ALEXA DORAN IN CONVERSATION WITH MARY MCLAUGHLIN SLECHTA
Alexa Doran is a poet, a mother, and a PhD student at FSU. She has recently been featured in The Other Side of Violet (great weather for MEDIA, 2017), CALYX, Gertrude, James Franco Review, Juked, and scissors & spackle literary magazines. One of her poems about Dada artist Emmy Hennings recently won first place in the Sidney Lanier Poetry competition.
Mary McLaughlin Slechta: Hi Alexa. Congratulations on your publication in our latest anthology entitled The Other Side of Violet. I'll admit, for me it was love at first read of your poem "Nibs Riffs on Neverland and Nudity." What can you tell us about the creation of this poem? Are you a huge fan of the stories around Peter Pan?
Alexa Doran: Oh yes, Neverland has always had a huge pull on me. When I was little my mother would always call me Wendy Whiny and although it was meant negatively, I always just ended up picturing myself bopping around in Wendy’s blue nightgown waiting for Peter Pan to come and rescue me.
This poem is the result of two different impulses—one is to fill in some of the gaps in the Peter Pan mythology. As a child, you don’t spend much time questioning the lineage of the Lost Boys, or think about the mothers they left behind, so I wanted to spend some time existing in that narrative gap. I also wanted to simultaneously explore the psychology around today’s ever-present porn industry. How are children affected by the images they see? Since porn often makes a business of objectification, what does it mean if you know the person being objectified? These were some of the questions on my mind when I was composing this poem.
MMS: Speaking of childhood experiences with literature, what sort of stuff did you like to read? What do you think lit your passion for poetry?
AD: Growing up I loved to read basically anything that came in a series—The Wizard of Oz series, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Merlin series were particular favorites. But I loved everything from Sweet Valley High to the Hardy Boys. I never wanted to let go of characters once I was involved with them. Like so many children, I wanted their worlds to replace mine, and it was much easier to do that when their worlds extended over twenty books instead of just one.
I’d say my path into poetry was twofold. My high school Creative Writing teacher had a poster of Jack Kerouac on her classroom wall with a clip from On the Road beneath his picture and I was unabashedly intrigued. I went out and bought Mexico City Blues and Some of the Dharma and could not have been happier to find someone weirder than me between the pages. I loved how intuition seemed to guide his every move. However, I really became serious about poetry after reading Anne Sexton - she gave me a whole new language with which to view the world.
MMS: Listening to a radio interview you did in 2014, I'm fascinated, and impressed, that you spent a period of time as a web servicer at the same time as you worked on your MFA. Please elaborate on the way you brought creativity to your work managing the social media accounts of your employer. Did the influence go the other way as well? In other words, is/was your poetry influenced by your technical interests and skills?
AD: I absolutely believe social media is an art form. Curating posts is, frankly, fun and it works the same skills as writing a poem—concision, diction, imagery, voice—things we talk about constantly in poetry workshops are all the same tools of social media. As far as influencing my poetry, I think it influenced my work in an unexpected way—it changed my voice. I was a waitress for the preceding decade which meant I was demeaned pretty much daily. Working as the Webmaster at WHQR was the first job I had where people treated me with respect and where people were open to my creative ideas. I stopped wasting time second guessing myself and just allowed the music in my head to lava forth unimpeded.
MMS: I understand that you grew up in Syracuse, New York, and then happily made your way out and southward. Place—where we grow up, where we find home—plays an important role in our lives and our art. Would you briefly discuss what you miss from the land of long, grey winters, what you carried away into your life now, and what role place currently has in your work?
AD: I can’t say I miss anything about the long, grey winters – my cousin recently introduced to me the idea that cold is a form of trauma, and I can certainly attest to that. When I do miss Syracuse, I miss the food (try pizza or a bagel in the South – not even the same product) and St. Mary’s Cemetery. It’s where I played as a kid and made love as a (young) adult, it’s where my Dad taught me to drive – so it holds a lot of Syracuse’s emotional weight for me. I have one poem "Syracuse, Lullaby, Vol. 1" which was recently published by Voicemail Poems that deals with my relationship to that city. I can’t say much of my current work rests on place, at least any of the places I have lived. I rarely mention a specific city or state in my work.
MMS: Thanks, Alexa. Can we end with a peek at your current artistic project(s) and interests? Will there be more poems about Pan and the Lost Boys?
AD: I have three irons in the fire right now; poems based on my son Dante (currently 21 months old and an absolute firecracker of existence), poems based on portraits and self-portraits of the women of the 1920’s Dada movement, and poems based on Peter Pan. While there is no one definite narrative arc to the Peter Pan collection, all of the poems connect through their ability to jolt the characters into the sad sack of 2016-7 and through their attempt to glitter glue together the pieces left behind by J.M. Barrie. Some of the poems include “Peter Pan Waxes Electric” (Dying Dahlia Review), “Interview with Wendy Darling, Channel 9 News” (Tl;DR), and "Wendy Darling Adopts the Slogan ‘Do or Die’” (Cactus Heart Magazine) with more to come (hopefully).
Alexa Doran's poem "Nibs Riffs on Neverland and Nudity" can be found in The Other Side of Violet (great weather for MEDIA, 2017).
Poetry and prose submissions for great weather for MEDIA anthologies are open October 15 to January 15.