An interview with Alice Pero, an exceptional contemporary flutist, a poet of lyrical humor and the surreal, and a host of our local series “Moonday Poetry” for many years. Alice loves to send a poem to a poet and get a poem for an answer.
By Kathabela Wilson
Microphone to the poet
You are known and loved as a musician, a poetry host, and a fine and fanciful poet. How do you combine the arts in performance?
Poetry is always a performance for me, a dance of words. I do not consciously combine art forms. I feel them as flowing from one to the next. I have recently, in the last few years, put poetry into my flute performances and vice versa. This came as an organic and natural result of being in love with both music and poetry and friends asking me to combine art forms in performance. This is how we are alive and how we communicate living art forms.
Rhythm comes from the Greek word, rein, “to flow.” With this basic component of art, I find myself continually flowing, either as a solo act or with others. As an artist my job is to constantly be in a “give and take” with the world. The explorations I take are those that please my ear. I write from the sound of the words.
A telescope on the poet
How do you see yourself as a poet in the world?
I think that fundamentally I am a humorist and hope to bring laughter, which eases pain and removes a person from the grind, the mundane. I am rather outward bound. I look and see what is around me and I write about that. For instance I might write a poem about a chair. I am trying to put different spin on things that lifts the perspective out of the ordinary and into illusion. Coleridge said it well: “a suspension of disbelief.” I also see myself as a teacher of poetry to young children. If we awaken children to their creative powers and also teach them to perform their own work, that is putting poetry there for all of our futures. This expands to hosting the 12 year old Moonday reading, now at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada…it’s a future.
A microscope on the poet
What are the interior qualities of your creative life, and what makes you a writer?
Each year I go for a month to the wonderful little cottage in New York State every summer, I have a place to expand and dream. The beauty of the natural world has always been in my work. And I write from the sound of the words. If something is musical to my ears, it will come to me and I will write it down. There is no reason to be a writer. One just is.
Mapping the poet
How does the place where you live, color and influence your poetry?
Living in the barren and dry desert now, when I was raised and still visit the lush greenery of New York State, brings about huge contrasts. I do write about desert, but my heart truly lies in the change of seasons, the rich, rolling countryside of the Hudson Valley. We are constantly in nature. I feel deeply for the creatures who are battling our often hostile modern environment, the birds, bees, the butterflies. This saddens me, but does not always inspire me to write. I prefer to write of the joy. Although a sardonic take on this deteriorating scene can be found in my poems.
Poet to poet
You are known for your collaborations with other poets over many years. How and why do you do this?
Poet to Poet. I write a poem and the other poet answers with a poem and back and forth this way. I love the immediate response and the fact that one has a live person on the other end who is contributing actively to the flow of thought. Again it is a rhythm of creation. One is never lonely. I can imitate the different styles, I can go way beyond myself and yet I always return to myself. I think dialoguing might not be as good for a poet just starting out, before he has a sense of his own voice. This active dialogue could be like the wonderful give and take improvisations that must have existed in Shakespeare’s time on the stage. I like to think of poetry as a fluid form, not words frozen between the pages of a book, but coming alive in a living communication.
by Alice Pero
When I forget what I was going to say next,
he says,”What???” (earnestly and with the best intention.)
He has jumped into the hole, the great expansive pond
of forgetfulness and “Splash!” all the little particles of “forgotten”
fly into the air, dancing in random patterns.
“I dunno,” I say, staring out into the empty space,
wondering which flying thing to grab onto.
Our conversations decorate the air
Someone, somewhere out there,
! Alice Pero is co-host of Moonday series at the Flintridge bookstore.
! Learn more about Alice Pero by going to her website.
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