May 6, 2013
Students are often taught that poetry has to have a deeper meaning to analyze.
Mia Alvarado, English instructor, says differently.
“That’s sort of a misnomer that poetry has a different meaning. It’s not a code that needs to be broken,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado, whose book “Hey Folly,” was published on Feb. 15, said that poems aren’t usually about things. “They’re poems; they’re not essays, they’re not abstract,” she said.
Alvarado is giving a free reading for “Hey Folly” at GOCA 121 on May 8 at 7 p.m. The reading is part of a documentary photography exhibit in the ChitChat series and will be no longer than 40 minutes.
“I like for the reader to be really lively, engaging, funny, heartbreaking,” she said, indicating that she tries to be like that in her readings.
Alvarado said her reading will be poetry that is more documentary-bent to go along with the documentary photography from Bill Starr, Matt Chmierlarczyk and Andrea Wallace.
“I’d love for people to come to the reading. I think the best reading is a bodily experience. What is it doing in my mouth? What is it doing in my ear? In my eye?” she said.
“Hey Folly” is a collection of poems, divided into three parts. The oldest poem is from around 2006 and the most recent is from about a year and a half ago.
The book includes ekphrastic poems (defined by Merriam-Webster as “a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art”), serial poems, poems that take their titles from suras in the Quaran and love poems addressed to a character named “my wife.”
Additionally, there are poems that consider various ends of the world. “A great many of the poems try to move between what we would think of as consolation and what we would think of as desolation,” Alvarado said.
Several of the poems also engage with different places that Alvarado lived, including “our fair city,” Cincinatti, New York and Alvarado’s travels in India and Namibia.
“I write almost all my poems long-hand on legal pads. It helps me not to type them until the end, helps to mark where the life is in them and go toward that,” she said.
Alvarado said she tends to memorize her poems to revise them and always relies on readers she trusts during the writing process, usually friends from grad school.
“So far, all the pleasures of having been published are small and mostly my own. It feels good to have a reason not to revise. It feels lovely to have it in a book that’s been beautifully made, beautifully type-set. I love the cover,” she said.
Alvarado said that it would be easier to say what doesn’t inspire her in her poetry because most things do. “…except Powers Boulevard. I’m not very fond of it,” she said.
In high school, Alvarado fell in love with Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Pablo Neruda and Rainer Maria Rilke.
Brooks’ “The Bean Eaters” was “maybe the first poem I ever read that I realized you could write poetry about ordinary things.”
Cummings “reflected lots of the exuberance,” Neruda’s “100 Love Sonnets” “was really hot” and Rilke wrote in the voices of the characters.
Currently, Alvarado is in to serial poetry. “Serials afford you the ability to look at one thing many, many different ways,” she said.
Additionally, she loves Lorine Niedecker’s ability to whittle down to something very, very spare and Fanny Howe’s lyrical serial poems.
She is working on two new projects: a non-fiction collection of lyrical essays entitled “Goodnight Goodnight Good Morning” that explores various ends of the world and a fictional novel about a post-apocalyptic Colorado.