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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
DEBRA DIBLASI and SAM WITT of Jaded Ibis Press with Liz Axelrod
Jaded Ibis Press holds an odd shaped, polished and engraved stone in a hand-carved painted slingshot. Like David, they are poised with ready aim to hit the big publishing houses dead square in the eye. Their creativity and innovation push the limits of “Indie Press” publishing to new levels.
In this email interview, Debra DiBlasi, Publisher and Sam Witt, Poetry Editor muse on their unique process, philosophy, aesthetic iteration and mutation, string theory in regards to publishing, new technological platforms, artistic vision, and shifting the segregation of narrative forms (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc.) toward integration:
Liz Axelrod (Rail): You named your press after the James Hurst story “The Scarlet Ibis.” That tale about two brothers; one fit, one crippled, revolves around the themes of pride, cruelty, love, redemption and death. Why did you choose that particular tale and how does “Jaded” come into the picture?
Debra DiBlasi: “Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree.” I was nine years old when I heard the first sentence of “The Scarlet Ibis.” I experienced a spectacular epiphany regarding the distinction between ordinary stories and literary art. I recognized symbolism for the first time, how it could create meaningful maps within a narrative. Such veracity had never appeared in the books I’d previously read, or in most people I knew, or in me.
My fourth grade teacher, Miss Heberlin, read to us every day after lunch – not “children’s books” but rather serious literature with significant themes exploring the human condition. She traveled extensively and had witnessed, I suspect, terrible inequities in the world. Miss Heberlin instilled in us far more than rote learning skills by teaching us how to become better human beings – to empathize, respect and share – just as I try to do now in my role as publisher.
I grew up. Lived. Sighed a lot. Ibis Productions became Jaded once I realized that the majority of books published, sold and read in the U.S. sought not to enlighten but to anesthetize and even stupidify – quite the opposite of Hurst’s story. Yet it is possible to be jaded and optimistic. You just have to quit complaining and take the reins. Jaded Ibis essentially premiered at the 2011 Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, within Table X (where the cool kids hang out. 😉
By the way, the Ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, was the patron of writing and scribes, who were highly venerated in Egyptian culture. Thoth has the head of an ibis.
Patrick McGrath is the author of two short story collections, Blood and Water and Other Tales and Ghost Town, and seven previous novels including Asylum, Martha Peake, Dr. Haggard’s Disease and Port Mungo. His novel, Spider, was filmed in 2001 by acclaimed director David Cronenberg, from McGrath’s script. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the United Kingdom and a member of PEN America and the Writers Guild of America East. His most recent book, Trauma, is a dark psychological drama full of love and loss set against the back- drop of 1970s New York, just as the Twin Towers were going up. 12th Street met with Patrick McGrath at Cafe Loup on a Monday night before his seminar at The New School.
12th street: Your latest novel, Trauma, focuses on the New York City of the past—a city that’s gritty, drug-filled and economically barren. How do you feel about the city as it is today?
Patrick McGrath: I really don’t like that the city is so rich and clean and safe. It was none of those things back in the seventies. I have nostalgia for the New York I came to at the end of that decade, when it was dirty and dangerous; artists could afford to live in Manhattan then and you had to watch yourself on the street. I enjoyed New York very much in those days, and while I suppose in one way it’s a good thing that the place is rich and clean and safe, at the same time there is a sense that something—some edge—has been lost. I remember when the High- line was a ruin, something you avoided on Tenth Avenue.