Q&A with Ivy Alvarez

A photograph of writer Ivy Alvarez against a pale grey background. She has short black hair with a side fringe. Ivy is wearing glasses with black frames and a red top. She is looking up at the camera with a slight smile.

IVY ALVAREZ is the author of Diaspora: Volume L (California: Paloma Press), The Everyday English Dictionary (London: Paekakariki Press), Disturbance (Wales: Seren) and Mortal. A MacDowell Colony Fellow, and a
Hawthornden Fellow, her work is widely published and anthologised, including in Best Australian Poems (2009 and 2013), with several poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014. See more at ivyalvarez.com.

Our Associate Editor Sam Penny interviews Ivy Alvarez about her poem ‘Bukal sa isip’ for #16 UNFUNDED

Can you tell us a little bit about the events or experiences that led you to write ‘Bukal sa isip’?

I am responding to the idea that, before we are born, we choose our parents. So, this is an imaginary dialogue between the speaker and ‘the unborn’.

This poem engages with mysticism as a means of personal empowerment. Do you think the mysticism and the personal empowerment explored connects to what some might call ‘spirituality’?

Yes, that is a very insightful interpretation of this poem. I, too, have questions of this poem: Who is the speaker addressing? Who does the speaker ‘agree’ with? Why must ‘we’ guide them, and to what end? I guess I like the mystery this evokes in me, and how I cannot be the one to provide the answers, that it should be the reader who comes to their own conclusions. And that is my mischief and my pleasure and my prerogative as the writer.

You have released a number of books and collections of poetry, including your more recent publication Diaspora: Volume L. Can you let The Suburban Review readers in on what you’re currently working on?

I have recently finished transcribing my draft poems of the second part (of three) of Diaspora: Volume B which, once complete, will comprise approximately 100 poems. ‘Bukal sa isip’ will appear in Volume B, of course, once it is accepted by a publisher and released for publication.

Simultaneously, I have also recently transcribed my poems for Volume T. Now I will do the work of forgetting these poems while they settle into themselves, then I can return to them anew, perhaps a year or two from now.

For now, I am patiently waiting for Diaspora: Volume N to be released, hopefully later this year.