I’ve Gone From Here to the Floorboards: A Conversation with Ivy Page
Put your indelible mark here
Slip inside the deep—
Pull out the girl
Let the ocular light shine
Take the ember
Tell her to burn
In five succinct lines, Ivy Page merely cracks open the visual and emotional vein to Any Other Branch. Intense, far from withdrawn, and fearless on the page, Ivy’s work is tremendously gut-wrenching and, at times, oddly humorous. Page’s first collection of poetry is divided into four sections with tumultuous build: Men, Room, Girl, and High Tide. If you choose to follow, seep your way slowly amongst words that recall memories from youth to adulthood; it is the only way for the sap to flow, or enter the heartwood.
Fortunately, I chose every branch, encountering powerful imagery along the way. After reading her book, I got in touch with Ivy and spent time with her over coffee in Concord, New Hampshire.
Jean: Let’s talk about your first time publishing experience. What was it like working with Salmon Poetry?
Ivy: Salmon is a very small, but very well-established press in Ireland. They’ve been around for about 30 years and there’s only two people who run the entire press: Jessie Lendennie (founder and managing editor) and Siobhan Hutson (production manager). My experience with them was like winning the lottery. I received my MFA from New England College in July 2009. I sent my manuscript to them three weeks after I graduated. My manuscript was my thesis. It was a free, open submission period and I emailed it in. Within 24 hours, Jessie emailed me back and said she wanted to see the whole manuscript.
JM: How many poems did you initially submit?
IP: Ten. I also had to write a very in-depth letter concerning what my manuscript was about, what I was hoping to accomplish with my book. I really had to examine my own work before submitting, which was a great opportunity to look at my manuscript that way; looking at it critically and giving them an evaluation of my work. Three months later she got in touch with me and said they were still considering it, and asked if it was still available. Three months after that they accepted my manuscript. So the point from submission to acceptance took six months. The editing process started right before it came out, and we exchanged numerous emails over the matter of a week in order to have the book ready for publication. I also had to compile additional information for them including acknowledgements, and on top of that they wanted me to provide them with a list of local bookstores and media contacts so they can promote in my area. They have distribution in America and Canada through Dufour, and they have two distributors overseas, one in Ireland (IBD) and one in the UK (Central Books).
JM: Had you submitted your manuscript anywhere else?
IP: No. I had published about half the poems in the book in individual journals. But I had not sent the manuscript to anyone else. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do yet so I just sent it out. However, there was a little bit of a scare last year because my book was actually due out in March 2012. When the economy tanked and Ireland got hit so hard their [Salmon Poetry’s] funding got cut. They sent out an email to everyone that basically said they were having to reconsider manuscripts. So here I am—I got accepted in January 2010, waited two years for it to come out, and they said we may or may not be able to keep everyone. They pushed mine back a year, so I felt very fortunate to stay on their list.
They already accepted my second manuscript, eight months after the first one. I emailed Jessie and told her I have this other manuscript, do you want to see it before I send it elsewhere. Within in two weeks she got back to me and said yes, we’ll take this one too. It should debut at AWP 2015.
JM: With this being your first published book, I imagine you’ve had some inspiration and encouragement along the way. I’m wondering if there are any debut writers that you have read that influenced your own work?
IP: I read Killarney Clary’s first book, By me, by any can and can’t be done (Greenhouse Review Press). It’s actually a chapbook from 1980, but it was her first book. Her work inspired me a great deal through the process of writing [my] manuscript. She’s so brutally honest in what she has to say and says it in a way without being ugly about it. She manages to find the beauty in the pain. Mike McGee—his work influenced me a great deal. As an undergrad I saw him perform at Plymouth State University and his poem “Like” just stuck with me. I still teach that poem in my poetry workshop. That sort of boldness that he puts out there gets down to the marrow of things. He’s able to find the silver lining.
JM: What was it like seeing the final product for the first time? Getting your hands on your own book?
IP: I felt a little numb actually. After three years invested in the publication process, I got the book two days before AWP Boston. I came home from teaching and saw the box sitting on the front porch. I just went inside and set it on the table and made myself a cup of coffee. I opened the box and my daughters came home, each grabbing their copies of the book. They were very excited for me, but it wasn’t until after AWP that it hit me. I was having coffee with a friend and I just started to cry; I was elated.
Jean Macpherson writes from New England. She is a regular contributor to Radius and is thrilled to be added to Late Night Library’s stable of writers. Follow her writing on her blog, Devils on Horseback.
Ivy Page is also the editor at OVS Magazine and currently teaches at Plymouth State University and Granite State College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.