Written by Shelby Swing
Photographed by Cameron Ohls
Almost everything about Maris Mabry says “old soul,” from her classy, simple cardigans to the way she pulls her hair back with a single bobby-pin. Her quiet simplicity transfers to her poetry as well. When she writes, she says she has to be alone because she gets distracted easily. If she listens to music, it’s instrumental or Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”—“over and over again, on repeat,” she says, laughing. Sometimes she likes to venture outside of her normal routine space. Maris seems to treasure the small ideal moments, especially when it comes to putting pen to paper. In regards to writing poetry, she says, “[It’s] the one genre I hand-write first, while I use Microsoft Word for everything else. It’s about being quiet, counting the syllables, moving around lines, and playing with rhyme.”
Originally from Seneca, South Carolina, Maris started writing when she was nine years old and has been a reader of books from the beginning. “Writers want to read something that they don’t see, so they write it,” she says. She didn’t try poetry until taking a poetry workshop with Dr. Cox, and despite several phenomenal poems in the journal, she says she still “doesn’t see herself as a poet.” Label aside, Maris enjoys the structure of poetry—“I really like playing with form. It pushes me in different ways.”
It’s appropriate, then, that the sonnet is her favorite form as it offers the freedom of creativity along with structure. “It appeals to me because it’s like a puzzle. It’s knowing the image I want to create but putting it into a form.” She’s most proud of “Marrying Young,” a poem featured in this year’s journal. She says she is lured to the dichotomy of the structured format with a vulnerable subject because it allows her to go beyond what she gravitates towards and challenges her in a way she enjoys.
Like a process of self-discovery, Maris’ nonfiction writing has helped her open up to vulnerable subjects. Familial relationships is the subject of much of her work featured in the journal, and she claims that if she could only write about one thing for the rest of her life, she would write about her grandparents. She’s experienced a few of her grandparents’ deaths within her lifetime, and she feels as though she “missed so many opportunities to hear their stories and talk with them about their generation.” She makes connections with them—and with her heritage—through her writing.
Maris’ plans include getting married after graduation, keeping up her blog, and hopefully staying in the upstate. She says that while she enjoys the area, she has resigned herself to giving her future over to the Lord—a difficult task for any natural-born planner. “I’m realizing that I don’t have control over it,” she says, chuckling. She admits she likes to have a schedule but also adventure. And as she continues to write—stretching herself and delving into vulnerable subjects—adventures she will have.