Les Femmes Folles
Women in art
Liz Axelrod, poet
Liz Axelrod received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the New School in 2013. She has been making the rounds of the NYC Poetry Circuit for close to a decade and has been a featured reader at The Cornelia Street Graduate Reading Series, The Southern Writer’s Series, The Renegade Reading Series, Couplet, The Living Room’s Stories & Songs Residency, The NYC Poetry Festival, and more. Liz is Web Editor for LIT Magazine, a book reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly, and a staff writer for LunaLuna Magazine. Her work has been published in Lyre Lyre, 12th Street, The Rumpus, The Brooklyn Rail, Electric Literature, Yes Poetry, Nap Magazine ,the Ginosko Literary Journal, and Have A NYC 3 . She is currently working on her first collection of poems. She is also one of the featured readers at Luna Luna Magazine and hosting her own reading at the New York City Poetry Festival (July 26-27; schedule here/details below). She generously shares with LFF about losing herself in books at an early age, her various inspirations and active writing process, feminism in her work, advice for aspiring writers and much more. She also shares an excerpt from one of her recent pieces, “Daddy Dearest”…
Where are you from? How did you get into writing?
I’m a NYC girl by way of Tucson, AZ. Parents were divorced when I was 8. Dad stayed in NYC, mom moved out west. I’ve always been a reader. From a very early age I would lose myself in books. I started with horror and suspense novels – devoured Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Anne Bishop and more.
Writing my own (preferred) endings to their stories came first, then writing my own stories, then poetry, then editorial and reviews. I tell my students that learning to write is the best way to get ahead in life. An excellent personal essay moves the college app to the top of the pile, an excellent cover letter moves the resume to the top of the pile. The poems are the icing on the cake, they move the personal, the political and the pragmatic denials into thought and power.
Tell me about your inspirations, process.
Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project (Luna Luna reading) and why its important to you. – hints on what you may be reading from? what you hope people get from it?
I love the LUNA’s! Been writing with them for about eight months. I’m so honored to be reading at the NYC Poetry Festival with them on Saturday, July 26. I’m also hosting a reading at the festival on Sunday the 27th. It will be my third year of hosting the JUJO reading series. I also volunteer for the festival every year, working the entrance and supervising the volunteers at the tables.
I once had a professor tell me not to be “so political” in my poems. I wanted to throw something at him. I feel there is a need for politics and poetry and the female experience of both is so very important today. I will never step back from a scary topic – that said, I do pay much more attention to the political in my work and try to weave it in with relevance and determination, hoping not to lose the impact in the imagery. I do a much better job of this reading aloud. That’s where I shine.
Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?
Absolutely! I’m a woman, a mother and I have a relatively high powered job where I supervise a small staff and my assistant is a young man. I see first hand how my power is devalued even still in this day by my higher ups and my Executive Director has even given me “the hand” when I’ve been making a point in a meeting. It’s horrible! He would never do that to my assistant. The double standard is alive and relevant today and we have to work against it. I just did a post for LunaLunamag.com on Feminism and how I grew up without thinking about it because of the trailblazers who made my world safer by risking theirs. But now with all this horrible misogyny rearing its ugly head, I want to be able to keep that fire lit for my daughter so that she can grow up in a safer, more equitable place for women.
Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Perspective is a difficult thing to gain today when young artists are so vulnerable to so many media ploys aimed at demolishing their self respect and strength. The instant contact and the distant contact is really dangerous. Instead of taking time to think over a problem, we jump right into the fire. My advice is to disconnect, read more books, look at pictures, walk through museums, the more you learn the less you doubt yourself. The less you doubt yourself, the stronger your art becomes.
I try to explain to my father
who is still stuck on age and violence
that there will be no more babies
but I’m quite certain
his Jello molds and candy
wrappers will remain sweetly tart
and satisfying, while rare beef
tempts me during all the separate
phases of the waxing moon.
You don’t call anymore…
No. I’ve found a savior at
My Karma’s Okay Dot Com.
I troll with myself and sort through
this selfishness, and why I have no desire
to pour sticky gel into that
particular fish-shaped copper mold.
The truth is, Daddy’s lost his power
and the magnetic pull only affects
the soles of my feet when I’m
barefoot on the beach, in salt,
or searching online for polished stones
to fill the blue mason jars on my windowsill.
Luna Luna Magazine’s Reading at NYC Poetry Festival:
Saturday, July 26, 1:20pm, Governor’s Island, NY