Culture & Conversation

Aqueous Yes

Alex Manley is not only a writer of literature, he is also a journalist who has covered everything from the death of print, internet poetics, the problem with the new twenty dollar bills, Margaret Wente’s shenanigans, Lana Del Rey, to the legacy of Steve Jobs. Which makes me wonder, is Alex the Tom Wolfe of our generation?

I met Alex Manley in my first poetry workshop, but didn’t properly get to know him until we worked together at The Link, Concordia Universities independent newspaper, where Alex edited the Literary Arts section.

Alex has interned with Maisonneuve Magazine, winner of the National Magazine Award, and also has the Irving Layton Award for fiction under his belt.

Alex’s writing has always impressed me. He knows the rules of the English language inside-out and, as a result, is some sort of master magician of word play. He has a certain way of twisting things through language that allows the reader to see into the other dimensions of circumstance.

Hello. Who are you?
I’m a white cis male, almost entirely straight, I’m not much good at sports, shoddy lover, awkward around people, low alcohol tolerance, not a lot of earning potential, propensity for having feelings, very good at chatting online. I’ve lived my whole life in Montreal. I have a GPA somewhere in the mid twos.

What have you been reading?
This winter I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac, in fits and starts, and lately I’ve been re-reading this William Carlos Williams collection that I have called Pictures From Brueghel. He has this poem about Brueghel’s “Landscape With the Fall of Icarus” called “Landscape With the Fall of Icarus” that makes me think of Titus Andronicus’s great song, “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s ‘Landscape With the Fall of Icarus’”. I also read a lot of alt lit poetry.

Why do you write?
For the same reason that people post things on Facebook, to get likes.

Where is your favorite place to write?
Not sure I have a favourite “place.” My favourite headspace is when I’m rushing to get something out, I think, before I forget it. Usually then it comes out fast and the things that come out fast tend to be easier to edit, they’re like arrowheads that just need to be sharpened a bit.

What books or authors have impacted you the most?
This one’s tricky. I think it’s hard to say because often the things we consciously like don’t necessarily manifest themselves in our writing, and we might not be able to tell where the traits our writing actually has are coming from. I feel like my writing is something of a bastard son in this regard. Some things I have noticed about my writing: I have a bit of a propensity for writing troublesome stories, which I may or may not have pilfered a little bit from my friend Frankie Barnet, whose stories are better and much more troubling. I prefer writing female characters, I think. And I obsess over the shapes of my stanzas when I write poetry. That’s possibly my greatest fault as a writer. Or maybe just my ‘defining’ trait.

What is good writing?
I want to champion writing that leaves you wanting, a little bit, that doesn’t over-explain or over-show what it is or what it’s trying to do, that leaves you with a feeling instead of a certainty.

Do you have any favorite words?
I, yes, God. Rubicund. Aqueous. Inchoate. Nascent.

Could you recommend 3 books?
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. Lenny Bruce Is Dead by Jonathan Goldstein. Begin With the End in Mind by Emma Healey. Accidentally three Canadian authors. Cool. Lullabies taught me how to fall head over heels in love with a narrative voice. Lenny Bruce taught me that you can love being made to feel depressed by funny things so much that nothing needs to happen, and the nothing that’s happening doesn’t even need to happen in order. The poems in Begin With the End in Mind taught me sometimes you just want a poem to love you and leave you and then you try and pick up the pieces and go on with your life. Maybe there’s a baby growing inside you. Maybe you’re not sure you don’t want to keep it. It’s complicated.

To get a deeper look at the poetics of Alex Manley, you can peep this interview I did with him over at Soliloquies Anthology.


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