatures and are nature’s way of balancing the ecosystem by never killing more than they need to. This is something that humans don’t really do. I think we could do a lot better if we imitated the wolf in many ways.” Follow the Wolf Moon is comprised in ‘Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer Moons’ that connect to the natural and seasonal elements developed in this collection. The poetry’s theme is of “engaging and really embracing what’s in front of you; put away excuses, distractions and be completely with it… I find that there is a lot of beauty in life, in the very simple and very ordinary things.”

Shea made his book publishing voyage seem simple, “I was at the right place at the right time.” A friend of his friend had a publication house actively looking for writers. They read Shea’s manuscript, they loved it, and two years ago they gave him a publishing contract. Shea follows his parent’s advice of never believing one’s own hype. “I’m just an undergrad, still paying my dues and learning my way around things. I leave my ego at the door. It’s all about the work.” Shea is humble and he honestly revealed that his success came after he “submitted to various magazines and collected a stack of rejection letters.” All writers face rejection and Shea has a positive outlook on handling it, “The magazine rejections just start to roll off you. The biggest rejection came [in] my first poetry workshop [BU] I ended coming out with a C, just low enough to bring my GPA down. I lost my scholarship. I felt pretty crappy. Like, ‘Oh I’m C poet’.” Shea is no C poet these days because he did not give up, “I guess I’m someone who believes in himself. I believe I have a gift. I have a responsibility to share it.” Once he received his publishing contract Shea showed Alan Helms a retired UMB professor his manuscript. Helms thought it “showed a lot of intelligence” but suggested Shea “Go see Lloyd Schwartz!” Heeding this advice led Shea to Workshops with Lloyd Schwartz and Joyce Peseroff, this allowed him to achieve great poetic success and aided his pursuit toward publication. “They have a really positive encouraging attitude. They give really good feedback [They’ll say] ‘here are the gems, here are the rough places, if you work through the rough places you’ll come out with something really good'”. Those gems have surely surfaced glistening in Follow the Wolf Moon. Professors Schwartz and Peseroff are mentors to Shea as well, “I learn a lot from everything he [Schwartz] says. He gets things out of me I didn’t even know were there. Joyce inspires me. She has a book out too. I look at her dealing with publishing/promotion everyday. Staying creative and true to your art is a hard balance.”

While attending BU ten years ago Shea experienced a spiritual awakening that changed his life as a poet “One night I was walking down the sidewalk, I looked up at a full moon with a ring around it. I had never seen that before. A back door opened in my mind and I wrote down my first adult poem.” The rest is history. With the floodgates of creativity open, Follow the Wolf Moon was finished this past November. One poem was even added a week before it went to the printer. “My editor was not happy with me” Shea admits laughing. Since the book came out Shea does a lot of promoting and marketing. Lucky for him he had a marketing career for 12 years, “it’s almost as natural to me as writing”. Self-promotion can be difficult. Shea is the artist and the business man essentially selling himself. “There is a conflict between the two…When you’re trying to get a bookstore owner to sell your book there is an element of show and ego. You’re creating a public person [but] when you are writing that is really you, no borders, no spin, no masks.” Shea believes “it’s all about practice”, so he writes daily and takes poetry workshops.

For him “the only muse is the moment… that lightning bolt which usually came after a really painful incident. Pain is good inspiration, “So is joy, sex, chocolate,” Shea says. Chocolate, Shea’s sweet inspiration, is seen in his poem “Chocolate for Vicky and THE BOY”: “Infatuation steams like / Mexican hot chocolate, melted down … Drink it all down / like you’re still eighteen, sure / of every answer, and reach your hand out / for another cup”(56). Shea also writes of “breakups, memories of family, random encounters with people on the tee, his cat. His inspiration stemming from a cat transcends to capture the poignancy all people can relate to in “Wisdom of Cats”: “My tabby and I want the same things / A warm chest to curl on, / a voice rusty with sleep / to make one ear twitch / and toes unfurl / as it whispers: / baby.” (34). Aside from writing poetry that professor Schwartz calls “Delicious!” Shea, a Plymouth native enjoys Asian culture: martial arts, Japanese gardening, Buddhist meditation, and Reiki. Shea lives on a horse farm and is entirely connected to nature, “Horses are authentic. You can’t have any bullshit if you want to work with a horse.” Shea’s connection to horse riding is represented in the following passage from his new poem,

Shea’s voyage as a poet has given him great insight, which he uses to encourage and advise his classmates and fellow writers, “It’s about practice. Write everyday, check your feelings at the door. You’re going to experience rejection, pain, criticism – hopefully not apathy, you never know. Separate yourself from that and just keep going.”

This is just a taste of the wisdom and talent of S. Donovan Mullaney. Read and support your fellow UMass student and intimately experience his flowing and evocative poetry by purchasing Follow the Wolf Moon ($8.95), visiting the poet’s Blog: http://volumefreak.com/seagda or by talking to Shea when you see him in and around campus. He has a welcoming smile and believes in “connecting with people who want to read [his] work, connecting with people who are poets [to] get their perspectives [and] connecting with everyday people.” Follow the Wolf Moon, S. Donavan Mullaney Reading: McIntyre and Moore, May 10 7:30pm. Redline @ Davis Square.

Justice, Served Daily S. Donovan Mullaney “Step up,” the guard says,”get your hot justice,served daily.” Her wandreads my body, leavesmy mind secure.I empty my pockets:ibuprofen, seventy-two cents,three stolen ballpoints,two receipts,wallet,keys. Criminalsand traffic violators,we check in together,paperwork in hand.Each of us has a story-Nah, reasons, bro’-why we don’t belong here. We shareyawns, pens, and BostonHeralds as we wait to becalled into Room 152,wonderingwhat the bald girl did;if he thinks a pierced lipand shells in wilddreadlocked hairmake him look more innocent;and whether a silk shirtwith French seams is goodto wear to court.