Awful Interview: Jeff Alessandrelli

19 Jan

Jeff Alessandrelli is not blurry. He is a poet with a book. The book is a book that he wrote and it is good. The book is called Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound. It is published by Ravenna press. Jeff Alessandrelli travels. He also reads out loud. He will be reading out loud at the Beep Beep Gallery in Atlanta this Saturday the 21st at 7:30 pm. 

You live in Nebraska, are you a fan of Bruce Springsteen’s album Nebraska? Also, what are the first three things a person should know about you?

Actually, funnily enough the only Bruce Springsteen album I own and have really ever listened to is Nebraska—I used to live in Portland, OR, and when I made plans to move here a friend gave it to me as a gift. I’m not a huge fan of The Boss, but I like that album well enough. Three things: I have a dog named Beckett Long Snout, I’m originally from Reno, Nevada and have a healthy amount of NV pride (I am decidedly against the TV show Reno 911!) and my favorite musicians include Pavement, the Rolling Stones, Erik Satie and the Notorious B.I.G. Bonus: I collect records. I grew up skateboarding.

What does having Nevada pride entail? Does your love of your home state influence your poetry much?

Having Nevada pride basically consists of pronouncing the state’s name properly—it’s neh-VA-duh, not neh-VAH-duh (so many people, especially non-Western politicians, pronounce it neh-VAH-duh) and sticking up for it when it’s referred to as California’s bastard step-child or something. It’s a great state and where I lived in Northern Nevada you could ski or snowboard in the winter (up at Lake Tahoe, which is a half-hour away from Reno) and go swimming in the Truckee River in the summer—it’s definitely not a big desert wasteland of a place; there’s a lot going on.

Since I’ve moved around quite a bit since I lived there—I left permanently in 2005, although I still go back 3-4 times a year—I don’t think being born/ living a substantial portion of my life in Nevada influences my poetry much. Although last year I did write a longer poem called “A Lover’s History of Nevada” that not so indirectly references my fondness for the state. I learned some cool facts while writing it, among them that in the Death Valley region of Nevada there is a creature known as the kangaroo rat that can live its entire life without drinking any type of liquid and that Las Vegas has more hotel rooms than any other place on earth (the last one probably isn’t too surprising, actually).

 If you were a kangaroo rat and someone offered to buy you a drink, how would you respond? Secondly, if the Notorious B.I.G were a kangaroo rat and someone offered to buy him a drink, how would he respond?

Biggie as a kangaroo rat would probs accept the drink, but have all sorts of highfalutin demands (i.e. ice but not too much ice, shaken not stirred, etc.). I would accept it also, but be worried that I was letting down my non-drinking kangaroo rat brethren, and after finishing it I’d keep it to myself. Loose lips sink ships in the desert, especially with regards to the lifestyle of a kangaroo rat.

I can see life being a bit cut-throat in the desert. So when you come to Atlanta to read, do you intend to visit any tourist attractions?

Hmmm…Joshua is driving (we’re reading in Athens on Thursday the 19th and then heading back to Atlanta), so it’s kind of up to him. I personally would like to visit the old palaces of famed Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins, Moses Malone and Stacey “The Plastic Man” Augmon. Maybe check out some Civil War sites too? I realize the profound difference between those two attractions/destinations.

That is quite the profound difference.

Yeah. I’ve never actually been to the South–except for Charlotte (does that count?). My friend Mike is a banker and I went down there a couple of years back–I didn’t realize Charlotte is the banking capital that it is, 2nd most popular behind New York (at least according to Mike). So I’m really looking forward to it.

Also, what’s your biggest pet peeve regarding stereotypes people have of Atlanta/ the South? Do you hear a lot of stupid/ annoying/nonsensical ones?

 Hmm… I think Charlotte counts. I spent a good portion of my childhood in Charlotte, but Charlotte then is a lot different than Charlotte now. They don’t have the Hornets anymore, which is a bummer.
As far as stereo-types go, I can’t really think of anything off of the top of my head. That being said, when I first moved to Atlanta and was waiting tables,  I found it very aggravating when someone would try to order a Pepsi. Honestly, this is Coca-Cola town, only Taco Bell carries Pepsi on tap.
Do you have any stereotypes of the South you’ll be confronting in coming here?

I don’t think so, in all honesty. I’ve always been a history buff—I minored in it as an undergrad—so the South has always fascinated me specifically because so much of America’s history resides there. But having grown up in the West that history didn’t get talked about a whole lot; from what I remember we were on more of a Manifest Destiny tip in elementary and junior high. Also, RIP the Hornets. Grandmama Johnson was the bee’s knees.

Oh man, I loved Grandmama Johnson! I used to have a watch with her on it from the Burger King Kids club I think. Or maybe it was something else, Grandmama made it big because of Converses, right? Do you own any Converses?

Yeah, Grandmama Johnson was a Converse advocate. I do own a pair of Converse’s—they’re dirty and crusty and about 3 years old and are my designated “river shoes.” I wear them only when I’m floating or wading through a river of some sort. I actually haven’t used them at all since I moved to Nebraska, but I used them fairly regularly in Nevada and Oregon. Are you yourself the proud owner of a pair of Converses?

Formerly yes, my favorite pair were light blue, but they passed away after an unfortunate incident with a puddle back in 2007. Recently I’ve been wearing a lot of boots.
What would you say to Notorious B.I.G to get him to attend your reading here in Atlanta on the 22nd?
Maybe more importantly, what would you say to Grandmama Johnson to get her to attend your reading here in Atlanta on the 22nd?

To B.I.G. I’d emphasize the fact that music, poetry and rapping to music are interchangeable elements, and, as cliché as it might sound, the best rappers are also poets and vice-versa. Just like he had (has?) some of his raps memorized I have some of my poems memorized, and I try and play this memorization element up for audience effect. As for Grandmama I would simply make clear that if she doesn’t come to the reading my new river shoes are going to be a pair of old Adidas’—I assume LJ still has Converse stock.

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  1. Awful Interview: Jeff Alessandrelli | Vouched Books - February 17, 2014

    […] via email, over the course of the past few week. (Head Voucher Laura Relyea also conducted an Awful Interview with Alessandrelli a couple years ago.) Below are the contents of that […]

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