Trey Moody: I know you’ve framed your recent collections, Unwanted Invention / Vargtimmen, as a tête-bêche artifact, but I’m curious: you must have a preference, however slight, for where you’d like your ideal reader to begin, right? On the spine, for instance, you had to make some layout decisions. Plus, knowing this work personally, there’s a clear chronological gap between these two collections (i.e. they weren’t written simultaneously).
TM Moody: The opening epigraph to your book, This Last Time Will Be the First, is this hilariously sad letter from John Clare to an unidentified “Dear Sir.” Clare admits, “I […] quite forget your Name or who you are,” which doesn’t stop him from trying to communicate. In your poem “Understanding Oliver Twist,” you write, “A person is considered crazy if / they only have one story to tell. / And every orphan has at least two.” So, how many stories do you have to tell? And can you talk a bit about how your understanding of audience affects how you tell stories?
JA Alessandrelli: I don’t know that I ever really think about audience. I think most writers or at least most poets don’t have those considerations in their head when they’re writing. If they want to get into The Atlantic or The New Yorker maybe some do. I guess this also depends on the framework—if you’re writing an advice column and you’re a poet or if you’re writing something on a larger scale—I guess you think about audience. But I personally don’t. And I’m friends with a fair amount of poets and I don’t think any of them do either. I mean, I want to be read; that’s the thing I want most. I don’t care about tenure or getting a job. I’d like people to read my work, so that probably means I should pay more attention to that type of stuff, but I’m also not going to change the way I write or what I want to write solely to get into this or that magazine or win this or that prize.