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10 Questions for Alexa Doran

For every year you aren't a tongue away:

America clogs. I ice the White
Zin, choose a filter, call this mood.

Not to say I'm a hunter
but I refuse to see the syllables
which luck your name
—from "A Toast to the Narcissist's Exit," Volume 64, Issue 2 (Spring 2023)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I’m thinking of the first poem I had published, called “Every Poet is a Partition; Every Love is a Sea” published in Ekphrasis magazine. This poem was based on the work of Jason deCaires Taylor, a British sculptor who created the first underwater sculpture park, and has since built several underwater museums and parks, all of which feature “living” sculptures which double as homes to marine life, each sculpture changing depending on the current wildlife inhabiting it. I found this project to be a source of deep reflection and created a multi-part poem in which each part was dedicated to a different sculpture and explored the emotional experience I had in relation to it.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
At the moment I would say Keats and Lil Kim, with Brian Doyle bringing in the bass, so to speak. Keats kept the music at Studio 54 levels, and by doing so created new spaces where others (cough * Wordsworth* cough) grew gummy with old and trite patterns. I love the elixir-like quality to a Keats piece and am constantly trying to find ways to bring it to my own work. Lil Kim and other female rappers like Doechii and Meg the Stallion have taught me that art is a viable and fun way to explore sexuality, something my work often attempts to do. Brian Doyle’s prose poems have showed me the power of pressing sound and soul against the rigidity of prose, something the Casey Kasem poems aim for.

What other professions have you worked in?
I was a social media manager at WHQR-FM as well as at Pen and Publish, Inc., an ed-tech blogger for a few morbid months, a gas station attendant and car wash worker for a few years in high school (both my best and worst job: the men! the frostbite from washing cars in -10 degrees!), the seamstress’s secretary at David’s Bridal, and I was a waitress for 11 long years. Now, I’m an English professor which was always my ultimate goal.

What did you want to be when you were young?
I had two main aspirations as a child:

1. I wanted to be a toll booth operator. I had no idea how hateful people were at the time and I couldn’t imagine a better way to “meet” people all day then taking their grungy money at the toll booth.

2. I wanted to be a chimpanzee trainer. This desire my parents actually nourished (versus the tollbooth dreams) and set up a meeting with the local zoo for me to meet their trainers. I arrived, excited for my Jane Goodall-esque experience, when they quickly explained to me that most of their job consisted of picking up monkey shit. So, apparently, I opted to write about picking up monkey shit instead.

What inspired you to write this piece?
This is a Louise Gluck/Dara Wier/ just-broke-up-with-a-narcissist inspired poem. I love how Gluck will work so carefully around a subject, the line breaks and white space as weighted as the text, each line the sensuous pull of a sleeve or a skirt across the skin, that’s the movement I was going for. I’d also just read Dara Wier’s “You Good Thing” and she shocked me into new ways of conceiving of God, so naturally that has a role here. The main inspiration is wanting to put words to the grief of losing someone I loved but never should have.

Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
I typically write in silence, though Bach is especially effective at making room for my mind to expand. For me, writing has a masturbatory quality, i.e. most of the time, there can be no climax when something else is trying to divert your attention.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
I have two readers I trust wholeheartedly; fellow poets Dorsey Craft and Eleanor Boudreau.

If you could work in another art form, what would it be?
Painting. O’Hara had it right, there is something there which poems will always yearn for.

What are you working on currently?
I have two collections currently in the works. One collection, tentatively titled “Dear Casey Kasem,” explores the lures and limits of language through the voices of a five-year-old boy, his mom, and another single mom who also happens to be DJ Casey Kasem’s biggest fan. The other collection, tentatively titled “Exit Interview” grapples with how to love and leave a narcissist.

What are you reading right now?
Seth Rogen’s “Yearbook.” I’m a huge Dave Barry and David Sedaris fan, so I thought I’d give Rogen a try. I’m not a huge fan of movies, so I don’t have any particular pull to Rogen, but these brief narrative essays focus on humor handmade for 80s babies, so I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Also, as an educator, I’m constantly on the prowl for essays my students might relate to and these definitely fit the ‘script.


ALEXA DORAN recently completed her PhD in poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize and was published in April 2021 (Bauhan). She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press). You can look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Pleiades, Witness, pidgeonholes, NELLE, and Gigantic Sequins, among others. For a full list of her publications, awards, and interviews please visit her website at


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