Friday, May 20, 2016

Alex Ivy: A Poet Who Is Looking for Trouble.

Alexis Ivy is an educator of high-risk populations in her hometown, Boston.  Her most recent poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Spare Change News, Tar River Poetry, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Eclipse, Yellow Medicine Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, J Journal and upcoming in The Worcester Review.  Her first poetry collection, Romance with Small-Time Crooks was published in 2013 by BlazeVOX [books].  She is  finding a home for her next collection, Taking the Homeless Census which has been a runner-up for University of Wisconsin's Brittingham & Felix Pollack Prize. I had the privilege to interview her on my Somerville Community Access TV show, " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: From the poems you sent me I get the idea you lived rather a hardscrabble existence when you were younger.

Alexis Ivy: Yeah. I have given myself a hard time. I feel that poetry is truth and beauty together. My work is not strictly autobiographical; but there is a definite truth to it.

Doug Holder: So what was your life like?

AI: Well, today I am living a much better life. I had a drug problem at one point, and I am in recovery right now. I was on the road awhile—just looking for trouble. I got it. That was my interest—getting into trouble.

Doug Holder: What was the philosophy behind that?

Alexis Ivy: I thought it would be an interesting life. I was attracted to it.

Doug Holder: You worked as a copywriter. Like a poet, when you write ad copy every word counts, and you try to get to the essence of things. In-fact, my late father who was in advertising in the 1950s, and beyond, told me it was not unusual for Madison Ave. to have poets as copywriters. After all Ginsberg worked in advertising.

Alexis Ivy: I wrote descriptions of wallpaper for Lowe's and Home Depot. My descriptions of wall paper were very flowery. In my regular poetry work I never used adjectives much. It was interesting. Actually...I really did get a real good poem from working in the field. The work helped me with developing my language to a certain degree. But I wasn't interested in an office I moved on...I am not afraid of change.

Doug Holder: You study with the renowned poetry workshop leader Barbara Helfgott-Hyett. What has that experience been like?

Alexis Ivy: By attending her workshops I have learned to write. I think the first time I went there was during my senior year of high school. I had written much before. I wasn't a poet. I read the Beat Generation poets and that type of thing. I was familiar with Ginsberg and Snyder—but not much else. I learned how to write—a sestina –among other things. I learned how to give criticism. I met some great folks there. I have been going there for over a decade. Barbara is a great teacher.

Doug Holder: I read in an interview that you gave where you said,  “Poetry saved my life.” Explain.

Alexis Ivy: I feel like poetry and writing in general—when everything is just inside of you and you need to get it out—the page is where you can release it. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. It lets me let go of things. It makes an ugly experience...perhaps—beautiful. Without this outlet who knows where I would be now. With my collection “ Romance with Small Time Crooks,” I had to get over everything that happened in order to write the poems. I needed not to have it in me anymore. Once I published the book I was able to get over it—I had freedom once again.

Doug Holder: Are you over the bad times? Do you see open pastures?

Alexis Ivy: I am getting there. What I am writing about and how I am living is way better. My goal is happiness.

Doug Holder: When you were on the road did you have the idea that you would write about it?

Alexis Ivy: In the back of mind I thought I would write about it. I wasn't writing when I was on the road. Now when I go on a trip I write all the time.

Doug Holder: How long where you on the road?

Alexis Ivy: Two years. I was all around the country. I got stuck in a number of places. Once I worked for a gem and mineral show, and lived in the desert with other folks. I traveled with musicians . I made money from our gigs. I was 18 when I went on the road and 20 when I was finished with it. It was really intense not knowing what was going to happen next.

Doug Holder: I have always liked writing on trains and buses. How about you?

Alexis Ivy: I took an Amtrak to Chicago. It was a great experience. I too love traveling by train or bus. It is about the experience of getting there. There is a lot to see out the window of a Greyhound.

I light one of my own.
I like my own.
Since I’ve read Bukowski,
nothing’s beautiful anymore,
it’s always somebody
to save, and somebody
save me: a sure-sign,
ever-refined, adamant.
If only I could hurt
his feelings instead
of mine. If only
I could quit things cold.
Flushed my stash down
the toilet. Eighty-three
capsules. And maybe
the green was good-night’s-
sleep. The blue, revelation.
Pink made me popular
in the parks downtown.
And every white I kept
a fist on, that was the best one,
it prescribed me.
I had no friends to send
greeting cards, no happy
this, happy that.
How far I’d go
in my self-defense—
I’m not that bad, not bad
like them, never sold,
robbed, been in debt.
No arrests. Never used
a needle, just slid
into the direction of sliding.
I never died. Thank God
for that. If I believed in God.
Thank God.
--Alexis Ivy

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