Open Alphabet welcomes Annelyse Gelman and Everyone I Love Is A Stranger To Someone,
published by Write Bloody Publishing (ISBN 978-1-938912-42-9).

Annelyse Gelman

Annelyse Gelman is a poet, visual artist, photographer, videographer and musician. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Indiana Review, Hobart, Nailed Magazine, The Pen Poetry Series, and Atticus Review. A permanent installation of her photography is on display at Canetti's Bookshop in Orinda, CA and she performs music as Shoulderblades.

She has received the Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize, a Lavinia Winter Fellowship in New Zealand and a Kaspar T. Locher Creative Scholarship. She was also the inaugural poet-in-residence at UCSD's Brain Observatory.

We are the audience. We're meant to hold our breath.

The lull between curtains reminds us to applaud.
Our applause reminds us of our nakedness.
That was magical, we say, to dispel the magic.

-- from Metaphor

Open Alphabet: How did you and poetry meet each other? In the beginning, was it love, infatuation, passion, lust? Everyone I Love Is A Stranger To Someone

Annelyse Gelman: The first poetry I loved was a chapbook by a man named Matthew Behling called War Horse. My neighbor at the time gave it to me, and I’m pretty sure I have one of the only remaining copies. Matthew passed away, and I’m looking for a way to republish War Horse along with several other of his chapbooks. His poems are so raw and full of life – political but also deeply personal, and deeply strange.

OA: I have to ask you about Lily Lin's cover art -- a hand with crossed fingers. The front cover is the upright "wish me good luck" gesture and the back cover is the behind-the-back "I'm lying" gesture. Which image reflects most what lies between those covers?

AG: It’s not an either/or thing. We want to trust each other, to be sincere and vulnerable, but we also want control and power and certainty and safety, and those two desires are often incompatible. Really revealing yourself to another human being is one of the most fulfilling and one of the most dangerous experiences a person can have.

OA: You seem to pay great attention to line length. Often your lines are tight and form-fitting, almost ready to burst. Others are context sensitive, as in Giraffe which is composed of tercets with the middle line twice as long it's neighbors. Can you say something about how line length operates for you?

AG: Form, including line length, always reveals itself as I’m writing. I’m very careful with enjambment; at the same time, I want the poem to visually guide the reader in terms of pacing and rhythm. And then there’s just the matter of avoiding visual fatigue – huge blocks of text – which isn’t particularly “high aesthetics” but is still a valid concern. None of this explains the restriction; I guess it just felt right. I don’t think there are any rules about any of this, except that none of these choices should be arbitrary (even if they’re aleatoric). I love the ballsiness of inconsistent line lengths, even though there aren’t many in EILIASTS. Everything in a poem should be given attention by the writer and the reader; that’s what makes it a poem.

OA: With the publication of Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone, what has changed for you? Do you write differently now? Do you read differently?

AG: I don’t read differently – maybe a little more generously? Ideally we should always be trying to be more and more generous, I think (while still recognizing that any poems we spend time with are a way of investing our most limited resource, time). A huge part of my motivation to publish was to force myself to get all of those poems off of my plate and start, a la George Carlin, with a totally clean slate – so I’m definitely writing differently. I’m sure what I’m writing now still sounds like me, but of course I hope it’s better – everyone wants to look at what they’re doing now and believe it is (or has the potential to be) the best thing they’ve ever done, right?

OA: Is there a particular poet (or poets) who haunts your poems? Who are your main influences, past and present?

AG: My main influence is Of Montreal’s The Past Is A Grotesque Animal.

OA: Who are you reading right now? What is on your desk? Who do you recommend?

AG: I recommend St. Vincent, Deerhoof and Speedy Ortiz, and I recommend following The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo. I’m reading a book of Mary Ruefle lectures.

OA: What is next for you? Are there poems that for some reason did not make it into this book?

AG: I’d be pretty worried about my future as a writer if there weren’t poems that didn’t make it into the book! I’m working on a second manuscript and a bunch of centos, working towards developing a more-defined practice, and working on some collaborative/interdisciplinary/residence-based projects.