It’s hard to pin down someone with the name Ivy. Just when I thought I’d found her, first in Oz, then in Wales of all places, she pops up in New Zealand where she’s taken root for now. I’m always a little envious of global souls, like Ivy. It seems like one of life’s greatest freedoms and pleasures, getting to know new cultures and peoples.
Ivy and I came together on Clare Carlin’s elegant blog Pieced Work but I have long admired Ivy’s poetry for its muscle and mischief. Full of the Christmas spirit and remembering the joy of decorating the mantelpiece with ivy in a northern clime, I bring you the ultimate pop-up poet, Ivy Alvarez who tells us how Michael Jackson danced into her latest collection. Merry Christmas!
a memory of breasts
I show my mother a book of breasts. At first, she’s shocked and pulls away. But then, she returns to them and looks at the pictures on the cover. She points to one. The breasts are creamy and voluptuous, arms gloved to the elbows, crossed in front. ‘I like these ones,’ she says. ‘They are elegant.’
baby brother brings me booty
booty I do not want
blood out of squirrels’ mouths
blooms from a badger’s back
broke spine splinter bones
blown wide apart
belly open of a fine snout fox
bleached fur stiff fuzz
better not show baby brother
briny pinpoint pupils’ glaze
brings me his killing jar
bees, spiders, hornets and wasps
brave his fingertips’ acetone smell
dumb husks in a glass shell
The School of Physics
the kiss that does not exist will exist next door
in a house that houses the kiss, most likely in a vase
exuding a scent in passing
as if from the unlikeliest, shyest woman in the room
forcing me to ask, Is that your perfume
she smiles, eyes downcast, and hands me my change
you and I will sit in a green sofa and admire the kiss
its shapeliness, how it wrings
inadvertent sighs just from listening to it grow
into its fullest power
a tiny nova of desire compacting in on itself
pulling us towards its center
And could you comment on who or what influences your practice, Ivy?
While putting together the final incarnation of Disturbance, I kept thinking about Michael Jackson’s album Thriller, how every song released from it found its audience. I always keep that in mind. I find it helps me trim the dead wood from a manuscript.
For poetry, Sylvia Plath is my foundation stone, as are Dorothy Porter and Ai. I will continue to build and create because of what I’ve learnt from them, and from the future influences I hope to still discover.
Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal (2006) and Disturbance (Seren Books, 2013). Both Literature Wales and the Australia Council for the Arts awarded her grants towards the writing of Disturbance.
She is both a MacDowell and Hawthornden Fellow, whose poems appear in anthologies and journals in many countries and online, including Alquimia del Fuego (Spain, 2014), Best Australian Poems (2013), and A Face to Meet the Faces (USA, 2012). Several of her poems have been translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean.
In the past few years, she has received invitations to speak at the Oxford Literary Festival, the Dylan Thomas Festival (UK), and the Seoul International Writers Festival (Korea).
Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she spent time in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, before settling in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014.