The Boston Review has published a new interview with Alice Notley, by Lindsay Turner, along with a selection of new poems. In the wide-ranging interview, Notley speaks of her recent work, the death of her mother, her fascination with epic and narrative, the theme of “dead women” in many of her works, her practice of making collages, and many other topics.
Turner asks Notley about the idea of “disobedience,” a key motif in her work and the title of a recent book: “I’m a hugely but quietly disobedient person, and I have not conducted my life the way any of the other poets have. […] I don’t teach, and that’s very disobedient right now.”
Turner then asks Notley to connect disobedience with gender:
LT: Epic, disobedience—and gender, being a woman, that’s a third theme of your work. What about disobedience and feminism?
AN: Everybody’s sexist. Most women are sexist. It’s a tremendous fight and it’s totally ongoing. Men have all the prestige and all the power in the poetry world, still. Women have space now, they have space but it’s not the same as prestige or power. It’s as if I’ve had to re-write all of the history of poetry so that I could be as great as I want to be. My “project” is to be a great poet. I’m not interested in poetry schools; I have absolutely no interest in any of that.
In other Notley news: a Canadian indie band named AroarA recently released a debut album entitled In the Pines, which was inspired by a perhaps unlikely source: the poetry of Alice Notley. AroarA comes with a good indie pedigree: one of the bandmembers, Andrew Whiteman, was a founding member of Broken Social Scene, and the album was recorded at a cabin owned by Leslie Feist, the well-known singer who started out in Broken Social Scene and goes by the name Feist.
According to this article in The Queen’s Journal, the band’s first CD was apparently inspired by Notley’s 2007 collection In the Pines:
With permission from the award-winning poet, Whiteman transformed her literature into lyrics paired with spine-chilling melodies.
“I love poetry and Alice Notley is just a leader,” Whiteman said. “She’s a real distinctive voice.”
Notley’s book follows a woman undergoing strenuous Hepatitis C treatment. With lyrics like “my defect is so beautiful now, it’s all that I am” in “#7”, her words spill out tales of the tumultuous experience.
Whiteman didn’t select In The Pines, he said it chose him.
“There’s pieces of old American gospel songs and country songs in the work,” he said.
The idea to rearrange Notley’s poems came about when Whiteman noticed those musical influences.
“While you’re brushing your teeth you just have an idea,” he said. “That’s how that idea came about.”
When Whiteman read Notley’s work to his bandmate and wife, she exclaimed that “if Alice were church, we’d go.”
There you have it: a straight line from the New York School and contemporary poetry to Canadian indie rock.
Here’s one track:
You can hear more tracks from the album here.
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