A month or so ago, I contacted Alexis Gavrelis in hopes of an interview. Alexis is more than a little famous around the tumblr world for her poetry. She's 17 years old and almost finished with her 366 poetry project. The first time I read one of her poems, it was two days before I graduated, and I was feeling so lost, and I read this poem that she had written, and realized that I wasn't the only person who felt this way. Ever since then, I've been keeping up with her poetry. She's an incredible writer, and I hope you enjoy this interview with her.
Hi, Alexis! I have a phone call in 40 minutes and this shouldn't take that long, but we can go ahead and jump right in. So how old were you when you started writing?
Hmm I mean I've always been the kind of person that naturally gravitated toward writing, but I didn't really get into journaling and prose until about 3 years ago.
I definitely understand that! Did you read a lot when you were younger?
So much! I used to be really embarrassed about it because all of my friends were at a stage where reading was really lame, but I was still constantly reading. I think that's why I love writing so much. Everything I've ever read has influenced me in some way.
That idea has always been really interesting to me, because I read all the time, and it's like, how is what I'm reading impacting what I write? What kind of stuff you do like to read now? And what are your two or three favorite books?
I've been really into classics for the last year or so. I absolutely fell in love with used book stores so I love going into them and picking up the rattiest books I can find and checking them out. I'm really into the idea though that you can read literally whatever you want, as long as you're reading. My top three favorite books as of right now...gosh this is hard. Definitely Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and I really love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Used bookstores are the best. There's one in Indianapolis that I visited for a John Green event, and the bookstore is called Indy Reads. It's the prettiest bookstore I've ever been in. I LOVE Catcher & The Bell Jar, but I've never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. What do you like about those three books, or how do they change what you write, if that makes sense?
I really love stories that I can project myself onto..if that makes sense. I read Catcher a few years ago and I was just kind like "uh ok?" but then I reread it just a few months ago and it's almost like a light clicked and I was like wait a second...I am Holden. It's the same way with The Bell Jar. I love the kind of books that I can read over and over again and take something differently from the story each time-- the kind of books you can keep in the bottom of your back and read whenever you find a free moment. I hope that makes sense.
It makes so much sense. Books like that are really special because you can grow into them, and as you keep growing, you find different parts of yourself inside of them.
Let's talk about your own poetry for a couple minutes. Did it freak you out when you started getting a lot of followers and people started telling you how much they loved your words?
Oh definitely. Before I started this project I was terrified of people reading my work. I rarely even let my closest friends read it, so when I started getting all of these followers and they started telling me how much they enjoyed it...I almost thought that they were just being nice in a way. It took one of my good friends to sit me down and say "Look, these people don't know you, they don't have to love what you do, but they do." and I think from then on I tried to get used to having them as my audience I suppose? And I let it humble me because I never for a second imagined that I would have so many readers or admirers and I am completely overwhelmed at the response I've gotten.
Do a lot of people who know you read what you write? And if so, how do you feel about that now, as opposed to when you first started your 365 project?
My friends follow it, and I'm sure people from my school have seen it. As the year has progressed I've gotten more comfortable with the idea of my work being accessible to anyone with a computer. My blog gives me a sense of anonymity, but at the same time allows me to showcase who I am as a person. Back in january I kept my journals locked away in my room, now I can go out in public and sit down at a table and write about what I see. I don't care about what people think so much anymore. I love writing, and I think the project has taught me how to be more open with that love.
That's really beautiful. I love to write, but I'm still at that point where sharing it with people who I know and love is really difficult. Has there been a response to your writing from a particular person, anonymous or not, that really meant a lot to you?
It will come in time, trust me. I think that sharing something as personal as my your words can make you so extremely vulnerable that it can be terrifying. So, I think the responses that I recieve that mean the most to me are the messages that tell me that I've helped them get through a night they thought they wouldn't. Or my words helped them get to sleep when all they thought they would do was stare at the ceiling. That's all I've ever wanted. I love to read because it's in reading that I know I'm not alone and if I can do that for someone else, especially someone I've never met, I've done what I've set out to do. I think it's so incredible that people connect with the jumbled mess in my head.
I think that's all anyone who writes ever wants. Okay, two more questions before I have to go. 1) What kind of music do you listen to when you write, and who are some songwriters who you really connect with? and 2) Is there a person or experience you've tried writing about, but just can't get the words onto the paper?
I have an ongoing playlist that I'm constantly adding to for when I write. I really love listening to Noah Gundersen, Regina Spektor, Ben Howard, and Bon Iver. I love anything that just lets my mind wander. Oh definitely. There are so many things I've been through that I can't seem to put into words. Or I have put them into words, but I don't think they'll ever be what I wish for them to be. A lot of first love experiences are hard, writing about certain people or certain moments where you felt so alive is hard. Whenever I get an idea I scribble it down wherever I can find a piece of paper and sometimes I'll go back and read it and think to myself "I just can't go back to that moment. I can't feel what I felt when I wrote those exact words." That's the tough thing about being a writer, you can try as hard as you want, but sometimes there are just some moments you'll never be able to put back into words. Sometimes moments are just moments, and memories are all you'll ever have.
That is so true and profound. Thank you so much, Alexis. It was wonderful talking to you, and I look forward to reading the rest of your 365 project!
Oh you're welcome, thank you a thousand times over for liking what I write enough to speak with me!
Thank you a thousand times over for writing it! Have a nice evening!