by: Alexandra Teague
Previously published by 32 Poems and forthcoming in Mortal Geography (2010)
When I was the poor girl at the private school, I imagined the rich
living at higher altitudes where the air was thinner. This explained
why the girls with new penny loafers lay like swooning princesses
in the nurse’s office, their heads tilted back, nostrils trickling red
threads of refinement. They would return to class, collars stained,
Russian royalty like the hemophiliac Romanovs of whom I was
only a namesake, not an heir. At recess in winter, snow-white
kleenex drifting from pockets, white rabbit fur jackets. Years later,
my classmate, daughter of Texas’s largest fur fortune, stabbed
her father to death for money and was sentenced for life. She’d played
the mother in our 4th-grade melodrama. As her daughter, the heroine,
I could pretend to be frail. My nose never bled, no matter how
I willed thick veins to weaken. I blamed my mother, granddaughter
of a housekeeper, our ruddy bloodline that kept surviving surviving.
1. How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room of listeners hanging on your every word? What would you tell them and what wouldn’t you tell them and why?
My standard self-trivia is that I’ve visited all 50 states; I’ve also lived in 8 of them. I’ve always had a strong sense of impermanence and a wariness about getting too comfortable in one version of reality.
For years, I’ve had a hard time explaining where I’m from. Oakland is pretty homey right now, although I’ve been claiming since I moved to the Bay Area 8 years ago that I’m on my way somewhere else. I definitely love traveling: Oaxaca, Guatemala, the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Japan.
A couple of summers ago, my boyfriend and I hiked all 220 miles of the John Muir Trail through the High Sierras. We love hiking, but we didn’t really know what we were getting into and spent a lot of our time trying to figure out how to quit. In the end, 19 days of hiking and camping was one of the most powerful, transformative things I’ve ever done. I might admit that some of my friends roll their eyes now when I say that I’m going on a trip. I’m always complaining about not having enough writing time, but the minute I get a break from teaching, I climb on a plane or pack my hiking gear. I know I might be more productive if I stayed put occasionally, but there’s too much of the world left to see.2. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?
Besides maybe traveling, I don’t think of myself as having obsessions, but I can actually get pretty obsessive once I immerse myself in a project: whether it’s cleaning the house, or grading a papers, or writing a poem. Poems are definitely the worst. I always think, “I’ll just work a little more on this line, and then I’ll take a break. . . Oh, except I’ve almost got this next part, so I’ll just work on that and then I’ll stop for lunch. Oh, I’m so close to being finished, and I’ll really, really stop by dinner time. . . “ And then suddenly it’s dark, and I haven’t eaten, and I’m still changing words and line breaks in the zillionth penultimate draft.
3. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?
I’m starting to draft some poems for whatever comes after Mortal Geography. I definitely didn’t know I was writing that manuscript until many years into the process, so it’s strange to be starting a little more self-consciously. I have several ideas for themes, but am also not really sure I’m the kind of writer who can, or will, delve into a single theme. I guess we’ll see. I’ve also been working on a novel for a couple of years; my mental deadlines keep getting extended, but I’m hoping to finish a draft of it this year. It’s a magical-realist story set in Arkansas—nothing that I thought I’d ever write, and I’m having an amazingly fun time with it.
Read some of Alexandra Teague’s poems.
Also, have you checked out my latest article on the Examiner? Here's my D.C. Literature Examiner posting about YA novels in verse or the Michael Jackson Biography Comic.
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