31 May 2012

online find 5/31: an interview with poet austin alexis

Austin Alexis is a poet I came across when hunting for some new poetry reading on Amazon. After reading his second chapbook, For Lincoln & Other Poems, I knew I was a fan. I got in touch with Austin sometime in April about interviewing him for the Our Lost Jungle blog, and was delighted when I heard back from him and, later, received his responses.

In lieu of a headshot, enjoy this video of Austin reading some of his poems at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City on New Year's Day 2008:

Austin Alexis's most recent journal publications include FutureCycle Poetry, Danse Macabre, Unfold Magazine, and other publications include work in the anthology Come Hear! and in the journals Barrow Street, The Pedestal Magazine, Lips, Tuesday Shorts, Red River Review, Connecticut River Review, Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), Six Sentences, Clockwise Cat and Paterson Literary Review (forthcoming).  Austin’s second chapbook, For Lincoln & Other Poems (Poets Wear Prada Press), contains a Pushcart Prize nominated poem and was a Small Press Review "Book of the Month."  His first chapbook was entitled Lovers and Drag Queens (Poets Wear Prada Press). Austin received the Editor's Choice Award from Mobius: The Poetry Magazine, a Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Scholarship, a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Scholarship, a Vermont Studio Center Artist Grant and residencies at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico.  He has written dance and theatre criticism for The Arts Cure, some of which was translated into Japanese.  One of Austin’s plays was selected for the Samuel French Short Plays Festival.  Some of his work is part of a video sculpture/literature project by the Swiss sculptor team Glaser and Kunz.  Austin has taught academic and creative writing at several colleges, including Hunter College and Long Island University.  He was born in Brooklyn and has lived most of his adult life in Manhattan.

What are you currently working on? 

I am currently refining my first, full-length poetry manuscript.  I am also working on a novel.

Poets often find themselves drawn to certain “themes” in their work. Are there any themes that you find constantly emerging in your poems?

Some themes that reoccur in my work: the power of technology, the reasons for physical pain and illness, the morality or immorality of protecting friends who have committed crimes.

Oftentimes poets consider themselves as having “arrived” at becoming a poet. How long have you considered yourself a poet?

I feel I am always evolving and arriving, rather than someone who has "arrived."  Are we ever worthy of the title "poet"?

Your poems have such a strong sensory voice. In the poem “Grandpa” (For Lincoln: & Other Poems, 2010), for example, you write “You arrived places on big-clown bozo feet, / back slightly forward as if weighed down / by your secret sack of pennies.” How do you go about discovering the images that will shape your poems? 

The imagery in my poems comes from everything I've seen, experienced, felt, thought and imagined.  Also the mind is enriched by reading, listening to music, looking at visual art and dance.  

Who or what are you currently reading?

I'm reading Sharon Olds and Louise Gluck for poetry, Michael Cunningham and Josephine Hart for fiction, and Danny Senna for nonfiction.  I'm also reading criticism on Ibsen.

A lot of poets have some pretty heavy fears or anxieties when it comes to their writing, or their profession. What is one of your biggest writing “challenges,” and how do you try to overcome it? 

One of my writing challenges is feeling that my life must be perfect before I allow myself to tackle a new or "big" writing project.  I try to overcome this by setting deadlines for myself and not allowing myself to change a deadline once it's set.  

If you could share a piece of advice for other poets, what would it be?

Trust your artistic instincts.  Approach rewriting as a fun and creative process.  Read, read, read in your field and in other areas.

To learn more about Austin’s work and writing, visit his Amazon.com Author Page!


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Check out these other tips for writers on Our Lost Jungle:


  1. Khara,

    Your blog is inspiring to me so I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. You and your blog deserve this. http://swthink.blogspot.com/2012/05/versatile-blogger-award.html

    Have a great day!!

  2. What a list of fine credentials! Thank you for sharing Austin with us, Khara.

    Austin, I'm curious what you mean by "full-length poetry manuscript."

    It is a pleasure meeting you here, and I wish you all the best.

    Marie Elena

    1. My two books are both "chapbooks," meaning short or mini books of poems. By a full-length book of poetry, I mean a book that is at least forty-eight pages in length. Thanks for your interest, Marie.

    2. Thank you, Austin, for stopping by to respond!

  3. Thank you, Austin! I wasn't sure what the "cut off" point would be. Like Khara, I very much appreciate you taking the time to respond.

    Khara, thanks again for introducing Austin to us.


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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