Archive for the ‘Nina Alvarez’ Category

You know there is no money in poetry; you know that there isn’t.
And still you write your poems.
You know there is no money in publishing; you know that there isn’t.
And still you write your books.
People ask me: How do I make a living as a writer?
I say if you are trying to make a living, you are doing it wrong.
Come to this place bestowed on you with reverence. Let there be no moneylenders in your temple. Come often enough with all that you have, asking nothing but to be there at that one particular altar. Then, maybe after a long time, you will go home and find your coffers full of just enough money to eat and sleep comfortably, then return the next day to the temple with an offering of gold. That is how you make a living as a writer.

-Nina Alvarez


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A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne
From year to year until I saw thy face,
And sorrow after sorrow took the place
Of all those natural joys as lightly worn
As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn
By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace
Were changed to long despairs, till God’s own grace
Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn
My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring
And let it drop adown thy calmly great
Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing
Which its own nature does precipitate,
While thine doth close above it, mediating
Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.


-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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1. I Walked a Mile with Pleasure

2. Ithaca

3. The Lost Son

4. Love Me Like You Never Loved Before

5. Ithaca (video poem)

6. from Last Poems

7. Deathless Aphrodite of the Spangled Mind

8. What You Should Know to be a Poet

9. The Serpent

10. The Unicorn

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In my hollow bones
I heard her
Like a bone woman
A lisp

Her eyes were green
And I see now
How I thought I was beautiful
Compared to him
But she was beautiful
Compared to me

And he would chose her

In my head
And in the hall of my roots
Where the dead grow and the old
Plays are memorialized on tapestry

The mold is only slight, there is a
Magic that keeps this terrible truth alive

In all I wanted, in all these years, I thought
I found something to aspire to, that is a line
From a book, I suspect, some bland platitude
But it piques my interest because

I am the tom cat
In the celebrity showcase

I am the one cartooned

She is the plaster goddess, the thing on the wall
She is the face that said no
And now smiles and so
Who could say no to her?

She is the power play, I am merely the one who
Stood next to him

I am the one who has offered
She has asked to be given

And no matter what I do
it is always me
who must be cast out
To the far corners

Me as always
In every one of these stories
In the deep dank room of roots
Untried, unloved, unwon, uncarried
The woman in the background

Fading away already, always light of hair, light of skin

A ghost

-Nina Alvarez

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Because I’ll die

I’ll die and someday this will all be gone
This spot
My clients
This class
Rachel Ephraim
Josh’s apartment
Scott, Scott’s cat
All of Rochester
Mike and his house in the suburbs
All those feelings I thought were so real

I could just keep caring
Caring about everything
About every word
Said or imagined
About every thoughts or feeling
Weighed against me
About every idea here or there that cannot be understood
I can make it matter so much
And yet

I will die

And even Nick will be gone
And these young handsome men
With tattoos on their backs
Who are walking by
And the people who take themselves seriously
Or don’t
And the beauty
In so many faces
The beauty they don’t know

The need to be right
Or recriminate
The need to feel my family
Should have been there
Or the universe should have provided
A safer net
Or that I was wrong
Or right
At any turn
To just feel like the silence isn’t enough

To feel wrong
Or right
Is just

Because is it over
Already it
Never happened
There is no person to be mad at
There is no person to receive
The anger

There is no recrimination
There is no wrong or right
In what I did or did not do
In what they did or did not do

It was all just form
Taking its turn
Around the dance floor

And I’ll die
So it’s okay

And I’ll die, Josh,
So it’s okay you didn’t love me

And I’ll die, Rachel
So it’s okay you will go away

And I’ll die, Amber
So it’s okay that you don’t like me

And I’ll die, Betsy
So it’s okay

And I’ll die, Victor
So it’s already okay

And I’ll die, Mom,
So thank you for giving me life

And I’ll die, Dad,
So thank you for supporting this child’s body

And I’ll die, Rochester,
Hometown, with all your welcome and unwelcome
Your kindness and tiredness

And I’ll die, and so will you, and it will one day be as
If neither had been here at all

None of these grilled cheese sandwiches
None of these gray-haired women who love their food so much

And the youth and beauty of the Latin women and their text books
And the sun of the June day in this double-numbered year
And if people think I am crazy
And if people think I am lazy
And if people will not respect me
And if the person that is Nina Alvarez will not respect herself
And if the money continues to dwindle
And if it goes out like a candle
And if the nerves in her cheeks were sallow

And if the look in her eyes was haunted
And if she hadn’t the tools to fix their griefs
And if she hadn’t the tools to save a heart
And if she hadn’t the tools to make the world move

And if she felt or was small
And if she had little or was poor
and if she showed up in this strange world with all sorts of weird feelings
that made her tingle but had little resonance
if she did not reconcile while she was here
the things in her head to the things of the earth
if she did not reconcile
the things in her head to the things of the earth
and even if she did
the things of her heart to some things

even if she did

it is okay


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Nina Alvarez in Johnson, VT from Al Martinez on Vimeo.

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abandoned only because academic usage had made it lifeless.

abandoned realism but used it for the painting of feeling

abandoned. In this way the material object was made more abstract

like a tennis ball over the net between the two parties


above the clouds.


absolute necessity to the composition, or should they be replaced

absolute shadow-side to the picture, never a piece of unrelieved


abstract by the concrete and spoil the concrete by the abstract.

abstract form, we shall produce works which are mere decoration,

abstract, but is applied as an element of some other object, and

abstract, the non-material. Consciously or unconsciously they are

abstract, their mutual relations, either individually or as parts



abuse him as charlatan or madman. So in his lifetime stood


academism. Even music has a grammar, which, although modified


according to the relation to other forms of the form which causes


accuracy of form to the inner need, the material of which his art

accurately speaks, such a mixture produces what is called


an artistic expansion of space. The combination of both


achieved simultaneously by several forms of art, each art

achieves greater prominence.


active element gradually disappears. But this active element is

active force, for they stand the, one in motionless discord, the

active warmth of yellow or the active coolness of blue


admirably expressed it. But in everything he did he showed the

admixture of black, for black quenches the glow, or at least


advances, what is today a phrase of inner harmony becomes


affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. Mark the


after a new sense of form approached the same problem. Cezanne


Again, let us take the case of the definitely religious picture.

against black with clear strength.


Light yellow against white is

against materialism,

against the demand that everything should be

aggressive character.

all intent dies the moment the atmosphere alters which nourished

all these open great vistas of artistic possibility.

All these works have the solemn and regular architecture of a

“symbolist” school

almost a household word. the name of the movement is

the alone of the language, of sound and beat stands alone, without



And at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art

and blue, colours in themselves of no physical relationship, but

and blue. Harmony today rests chiefly on the principle of

and complementary one to the other. Conversely, at those times

and contradiction, we can draw the easy conclusion that for a

And conversely, self-sacrifice, mutual help, lofty thoughts,

and devote ourselves purely to combination of pure colour and

and disposes, as he wills, these three elements. IT IS CLEAR,

and drawings by Kandinsky.

and emerge as the ballet.

and especially between music and painting. Goethe said that

and fear, etc.–are too material and naive for the abstract ideas

and fears. When one stage has been accomplished, and many evil

and finally impotent, so the spirit perishes if untended. And for

and finally, since a book of such drawings by a child of twelve

and grandiloquent language. Partly for this reason, partly from

and grief. These artists have filled their pictures with a bitter

and have different spiritual values.


and yellow is as close as between black and blue, for blue can be


angles and abruptness. In the second case motion and dance are

angles. So his aim is smaller and more limited than Kandinsky’s


another uses its methods, so that the methods may afterwards be


answer, there is always a possibility that the same “something”


antithesis–an ex-and concentric movement. If two circles are


anxiety to state his case, to court criticism, the author has


Any attempt to free painting from this material limitation

any clearness and moderation. Some people will say that any such

any human being. Sensitives cannot, for example, remain in a room

Any preponderance in green of yellow or blue introduces a

anything “as it really is” and without fantastic imagination.


Apollinaire, “Les Peintres Cubistes.” Collection Les Arts. Paris,


appeal of an upright triangle is more steadfast and quiet than

appeal of the nothingness that is before birth, of the world in

appeal to men grows weaker and more distant. In music a light

appeal, and the inclination of the colour to yellow or to blue,

appeal, but assuming either a more material or more non-material

appeal, or must remain a purely non-material symbol.


applause. It is very important for the artist to gauge his


application of every method, but that that power must be

applied to the borrower’s art from the beginning, and suitably.


appreciated by people today; but a modern work of art which is


approach the problem of the spirit by way of the INNER knowledge.

approaching the spectator, the cold ones retreating from him.


are sympathetic to him, and expresses himself through them. So

are the sad, middle tones of a cello. A cold, light red contains

are there, certainly, but they get no further than the nerves,

are therefore four shades of appeal–warm and light or warm and

are tragic or passionate poems. He also sacrifices conventional

are unmusical–either wholly, by nature, or partly, for lack of

are used as symbols, almost as though they were mere

arise a crowd of gifted and skilful painters, so easy does the


art (this is the element of pure artistry, which is constant in

art an abstraction of thought and arrive finally at purely

art held general sway over the “Naturalist.” The Primitive

art is a false analogy, and that for a trained man or woman to

art is an ever-advancing expression of the eternal and objective

art is necessarily nobler than the “naturalist.” I am making no

art that is still-born. It is impossible for us to live and feel,

art. But here I use the term in the narrower sense to mean

art. Picasso’s admirers hail him, just as this Introduction hails

art. Talk of the coming “style” becomes more frequent daily. But

art. Until such time, it is the duty of those to whom his work

artist is a man who can draw and paint everything,” said Tolstoi.

artist up to a certain definite point. This point has been fixed

artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for

artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of

artist, but also of those who eat this poisoned food. The artist


artistic composition. [Footnote: By “Komposition” Kandinsky here

artistic end.

artistic form he presents what is impure, draws the weaker

artistic form. This I call an “Impression.”

artistic means that may be employed. Similar possibilities are

artistic means. His material machinery (gloomy mountains,

artistic power is called “art for art’s sake.”

artistic than his intentions and refuse to aim at photography

artists of the soul, says: “There is nothing on earth so curious

arts approached each other more nearly than they do today, in

arts which are outwardly different, hidden forces equally


aspect of the spiritual life. For instance, there is never an

association the effects of colour upon other senses than that of

association theory falls to the ground. So one is bound to admit

association with material aims. The artist has to consider not

association, is perhaps open to question. The soul being one with

association. Generally speaking, colour is a power which directly

association. Kandinsky refers to attempts to paint in colour-


at any rate the case at present. But besides this answer to the

at first, a matter of feeling. Any theoretical scheme will be

At such a time art ministers to lower needs, and is used for

At the apex of the top segment stands often one man, and only

At this point the individuality of the artist comes to the front


atmosphere which does not disturb him because he accepts it as

atmosphere, a similarity of ideals, at first closely pursued but

attempt is this book of Kandinsky’s.


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I will wait because I have found how to wait.

I have found that waiting is. As the wind swings

open the wooden door, as it gently closes,

square roots of measured weather.


-Nina Alvarez

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It is the heart. The heart cannot stay,
Marked with the storm of the titled page
With all the appropriate shadows

Long in the cranium, sung and webbed
And finally useless, like a wine bottle,
cut-glass breasts, Occam’s Razor in a kettle on the stove

And Jesus Christ Relleno
Bound at the wrist, face frank, black eye,
Easter, Eastern states, an ostentation.

what is the heart, if it is not these things?
As strange as a starfish in the bathtub.
The truth is this: we say these arteries
And sinews are something. They simply aren’t.

Hung to the post, ill-grown, ill-gotten,
A stone, a sort of Pentecost of weeds

Organic strange growth called Ephesia
Euphoria, dipped from the hand, two
chocolate wedges, a woman, a world
pius in its call-to-arms, sweet liberty

avant et dernier, in medias res, in the flesh

Insatiable black furnace, the gorgon head
fetid, anaerobic, Pleiades, and germane Germans-
the bout of sadness, the last arch before the road

wanders to gravel, glows slowly up the mountain
all the while, we wonder, touched vaguely
by something seen before the shrill steel Adam

Called America, called I-am-not-what-I-believe-but-make

Think of that bowled upside down horizon
Tilted city in the terrible nameless raison d’etre
Of push, punch, missile, top top top.
The abstraction, units of production, das kaptial

Higher than killer bees and college dropouts
Or the beach waves in Singapore, dead
Wood, bodies whose narrowed eyes

No longer blink away the sun, or salt
What are these hands that type, this tongue that wags
Found in my own poesies, my troubled longing
For fame, sense, sensibility, wonder, warm rooms

The rope, the knife, the pill, the essential.
No one knows what is really going on here.
We have small orders, functions, and then resistance.

This is all. The best are full of passionate insensitivity
The worst sell their compassionate
lies: the woman’s thighs, the endless sun,

the pulse, the glitch, the aspirin, the Adonis who
lays down hope: Sex is our savior, and the only thing
that binds us, still, to life, to each other. The heart is the

absentee father of sex, the heart phones it in.
But, before you can forget it existed, the heart
Requires itself, proves itself, usually through a

Sort of negative logic, an impenetrable moan.


-Nina Alvarez

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A tall girl should stand up straight

A guy who likes you should call.

A pretty girl should smile.

An almost pretty girl should smile more.

A girl who wants to be noticed should wear makeup, not glasses.

A girl with hair as blonde as yours should wear eyeliner.

A person with cool skin tones should wear warm colors.

A friend who invites you to stay with them should be nice to you.

On a sunny day, you should go outside.

You should feel bad about not being in the life of your friend’s son, like you said you would.

You should hate them for what they did.

You should feel bad about how he said, that most recent guy, that he was no longer attracted to you.

You shouldn’t test people. You shouldn’t push people. You should hide the severity of your thoughts.

You should starve before eating other people’s food.

You should have done more with your graduate degree.

You should have savings, by age 33, instead of $25,000 in debt.

You should have been a better planner.

You should have been a better investor.

You should have been a better friend and not been so difficult.

You should have figured out how to save the world and done it by now.

You should have figured out how to make a lot of money without working for someone else.

You should have joined a company and just stopped thinking.

You should have done a PhD and taught.

You should have had a novel finished by now.

You should have had more boyfriends. You are cute enough. What is wrong with you?

You should have spent less time thinking about yourself. Your self.

You should have found a way to work it out with your sister.

You should have not told that last guy when you were hurt or upset.

You should have learned to just enjoy sex for its own sake by now.

You should have waited until it was obvious the sex would be meaningful.

You should be married with babies by now.

You should have given more to the people you met. You know, just accepted them more.

You should have more fun, be more light-hearted.

You should have enough energy and be mentally healthy enough to get out there and really live.

You should have written more at the writing residency. You shouldn’t have tried to find romance while you were there. You should have been okay going to bed alone.

You should have found a way to tell off those people you’ve lived with who have been so bossy and controlling, instead of being steamrolled.

You should have never had to live with other people. You should have figured out how to make a lot of money and live alone by now.

You shouldn’t judge fat people.

You should never become fat.

You should be more like Matthew Dickman, his book of poems in in the Harvard bookstore. And he went to VSC.

You should be more like Christina Olson. She has her shit together. And a book of poems.

You should be more like Rachel Ephraim. She is getting married, and writes good fiction, and lives in Brooklyn.

You should be more like any woman who can actually keep a man.

You should be more like Tom Hanks. In fact, you should be Tom Hanks.

You should have written better poems.

You should have published a book by now.

You should have figured out how to inspire Nick Witkowski.

You should have made huge strides in becoming famous and simultaneously changing the world by now.

You should have memorized more poetry.

You should have had sex with less people.

You should have had sex with more people.

You should have never moved home with your parents for three years. That was bad.

You should have known who he was and what he would do to you from the first time you talked. And you did, which means you should have been stronger and just walked away.

You should be writing every morning and making lots of money every afternoon and having fun every evening.

You should have all the resources, food, and money you want.

You should have throngs of people listening to you.

You should have real power and influence in this world.

You should have been funnier, cooler, more interesting when the funny, cool, interesting people were around.

You should be calmer, more zen, have better self-esteem. After all the work you’ve done on yourself.

You should have the means to do whatever you want, including help others.

You shouldn’t need help from anyone.

You should be happier.

You should be prettier.

You should be smarter.

You should be clearer about purpose, about who you are.

You should be more who you are.

You should be who they want you to be, then you’d be less lonely.

You should listen to …

-Nina Alvarez

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