Catching Up With Stethoscope: Alec Harris

Alec Harris ’14 had big plans for his book of poetry. Read on to find out how it went, and make sure to check out his finished project this Friday at 5 in the Shapiro Writing Center.

The Only Rare Book I’ve Considered Buying was The Philosophy of Optics, 1822

An Excerpt

This isn’t how I imagined
it would unravel and upswirl
my eyes are ached dry.

I’m wondering if they curve wrong
if the light enters and oscillates wrong
no, that’s not it—

 I’m wondering if my blue is
different from your blue. If this
violet climbs your spine
as slowly if your green needs buds,
emanates this coal-chromatic breathing.
Does your orange mist faces
and scar blues?

This mind is trappings.
I can never see
my unmirrored face
I undarken the world
in scopes I can’t leave my eyes.

 Tell us about your final product.  How has it changed since you first envisioned it?

My final product has stayed true to the original idea in that it centers around the same few preoccupations: eyes, perception, the mind. However, these preoccupations manifested themselves in ways I did not predict—some poems were inspired by specific pieces of art while others were the result of mini experiments like walking around without glasses for a day.
What was it like working one-on-one with an editor? In what ways was your editor the most helpful?

Working with Leia was an amazing experience. From day one, she believed in me and my work and was a huge support throughout the entire project. Whenever I lost my focus within my poems or had difficulty finishing them, Leia was there to direct my thoughts. What was probably most helpful was Leia’s ability to connect with my work. She was always able to shed light on the poems I had written that confused and frustrated me. I simply cannot thank my editor enough.

What most surprised you about the process of creating your book?

Creating the book was both frustrating and exciting. The parts of a book I take as fact—margins, order of pages, font—were all things for which I was responsible. It seems silly now, but this really surprised me because I didn’t fully realize that the process of creating my book included much more than writing. Equally as surprising was how difficult it was to deal with these components of the book. I spent hours on the computer trying to figure the most readable font and font size, the most appropriate margins, and the perfect page order in terms of ordering the dedication, table of contents, and epigraph.

Are you satisfied with your final product?  What are you planning to do with the copies that you receive?

As a perfectionist, this is a difficult question for me to answer. Because I can always find things I don’t like in my own work, I can keep making edits, satisfied is probably the wrong word to use. I am certainly proud of the final product; it’s the result of many hours and a lot of mental energy. In the end, I can say the final product is incredibly important to me—it represents an attempt to wade through ideas or emotions that are troubling. Sometimes the writing helped sort through these ideas and emotions, other times it muddled things further. I think that both of those things come across in the final product which I’m happy about. In terms of the copies I receive, I am excited to give them away to those I love: my family and friends. In addition, I’m excited to give copies to anyone who wants to read my stuff. The prospect of random people reading my work only excites me, which is certainly a new feeling.

Alec’s editor, Leia Jane Zidel ’12, has this to say about the process:

Before I met Alec Harris, I had no idea he had only written a handful of poems in his life, that he didn’t really consider himself a poet, and that he was so damn neurotic (I love you, Alec!). I just knew he was that quiet kid in my poetry class who sent in some of the best student poems I had ever read during our call for Stethoscope submissions. I knew right away that I wanted to work with him. Now, looking back at the whole process, I have most enjoyed watching how this opportunity to create a book can completely change how a writer relates to his work. Alec started with only five poems, and now he has over twenty incredible ones. I saw his confidence grow every time we sat down to workshop his pieces–he is so deserving of this opportunity, and I am glad he finally sees what an amazing level of poetic skill he naturally possesses. I am so proud of his collection. After re-reading the whole thing recently, I fell in love with the poems all over again.

She adds:

I also enjoy that Alec and I can bro out now that process of bookmaking is over and we can actually be friends.

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