November 13, 2014


By:  Jessica Tower

Author and teacher, Salem State University Professor Alex Peary, was gracious enough to allow herself to be interviewed after her packed reading in late October.  We spoke about her newest book, Control Bird Alt Delete, her recent reading, her general writing process, and her current writing projects.

Regarding her newest book, which came out in March 2014 and won the Iowa Poetry Prize in 2013, Professor Peary said that she was “inspired by the illustrator Charley Harper (his bird and nature images), but the book is also an exploration of past-and-present New England.   In the book, I explore landscapes based on the ‘ruins’ of New England and others based on the architectural prints of the unconscious. Robert Frost meets Times Square. Nature intrudes in unexpected ways on domestic settings—and vice versa—domestic and industrial settings appear in bits inside the pastoral. Birds, one-dimensional and strangely wise (definitely wiser than me), flit back and forth and rebelliously tape up their songs. All the while, the unconscious in Control Bird Alt Delete threatens to intrude with its underlined places, its trap doors inside ordinary conversations, the mazes it hangs up like ‘welcome home’ banners next to people’s mouths while they speak.”

When talking about her writing process and approach, she talked about mindfulness and meditation, “I use a mindfulness approach to writing. It’s described in my blog, Your Ability to Write is Always Present: I write every day using these principles. Writing is a form of grace for me. Since becoming a mother, I have little time to actually sit on a meditation cushion, and writing serves as my daily meditation practice.”

Professor Peary recently had a reading at Salem State on Thursday, October 23 at 7:30pm. It was held in the Metro Room in the Ellison Campus Center. When asked how the reading went, she said that it “went fine, and it was great to see so many former (some from first-year composition) and colleagues. I loved the thoughtful questions from the audience during the Q & A; SSU has a vibrant community of writers.”

Professor Peary then talked about her new writing projects and the ways in which creative non-fiction and poetry are different for her, “My current projects are a mix of creative nonfiction and poetry. I’m about ¾ of the way done with my next poetry book and having tremendous fun. This poetry manuscript has a different theme—one I’ve been thinking about for almost fifteen years. In my creative nonfiction, I’ve been working on bending my use of the genre: using third-person, for instance, instead of first-person to alter perspective on content. Creative nonfiction allows me to perceive how I’m living my life; poetry allows me to playtime with language.”

Contributor’s Note: Jessica Tower is a senior at Salem State studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and is a tutor at the Writing Center. She has a minor in Spanish. Jessica wants to go on to graduate school to receive her MFA in poetry.