Enjoy reading this insightful interview with featured poet, Elvis Alves.
LF: Do you remember writing your first poem?
EA: I have a memory of writing a long poem in the sixth grade and my teacher, Ms. Hall, posted it outside the classroom so that people passing by could see it. I do not remember the content of the poem, but I do remember feeling proud that my teacher wanted to share it with others. I felt that I created something good, something worth noticing.
LF: What are some of your favorite creative influences?
EA: I am a reader. I practically read everything, but from a young age I was influenced by the work of Langston Hughes and the Jamaican poet Claude Mckay, among other poets and writers. Mckay wrote the anti-lynching poem If We Must Die that Winston Churchhill recited to British troops to rouse them to battle in WW2. I took a trip to Mississippi about two years ago. This trip introduced me to blues music and so I've been listening to a lot of blues for the past two years. Junior Kimbrough and Junior Well are two of my favorite blues artists. Music has always inspired me and influenced my work. Photography has also become a budding passion as of late. I think that the universe is full of things that influence our creativity if we just look. I plan to keep looking and creating.
LF: Could you describe your creative process for writing poetry?
EA: Sometimes I wait for a poem to come to me. It is beautiful when this happens. Other times, I make up my mind to sit down and write. Both methods work fine for me. When a phrase comes to mind, I think about it and then ask myself what other phrase or phrases go well it? I also borrow from words someone might have spoken to me or something I might have said or thought about earlier in the day or even days prior. Poetry has a way of staying with me until I set it to words.
LF: At what point do you decide to stop revising your work?
EA: I constantly revise my work. I do not know if a poem is ever done. I want to say there is a point when one simply needs to stop and let go of what was created. You know, release it into the world as a gift. I do get the feeling about some of my work that I've created something good and should not tamper with it. But I am a perfectionist and this (not tamper with my work) is not easy to do at times. I am working on it!
LF: What are you working on now?
EA: I am finishing up a chapbook entitled Ota Benga. It contains some poetry and a short story, so it is a mixed work. The story of Ota Benga is tragic because he was basically kidnapped from his home in Africa and put on display in a cage in the Bronx Zoo in 1906. The chapbook centers around the theme of cages (both metaphorical and literal) that we put ourselves in or are put in by others.
LF: Why is poetry important in the world?
EA: The world needs poetry because it is an art of survival. Poetry feeds the body and soul. It is force that gives life because of its power to touch lives.
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poetry?
EA: I want readers to feel connected to my work. I want them to say that this guy speaks or thinks like me or that he says something that causes me to think differently about a topic (even if they disagree with what I say). Words are powerful. I try to use them wisely.