BY KYLE J. KILKENNY
While most Fordham students are trying to get into the groove of a new semester, Alex Crosby, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19, has a unique New (school) Year’s resolution. Under the pen name “awc,” this Fordham junior has begun binding, marketing and selling copies of his first poetry collection, “Rose Notebook.” During our hour-long conversation, Crosby and I discussed the importance of new poetry in this particular moment in our society and how his time at Fordham and in New York has influenced his writing.
An avid reader from a young age, Crosby first began writing during his freshman year of high school. “I was never really a serious poetry reader,” he admitted in the early minutes of our interview. “I started to think of what it means to love literature and to read and if I could be satisfied with not being engaged in the process of creating something like that.”
With a collection of poems written primarily over the past year, Crosby has become not only an ambitious creator, but also a curator of sorts. Each copy of “Rose Notebook” has been bound and printed with the poet’s personal touch, placing stunning black words onto glowing pink and purple pages. Just like everything else in Crosby’s work, these copies are made with great intention and care.
When speaking of intention, I asked the Tampa-born poet, “Why now?” The eager response: “I decided to write 50 odes. I wanted to harken back to an older structure of poetics.” Crosby noted “Rose Notebook” was a concept born out of writing these poems with a singular structure which, in turn, ties them all together. He continued, “I just felt that it was right that it was finished. The last poem I put down felt like an ending point … all of these complement each other [so] that it feels like a work to me.” Thus, the guarded poet decided to share his work with the masses, kicking off a social media campaign this summer and designing and launching a new website.
After reading the collection, I was most interested in both who Crosby turns to for direction in his art and how his experience living in New York has acted as a catalyst for “Rose Notebook.” He cites Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who wrote the novel “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” as his most formative influence in both life and literature. Aldous Huxley’s “Island,” the novels of Cesare Pavese, and the nonsensical poems of Christian Morgenstern inform Crosby’s work as well.
“I don’t feel like [New York] is a hot-bed for poetry,” the Philosophy and Classics double-major commented. When asked how his experiences over the course of two years at Fordham have facilitated this work coming to fruition, he noted that his work “is a mix of poetry, philosophy, prose, [and] notebooking. It’s not just poetry, and I’d like it to be as broad as possible.” While Crosby emphasized he does not want to be a career academic, he does believe that students should take advantage of reading poetry, including “Rose Notebook.” He voiced, “It took me a lot of time to feel comfortable to do this, and I’m comfortable enough with myself that I want to share it unabashedly.”
The poet cites the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the Guggenheim, as an artist he admires for his perfectionism and intentionality, something Crosby tries to incorporate in his writing process. Upon my first read of the collection, Crosby’s use of grammar, spacing, indents and font enforced my initial belief that this was a work developed and refined over the course of several months. However, I stood corrected. As he explained, that was “oddly enough all in the moment. Usually I try to write down everything that comes to mind, but I decided [with this specific project] I was going to wait until I was about to burst, so that everything coming to me in the moment was inspired and distilled by recent experience.”
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this artist is that he himself is the personification of the term “dichotomy.” I was fascinated to learn “Rose Notebook” was carefully crafted by a poet who hardly reads poetry, an academic who wishes to be liberated from the restraints of the classroom, a young classicist who wishes to find modern applications for his greatest influences and a young voice who is turning to older, dated structures to convey new and fresh messages. On the role this duality plays in this particular collection, Crosby explained, “I think there are a lot of lessons of seriousness, of life and death in these poems; but to combat that, I think there is also a feeling of the utmost hilarity.”
In the closing moments of our highly-caffeinated interview, I turned to Crosby and said, “So, what’s next?” Modest and coy, the driven poet teased, “I have two or three other projects almost ready for publication, which I will move ahead with if this [first book of poems] is received well.” Until then, you can visit him at Rex coffee shop and grab an espresso brewed by a poet, who will certainly be absorbing fresh ideas and crafting new poems for future ambitious works.
To order your copy of “Rose Notebook,” visit awcpoetry.wixsite.com/awcpoetry or follow @AWCPoetry on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Jane Schiavone.