Professor releases book, says poetry doesn’t need deeper meaning

May 6, 2013

April Wefler
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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.