Interview with Alyssa Knowling

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Alyssa Knowling is an undergraduate writer at Webster University. She is a poet and visual artist out of St. Louis, and agreed to talk with us about her poem, “Today, It’s Warhol,” available in the Winter 2016 issue of the OAR.
-Bethany Olson
What was behind your choice to invoke Andy Warhol in your poem? How do you feel this shaped the poem? 
I originally started my college career as an Art History major before moving to the dark side of Literature. However, I have always maintained a massive interest in visual arts, and have continued my obsession in my writing. Andy Warhol is an exceptionally interesting figure in the public realm, let alone in the art world, and I have frequently thought about how well he would fit into contemporary culture. That persisting thought eventually led to a series of poems about him, one of them being “Today, It’s Warhol.”


What did you set out to do with “Today, It’s Warhol”? What did you want to accomplish?

The intent of this poem, and much of my writing, is to get people to think about the arts holistically. There are many, many mediums to work with, whether that be painting, writing, performance art—you name it, but I firmly believe that at their foundations, they are all interconnected. I think that if artists and viewers of art take time to consider this notion, we could all learn much more from one another.

What do you like about poetry vs other genres? 

Poetry, as opposed to any other genre I have worked with, gives me the ability to focus intensely on the minute. I can spend an entire poem exploring a single instance, one thought, a word. I don’t have to create a story around whatever I’m writing to give it validity. There is a lot of power to be found in what may initially seem like a minor detail.

Which poets/books of poetry would you recommend for someone looking to get into the genre? 

There are many, many poets worth reading, but I obviously have my near and dears. I love Rilke for his majesty, David Kirby for his wild humor, and Frank O’Hara for being a kindred soul. But truly, I recommend that anyone interested in poetry should read anything they can get their hands on.

How do you approach a new poem?

Regardless of how often I consider larger topics on my own time, it is always something small that sparks a living poem. This could be a fragment of a memory, a happening I witness, an image, a single word. From there, I try to think as little as possible and write, write, write.

So far, what is the best piece of writing advice you’ve gotten as an undergrad?

My wonderful poetry professor and friend David Clewell has continuously told me that any poem I write is an “Alyssa poem.” I have worried over and over again that a new piece I’m working on isn’t  in my style or that it’s too different from anything else I’ve written, but really, if I’m working with no ulterior motive, it’s going to fit. It’s going to make sense. Don’t let your conception of who you are or what you should write deter you from pursuing something that interests you.


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