Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Tinderbox, Diode, Nashville Review, Duende, Wide Awake, Poets of Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Her books include: How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart stab poems (Sybaritic Press, 2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO FLASH Press, 2015), Enter Here (KYSO FLASH Press, 2017), and Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), the story of her first, disastrous marriage. Her photographs have been published worldwide, including the covers of Witness, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Heyday, and Pithead Chapel. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives with her husband on the cliffs of San Pedro, California, a sleepy beach town 20 miles from her former digs in downtown L.A. http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com
Links to purchase her books on Amazon:
How I lost my Virginity to Michael Cohen and Other Heart Stab Poems (https://www.amazon.com/How-Lost-Virginity-Michael-Cohen/dp/1495123197/)
1. What inspired you to write?
I’ve written poetry since childhood. It has always been my passion and my form of choice.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
My father. My first poems were nursery rhymes he read to me. Additionally, there was always music in our home; my father had a beautiful singing voice. He taught me the lyrics to popular musicals, Gilbert & Sullivan, folk songs, and rock and roll. He took me to the opera, to see West Side Story, and to hear Johnny Cash live. I inherited his voice and love of music. We often harmonized together. Music may well be a gateway drug to poetry.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I never felt “dominated” only inspired. Maybe I got lucky. As an “outsider poet” (no MFA or PhD in Poetry – I have a BFA in Theatre, with an Emphasis in Acting from UCSB), I had the usual literature classes in high school and college, read Sappho, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Eliot, Dickinson, Millay, Sexton, Plath, Houseman, etc.. But by majoring in Theatre, I ended up finding my own path to poetry, reading poets I discovered through friends or in bookstores or in workshops. I studied for five years with the great poet/teacher/mentor Jack Grapes, and he turned me on to everyone from Catullus to Frank O’Hara, Marie Howe, Dorianne Laux, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I’m a creature of habit. Up every morning at 5:30 am. A 10-minute meditation, then a fresh-brewed mug of French Roast coffee, and I’m at my computer, writing, by 6 am. I write for a minimum of four hours. Often longer.
5. What motivates you to write?
Writing is my purest form of communication. I cannot not write. It’s like breathing; it’s how I process. I consider myself a storyteller, and most often those stories are about my life. Writing poems is like a second chance – an opportunity to go back into my life and explore it, from the point of view of time and distance. I like to think my readers find something of value in what I discover – a shared moment, a memory, a feeling of oneness in our alienating world.
6. What is your work ethic?
My motto is: “Ass In Chair.” (Stolen from prolific author, Nora Roberts.) I write seven days a week. A minimum of four hours a day. Then I switch to editing. I have several clients whom I work with. After that, I like to read. I also submit my work for publication on a weekly basis, often daily. It’s a numbers game.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Coney Island of The Mind was a huge influence on me as a young teen. I carried that book with me everywhere! But I read mostly novels, one writer leading me to another; Henry Miller to Anais Nin, Laurence Durrell to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, like that. I fell in love with John Fowles, and Isaac Dinesen. And Truman Capote, and John Kennedy Toole. I read five novels a week on average, for decades. Not to mention poetry and plays and philosophy! I was insatiable. These writers shaped my worldview. And it was wide. And sexy. Nothing was off limits. I credit my parents for that freedom.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’m a big fan of the American novelists, like Lauren Groff. I adore Ann Patchett and Donna Tartt. All three weave a fabulous tale. Poets? Michelle Bitting, author of Broken Kingdom, and The Couple Who Fell To Earth,” is not only a great poet who mines her life, popular culture, and mythology for material, but a close friend. Her work is brilliant. Dorianne Laux is a favorite of mine as well. She showed me what was possible in poetry when I first started writing seriously, back in 2012.
9. Why do you write?
I write because I have to. Writing is hard, lonely work. Excruciating and exacting. And these days, mostly unpaid. Why would anyone want that job if they had a choice? That said, except for my marriage, it is the thing in life that gives me the most joy.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say “read.” Write every day. Edit. Edit. Edit.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m editing my third, full-length collection, which will be ready for submission this spring. The Dead Kid Poems, my follow up chapbook to State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO Flash Press, 2015), will be published in March of 2019, and a New & Selected volume is due out in 2019 from New York Quarterly. I’ll be doing a number of readings, including one with great poets Kim Dower and Francesca Bell, in June at Beyond Baroque. Check my website, http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com for details and updates on my whereabouts. You never know where I might turn up.