By compiling a selection of Alice Notley’s selected interviews, poetic scholars, feminists, artists, and those seeking general life and creative guidance will have access to an engaging and educational catalog of viewpoints, advice, and happenings throughout Notley’s career. The book of interviews will facilitate analysis of Notley’s changing perspective throughout the years. Placed in context of her life through introductions and visual aide, these interviews will reveal how different experiences, events, traumas, and politics influenced this perspective. On a more personal note, this research project allows me to learn about the advice and guiding principles of a wise, creative feminist role model.
The process itself served its own purpose. I was curious to find out more about the personal life of Alice Notley, as I find that kind of investigation captivating and fun. Therefore, it was necessary for the final artifact to inject that same sense of excitement into the reader. The introductions to each interview were to include facts about her personal life at the time, and a few of the visual aides are correspondences between her and her friends, flyers for her poetry readings, and candid photographs of her (in her kitchen, for example, or wearing a simple t-shirt on what appears to be a balcony). The intimate nature of this information is upfront in the book: its title is Love, Alice, which she used to sign off most of the letters she wrote to her friends. The title writing was vectorized from her own handwriting.
RESEARCH FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS
Notley is not religious, but is fairly spiritual; this is applied largely to her books Close to Me & Closer...(The Language of Heaven) and Desamere. She also believes that motherhood is a warm and beautiful thing and despises the way it has been previously portrayed in poetry – for example, she disagrees with the way Sylvia Plath has been idolized as a feminist for killing herself and endangering her children. She believes that mothers are undervalued in society. She also believes that climate change is a massive threat and needs to be politically addressed. As for poetics, she believes that the first-person allows for an intimate, strong, emotional experience – but it is a challenge to write in and requires great self-awareness. She articulates that everyone has a different voice and a different perspective and, therefore, a distinct style and way of writing. She also believes that her poetry ought to be inclusive, but hates the phrase “poetics of everyday life,” despite having written an essay on it. She doesn’t consider a patriot or an expatriate; there are too many memories back in New York City to live there, although she does miss her friends. She loves Paris because of the culture.
Perhaps the most notable take-away from these interviews is that Alice does not like labels. She refuses to categorize herself as any “kind” of poet and makes a point of constantly trying to write poems that are different from one another. Her whole life, she’s been moving around, and – though she’s married twice to poets – is notable for her own, independent work as opposed to that of her husband. She’s moved around a lot: from Needles to New York to Chicago to Essex to Paris. However, her favorite place of all is Needles, which is where she grew up.
Throughout her career, Notley has published a ton of books and poems, each uniquely different from the other. She is most well-known for The Descent of Alette; after its publishing, the amount of interviews she did dramatically increased. There is a significant gap, however, in her notoriety; no interviews of her could be found prior to 1980, despite her having been writing consistently throughout her time.
Her artwork consists primarily of collages, including a nude series of pornographic material. Many of them include a variety of sources: newspaper clippings, printed artwork, photographs, stamps, advertisements, paint (acrylic, watercolor), and handwritten words are just a few. Her work is feminist in nature, though she doesn’t ever seem to label herself exactly as such. She is eco-conscious (as in Desamere) and loves writing epics (particularly her “feminine” epic, The Descent of Alette). Overall, she is a woman to be reckoned with.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE FIELD
As of now, there are no published/known compilations of interviews of Alice Notley. This makes it difficult to track exactly how her perspectives have evolved over time. This book would serve to put multiple interviews in a single place and to therefore provide chronological insight into Notley’s beliefs and attitudes over the years. This resource could prove useful to both New York School scholars and an everyday audience alike, with the everyday audience seeking to gain advice, entertainment, and inspiration from the interviews and supplementary materials.
The process of compiling the interviews themselves was rather tedious. Thus, by digitizing them in the book and on the corresponding website (www.lovealicebook.weebly.com), ease of access would be provided. In one case – the interview at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1980 – the interview had not even been written down; I had to transcribe it personally. They had also been scattered across dozens of websites and sources. Now that they are in one single place, Notley scholars and enthusiasts can access the texts all at once. This makes analysis easy.
As a final contribution to the field, I think the book makes the notion of reading an “interview” more engaging. Alice’s life is energetic, exciting; reading her interviews, her own words, should come off as exciting too. By formatting them into a book alongside personal facts and beautiful, colored artwork, the interviews are visually pleasing to look at, and the visuals make them easier to read (interruptions between long blocks of text allow for the reader to take a “break” and engage their eyes on something other than words). A book like this, therefore, makes the New York School more approachable for an everyday audience as opposed to just scholars.