MORDECAI MARTIN: So in your micro-chap, Zealotry, you have this wonderful interplay between sex poetry and religious poetry. Did you have much background with writing on either topic before the poems in the chap?
ALEAH DYE: I definitely had a background in both. Ever since I got into such a healthy, affirming, and truly safe-feeling relationship with my partner, Chad, I began deeply exploring sex poetry. It allows me to testify (excuse the religious pun) to the beautiful and sort of holy nature (again, the puns!) of sex in our relationship. I had also written sex poetry before I started dating him, but it felt very surface level back then.
As for religious poetry, I used to be a Christian, and in that period I utilized poetry as a way to share my love of God and as a lens through which to view the world. Now, I’m agnostic, and I write religious poetry to sort through my complicated relationship/history with religion, to call out and heal from the harmful aspects of religion, and to interrogate Truth with a big T.
MORDECAI MARTIN: There are tensions in the poems, arising organically from both the eroticism and the religiosity, between giving and receiving, submission and demanding. How does poetry allow you to navigate those tensions better?
ALEAH DYE: I think poetry makes those tensions stark for me. In my head, the lines are much more blurred, but once on the page, I can’t really ignore them.
I find that writing about these two topics jointly is incredibly cathartic for me. I think that’s because of the tension. It allows me to recognize and validate the purity culture that religion pushed on me while also recognizing and validating my sexual freedom and exploration as an adult.
I don’t have to internalize those demands that were made of me when I can poeticize them next to the demands I’ve now allowed myself to make.
MORDECAI MARTIN: How are you feeling about putting that part of yourself out there? It’s pretty vulnerable stuff!
ALEAH DYE: I was and still am super nervous in a number of ways! I share most all of the poetry I write with my mom, but, you know, sharing sex-driven poems can be quite awkward. She never judges me though, and her eternal acceptance of and interest in my poetry makes me more confident about sharing in general.
Though, it’s also tough to share poems with her (or even other family members) that expose my move from Christianity to agnosticism. She and a lot of my other family are still Christians, and I hesitate to step on toes. But, again, my mom knows me wholly and accepts me.
And for myself, I knew I needed to share this as a part of my religious journey. I needed peace from it. There is also a bit of me that still struggles to see myself as a sexual being, as someone allowed to experience and gratify their desire. Yet, publishing this micro-chap has been thrilling for the very same reason—I’m a sexual being, and I can be loud about it!
MORDECAI MARTIN: I know It can be hard to strike that balance of comfortable public sexuality that feels safe and positive, versus all the demands made, especially on young women, to be publicly sexual in a way that appeals to say, the wide and weird world of the internet. In a way, I find the sex of these poems very far removed from that outward-facing sexual persona that we sometimes find in sex poetry. Instead of writing about objectification or other unfortunate experiences, or even just explicit descriptions of the act, your poems focus on this interplay with religion, the personal upwelling of love and divinity in your intimate moments. The poems are also very brief. Do you think that’s a limitation of the subject matter? Is it hard to maintain a sustained piece with that level of self-exposure?
ALEAH DYE: To be fair, I have also written plenty of poems detailing The Unfortunates of sex, as well as explicit wild rides of poems. I think all are exploratory and valid in such unique ways!
That said, yes, in this micro-chap, I delve into the ethereal and the connected. I think the brevity comes somewhat from the fact that I see this glow, this halo, around my intimacy so clearly. I see it, I feel it, I say it. And that’s that. It comes (ah, another pun!) easy. It’s like a head rush as I write out these moments. It’s thrilling and freeing, sudden and quick. Sometimes that reverent and airy aspect of the writing can be lost if I dwell too long.
On top of that, I’ve always been the writer to cut myself short. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s some kind of impatience I constantly carry with me. If I can’t get it all out in one sitting, it doesn’t feel right. Now sometimes, that one sitting produces incredibly lengthy and in-depth poems, especially when I sit down with a goal in mind. But with poems like those in Zealotry, they just needed to be short. I felt I said what I needed to say.
As for self-exposure specifically, I don’t tend to hold back vulnerability while writing.
MORDECAI MARTIN: Can I ask a little bit about your graphic design work? Specifically, where does the form of the poem meet the design of the piece for you?
ALEAH DYE: I write free verse most often. I find form to be fairly limiting for me, almost grinding some line and phrase ideas to a halt. However, as you can see in Zealotry, I do love the Golden Shovel form. It allows me a lot of leeway and has a goal only as big as I make it based on my choice of how long a line to reference. A Golden Shovel for me is designed to capture a feeling before it is lost to memory. So, its form facilitates the design.
As for the visual aesthetics of my poetry, I do like to play with position on the page. I also enjoy incorporating backslashes to create new meanings, such as in the final poem of Zealotry. The words encased in the double-backslashes are meant to have double-use, applying as the ends of phrases and as the beginnings.
MORDECAI MARTIN: In wrapping up, I like to give you the opportunity to ask me a question that I’ll try to answer, and then turn it over to our readers to see what they think. What would you like to ask?
ALEAH DYE: My question is: how often do you write poetry as a way to better understand yourself?
MORDECAI MARTIN: It’s been a while since I’ve attempted something I specifically call a poem, about a year and a half, I’d say. But I am always writing to discover, to excavate, to raise to the light and say here I am. I wonder what our readers will say!
Aleah Dye (she/her) primarily writes poetry, tending towards topics of morbidity, love, mental illness, religion, and philosophy. She is dreadfully afraid of imperfection and spiders, in no particular order. She has a one-eyed cat named Ivy and a one-track-minded (food!) cat named Rosebud. Aleah hopes to make hearts grow three sizes with her words. She is a 2020 Sundress Publications Best of the Net nominee and the graphic designer for perhappened. Read her latest work via Olney Magazine, 3 Moon Magazine, and Gutslut Press. Follow her @bearsbeetspoet on Twitter.