Julia Alexander: I draw inspiration from a lot of different places. I’ve been making it my goal to be a more open minded reader. I too often find myself only reading poetry and never branching out, but I really think there’s a lot to be learned as a poet from reading fiction and memoir. But, lately the poets I’ve been reading have been Gregory Orr, Plath, Ocean Vuong, and Anne Carson.
I would also say that my peers and professors at school inspire me. I go to a tiny community college right now, but we surprisingly run our own literary journal called Freshwater. I’m on the editorial board with three other students and a faculty advisor, and I have to say it has been one of the most formative experiences for my writing. I think my biggest downfall as a writer up until this year has been thinking writing is something to just be done completely in solitude. I was so surprised by how much my writing has improved just from sharing it and getting feedback instead of just trying to edit it on my own. It helps that we have a great group of people working together too. The other students in the class are really motivated and on top of everything we do, and I’ve never had another teacher who is as invested his students’ work as this professor is. Every Tuesday night, I leave that class feeling such a renewed energy about my writing and literature in general. It really recharges me for the rest of my week. People underestimate how much who you write with can impact you.
F: What is Chipped Tooth Press? What material do you publish?
JA: Chipped Tooth Press runs as a small writing collective. Currently, we publish chapbooks of poetry online with limited print editions that we end up just giving away for free at publishing expos and readings. The goal for Chipped Tooth Press from the start was to make things that we love, to put out the best work we could come up with, and to foster relationships between writers who otherwise wouldn’t really know each other. It hasn’t truly culminated into exactly what I have imagined for it yet, but we’re still young and growing. I just brought on two assistant editors who seem excited to get things done, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of big things coming up in the next year.
F: Has running Chipped Tooth informed your writing in any way? If yes, how so?
JA: I edit and give comments on all of the chaps we put out, so I think it’s made me more aware of my weaknesses and strengths as a writer. I think editing other people’s work is a great exercise to improve your writing. It’s easier to see problems in other writers’ work than it is to see it in your own, when you’re right in the middle of it. I see things I like or dislike in other poets’ work, and then I can apply that to my own poetry.
F: Tell us about your first book, The Dirt I Rise From.
JA: The Dirt I Rise From is a book of poems that basically chronicle the time after I dropped out of college and ends right before I went back to school over a year later. I could try to be coy or self-preserving and act like all of the poems in that book aren’t directly about my own life, but they are. It was a very turbulent time for me. I had barely just turned eighteen, and I already felt like my life was over or that I was a total failure. I was vulnerable but also naïve and too trusting, and a lot of people I encountered took advantage of that. It also deals heavily with the issue of sexual violence, which is something I faced at that time as well. It was hard to write about all of these events, but in the end it made me feel stronger to be able to tell my story. It helped me stop feeling so ashamed.
F: Are you working on any other projects?
JA: I’m working on a new collection of poetry. It’s about how in my interpersonal relationships and even in my relationship to myself I often feel torn between resolving conflicts in an aggressive way and resolving them in a passive way. It is sort of helping me explain to myself how I decide what fights to pick and what things to just let go. It focuses a lot on religious imagery and tells a larger story about my relationship with religion, Catholicism in particular. I’m really excited about the new work I’m doing. I really think over this year, since my book was published, my writing has really grown to be more complex.
F: On your blog you feature a text series. What made you choose to illustrate your relationships through text posts as opposed to through traditional poetry?
JA: My text series was just a way to get things off my chest. All of those posts are word for word something various men texted me. I felt extremely powerless in a lot of these interactions, and I was creating the pieces in the moment. I didn’t have much time to process what was happening or think about what I was doing. I just wanted to talk about exactly what was going on, the way I was being treated as an object or a fantasy in some ways, but I didn’t want to just say that. I wanted to show it in a way that was more real and honest than my poetry could have been at that time in my life. That’s why I chose to just take things other people said and make them into my own pieces. It was my way of taking the power back in that situation. And, somebody got angry or embarrassed I guess that I did it. I just think if they didn’t want everyone to see it, then why would they say it to me? If they were embarrassed seeing what they had said, how did they think I would feel about it being said to me? I think the power of those pieces is in the fact that they are weren’t changed at all.
Julia Alexander is a poet from Connecticut who never shuts up. She was the founding literary editor at Insert Lit Mag Here throughout its run in 2014. She has published a handful of chapbooks online, and a full length album of spoken word poetry, Accepting the Facts (2013). Her first book, The Dirt I Rise From was published by Paint Poetry Press in 2015. Currently, she’s the executive editor at Chipped Tooth Press and is on the editorial board for Freshwater Literary Journal.