Alison Malee’s poetry is filled with explorations of self-love, race, identity, blunt truth and hope. Here’s how she makes her word-magic.
Prepare to be enlightened and blessed with some serious girl boss advice from modern poet, Alison Malee. Author of Shifting Bone, the day is ready for you, and This Is The Journey, Malee gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at what being a modern poet is really like.
Malee dishes about her newest book, This Is The Journey, and how it differs from her previous works along with her journey through publishing. She reminds us to stay true to ourselves and why it is so crucial in writing. Her use of language is succinct, articulating feeling other’s can’t phenomenally.
Ahead, Malee on why poetry, the best business advice she’s ever received, her writing process, and being a mother balancing it all.
little infinite: Your debut poetry book, Shifting Bone, was published in early 2016. What was the first moment you knew that poetry was going to be the writing style for you? What sparked it for you?
Alison Malee: It feels like ages ago that Shifting Bone was published! I started writing poetry in High School after falling in love with the poetry unit of a creative writing class. Since then, I have always been incredibly interested in pursuing writing as a career path. I loved that poetry could be so impactful in such a bite-sized fashion. It was all about romance, love, emotion, heartache, and as a teenager deeply invested in my own love life it became the perfect way to express those feelings.
li: What did you learn from publishing your first book? What is it like working with publishers now 3 years later?
AM: Publishing my first book was such a long process, and it was ultimately the best learning experience I could have asked for. Everything from selecting an order for the poems, to finding an artist to design the cover, to buying an ISBN. At 21, I was really flying by the seat of my pants.
Now, years later, I know much more about the process of publishing and what it takes to create a poetry book from an idea and end up with a finished product. However, I am still learning with each book and am sure I always will be.
li: Writing poetry and sharing poetry are two very different things. What made you decide to write AND share your poems? How did you find the courage to take that next step and begin sharing your poetry?
AM:I started sharing my work because I had an overwhelming sensation that it was time to let others read what I had been working on, and I am so glad I did. It has been so freeing, and opened so many doors for me that I otherwise might not have been able to reach. It was terrifying! But it was important. I think every artist has a moment where they realize it is more important to face the scary thing head on than it is to not pursue their dreams.
“It was terrifying! But it was important. I think every artist has a moment where they realize it is more important to face the scary thing head on than it is to not pursue their dreams.”-Alison Malee
li: Your most recent book, This Is The Journey was released earlier this year. What can we expect from this book and how does it differ from your previous books like the day is ready for you?
AM: This Is The Journey is a much more personal collection of poetry, as it is about my family and the discovery of my roots and biological family. It’s quite different, but stylistically is very similar to the day is ready for you.
li: What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? Why do you think this specific piece of advice stuck with you?
AM: ‘A poem is a made thing.’ I was feeling very stuck, writer’s block can get the best of me some days, and someone told me this. It is so true! A poem is built from the ground up, just like anything. You have to start somewhere, and the best writers are the ones that write.
“A poem is built from the ground up, just like anything. You have to start somewhere, and the best writers are the ones that write.”-Alison Malee
li: What is a valuable mistake you learned from as a writer? If you could give an up-and-coming poet one piece of advice what would you tell them?
AM: Writing for someone else, or to please someone else instead of telling honest stories. Advice: ALWAYS listen to your heart. Tell stories that matter to you. Be brave with your work. It matters.
li: When you’re working through your creative writing process, which step is the most crucial for you? Which is the most frustrating? What do you do to beat writer’s block?
AM: The most difficult step of the writing process is figuring out what story you want to tell and what the best way would be to tell it. Every story can be told from multiple angles, through different lenses, in different formats. It’s up to the writer to determine what would be the most efficient way to relay a message.
But, when the story has been written, the most important step is always editing. Sometimes the best thing we can do is step back and see it with fresh eyes, so it can be reworked or reorganized.
“Tell stories that matter to you. Be brave with your work. It matters. “-Alison Malee
li: Your Instagram has cultivated a community of over 155k people. Congratulations! What types of poems do your fans love the most? What are some of the best discussions your poems have prompted among your community?
AM: Thank you! Social media is tricky, especially Instagram, as it is such a visual platform. I think people want inspiration, words of encouragement, and poetry that makes them stop and think about their lives and relationships. There is always dialogue happening, but I think when readers message or email about their lives and want to talk with me about them, those are the most important conversations that could possibly take place.
li: What does the structure of your workweek look like as a poet? How do you stay focused as a someone with a more creative and entrepreneurial job? Any tips?
AM: I am a momma, so my workweek varies depending on their schedules. I spend most of my afternoons and evenings writing, editing, answering emails, and uploading content to social media. I try to set boundaries for work time, and I give myself deadlines. Working from home always has its benefits and obstacles! The most important thing is to give yourself grace, and try to keep the creative energy and intent of the work whole.
li: What are your goals for your poetry this year? Do you have a creative bucket list you’re working toward?
AM: I always have a bucket list of some kind! Mainly, my goal for the year is to be able to perform as much as possible.
li: What larger impact would you like your art to make?
AM: When I think larger impact, I think having an open dialogue with my readers, and making them feel less alone through their struggles and hardships. I would love to open up more conversations about empowerment, confidence, and the larger roles and spaces women can take up.