Alexis Orgera writes poetry and the occasional essay in south Florida but doesn’t stay in one place for long. She was born in Connecticut, raised on the South Carolina coast, and has ping-ponged the last decade between Boston, Los Angeles, and Florida—and some places in between. She graduated from Emerson College’s MFA program, where she was awarded Best Thesis for her collection, A Map of Earth. Most of those poems were gutted and filleted long ago.
She is the author of two chapbooks, Illuminatrix (Forklift Ink, 2009) and Dear Friends, The Birds Were Wonderful! (Blue Hour Press, 2009) and a full-length collection, How Like Foreign Objects (H-ngm-n Bks). Her poems have been published in various magazines and journals including Bat City Review, DIAGRAM, Folio, Forklift Ohio, Fou, Green Mountains Review, Gulf Coast, H_ngm_n, jubilat, Luna, RealPoetik, storySouth, and The Tusculum Review.
You can find her blogging at theblogpoetic.wordpress.com and htmlgiant.com.
POET ON POETRY'S QUESTIONS FOR ALEXIS
1. What inspires you as a poet?
Probably much the same as what inspires me as a person. My dogs and cat give me a lot to think about. Birds are important, particularly the trickster raven. I’m really interested in self-development lately, but that’s hard to get into poetry without sounding like a self-help manual. Reading other people’s poetry out loud to the animals is sometimes the most inspiring thing I can do. Just the sound of words reverberating against each other—there’s not much else like it.
2. What advice do you have for other poets?
A young poet just messaged me on Facebook about this very thing. He asked how he can know if he’s a poet. I basically told him that you just know, that it’s something you have to do despite the fact that there’s a pretty negligible economic return. The old advice is true: read poetry and think about poetry. Don’t be afraid to screw up, to write crap, to sound silly. Fearlessness is the only path to truth. In terms of publishing, it’s kind of a shot in the dark. You just read lots of journals and magazines, find what you like, and send and send and send until something sticks!
3. What prompted you to start writing poetry?
9th grade English teacher. We did a whole semester, it felt like, on poetry. We had to compile our own anthology and even construct our own book. Also, I’m just an angst-y type of gal. I needed an outlet. I should have started a punk rock band.
4. Where do you see yourself going in the future as a poet?
5. What are your favorite poetry journals?
I like a lot of the big guns—Paris Review, Agni, Boston Review, Gulf Coast. But I love smallish and online journals like:
Bat City Review
6. Can you tell us a little about the poems your chose to present today? What inspired them maybe, or anything else you’d like to say about them.
I chose three poems from my book How Life Foreign Objects. The first one, “Stargazing,” I guess was inspired by my time living in Los Angeles. Actually, I’d just talked to Kyra Sedgwick about a melon in the produce section of a local supermarket. She was super nice, and the poem has nothing to do with her, but I was thinking about labels, how we label ourselves, how we label others, and how we want to seem to the outside world. So, these feelings found their way into the grocery aisle. Also I have a real love affair with the ocean, and I was thinking about how, as I kid, I used sit on a jetty in the Long Island Sound and crack open mussels and attach them to clothespins on string to catch crabs.
“How Like Foreign Objects” is the title poem of the book. I was thinking a lot about sex and desire at that point in my life, for various reasons. The poem is about this dude imagining a union with this woman. In the end, you’ve got a coffin, which is sad. But that was my state of mind at the time. Also, the line that reads “How Like foreign objects in their own skins” is the most important line for me in the whole poem. It pointed the way to the whole book, the notion of not feeling right in your own body.
“Illuminatrix” comes from a series of poems about light. It’s also one of the first times I began writing about my parents, who are dealing with my Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease. But that’s not what the poem’s about. It’s just in there. It’s about light.
ALEXIS ORGERA'S POETRY
It's been said that dumb creatures
don't anticipate snow
or high winds off the coasts.
We claw and scratch
at the boat's horns—
we laugh in the mouth of the fire.
I went downtown yesterday
to buy my euphemisms, but
instead there were beasts, all manner of ugly words.
Beasts of the desert. Of towers.
Of fame. A movie star nibbled my earlobe
in the cauliflower aisle. Can you guess
how many years it took to grow
an appendage that tastes
like the nectar of movie stars?
My stomach's a race car
so I couldn't stay there long.
I am an ocean beast, if you need a label.
A rock dweller: green-lipped mussel
or a tidal snail. I like the sun.
I like the roar in my ears.
HOW LIKE FOREIGN OBJECTS
Do I get to sit inside your mouth? she says.
And he thinks of her tongue as a waterbed
she’s slip-sliding into him. She’s an eel,
he thinks. A lovely electric blue
wriggling pinky. Maybe glow-in-the-dark
if he’s lucky. Do I get to drink your spit? she says.
And he thinks of her swimming in a pool of vodka.
How drunk they’d make their somersaults.
How like foreign objects in their own skins.
Do I get to climb up your stalk? she says.
And first he thinks of Jack and his magic beans
and all the promises of the future,
but then he thinks of peeling bananas,
of greased poles, of the strongman competition
he will win when this is all over.
She needn’t ask another question, ever.
But then she asks, Do I get to meet your mother?
Do I get to come home for dinner?
And what he sees is a flatbacked plank of oak
and three bowls of steamy chowder.
A coffin’s worth of light in the crack
between her eyes. He sees how her questions
are really only the outlines of questions.
How gravity is what solders them glass
to glass to glass like the windows in church.
A boy in Iowa suspects
three burning stars inhabit his chest
and gets lithium for his troubles.
The poet next door to him secretly
wishes the burn were his,
instead of a helium, bumbling heart.
A truck driver named Sally
up in Sacramento confides to a diner waitress
the sun’s calling her future-name: abuela, abuela
from eighty miles off the coast
where a solar flare disturbs radio waves
all the way to Alaska,
and the aurora borealis takes the shape
of a firefly ten days running,
polar bears irradiated like orange lamps.
The Janus faces of incandescence scream:
Step Away From The Light.
To live life in a closet is to find peace
in stasis, like trans-filament meditation,
the incantation of a childhood rhyme
in a language I still don’t quite get:
Nina o, nina o. Questo figlio a chi lo do?
—Who will we give you to?
If we give you to the laughing witch,
she will keep you for a week, fly you
on her broom, dropping stardust on the world.
If we give you to the black wolf, he will keep you
for a year in a cave, no fire, no sunrise.
And you will grow hard.
If we keep you for ourselves, we’ll have you
forevermore under the blinding
light of the morning star.—
All this nasty effulgence reminds me
that across the States a father’s light
dims, a mother’s electricity sparks
and sputters like an angry vacuum cleaner.
Not news to anyone—
not to the rhythms of spectrums vying
for their fifteen minutes, petulant in rapid cycles,
not to the sky with its jewelry
caught up in our affairs,
not to the dancing picnics of flesh we call
like dogs into our lonely beds
to mask this infinite glare.
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