Meet the Poet! Ivy Alvarez
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
We've interviewed the creative team so you can get to know them better.
Meet Ivy Alvarez, the poet who wrote the book, 'Disturbance'.
When did you first know you wanted to write?
Well, I've always loved to read, even from a very young age, simply loved it! I think
reading stories led to a desire to write my own.
How does one ‘train’ to be a poet?
I think it goes back to reading a lot, because that trains one to pay attention to the music in language, what sounds good and right, what tickles your brain and makes it fizz with pleasure. When you read good work, you get to recognise that straightaway. When you read bad work, you learn what to avoid, or how you'd improve it. Reading widely (outside your culture, outside your genre, outside your comfort zone) is the best way to train.
Which poets inspired you to pursue writing? Why?
I am influenced by propulsive writing redolent with emotion, narrative and lyricism:
Sylvia Plath, Robert Browning, Ai, Deryn Rees-Jones, Dorothy Porter — these are the most
influential ones for me, but I'm always learning from my peers and contemporaries, too.
Why? I'm not sure. All I know is, writing is like breathing to me.
If you weren’t a poet, what job would you like?
I'd like to be paid an insane amount of money to edit a magazine. Or a series of
anthologies. I really dig putting things together.
What do you to ‘get away from it all’? Hobbies? Distractions? Guilty pleasures?!
I usually escape into a book. Or a movie or a TV series, during which I can do my
knitting, because then it feels like I am making something tangible with my time. I've re-
discovered my love for theatre, so I enjoy going to The Basement, a local independent
theatre venue here in Auckland, and watching plays and attending play-readings.
How did the idea for ‘Disturbance’ come about?
This kind of violent crime, of the complete annihilation of a family is, sadly, an all-too-
common phenomenon. A friend once pointed out it has also only become more visible
because of newspapers and the media.
For this book, I had a cast of characters affected by the crime: everybody from estate agents
and the police, to relatives of the criminal and his victims. The tragedy touches everyone in
I was obsessed with the idea of writing about this crime from multiple perspectives. You
know that line from the film Amadeus? "With music, you can have twenty individuals all
talking at the same time, and it's not noise, it's a perfect harmony!" I wanted to know if I
could do the same with poetry.
What was the process for writing the collection of poems?
The process was a long and arduous one! I wrote with a particular, spiralling-in
structure in mind, and that pretty much held all the way through, start to finish, and it's also
written almost chronologically, very close to how the book is ordered now.
How long did it take to complete the work?
I first got the idea in 2004 and thought, "This is going to take me about five years to
write." An underestimation. I finished writing it in early 2011. The book came out in October
Were there ever times you were discouraged and considered ‘throwing in the
I was obsessed with the story, and it would not let me go. However, there were times
when the subject matter felt overwhelming. During those times, I retreated by writing other
poems to take my mind off it. The good thing about that is, these became parallel
manuscripts that were then published in turn as chapbooks and shorter collections.
Some would say the subject matter of ‘Disturbance’ is ‘dark’. Are you comfortable
with that description? How would you describe it?
Yes, dark is definitely the right word for it. Writer Jeremy Dixon's description of
Disturbance is also pretty good: "I’d say shocking and compulsive!"
Is there any specific reaction you’d like to evoke in your readers?
I trust that how the reader feels when they read a poem is the right one, even if it is
something I did not expect myself.
What role does the arts have in bringing about social change?
Facts and statistics have their place. The arts, however, brings a human dimension to
our lives. It makes us see and feel and, hopefully, act.
How does it feel to see your work adapted for the stage?
Incredibly surreal! That this could be a possibility for my poetry is not something I could
have foreseen. Truly, it's a thrill and privilege.
Are there any musical theatre productions you really like?
Wow, yes, though mostly through my really good friend Eva Leppard, who was
completely into them: Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables, and Chess kinda became
the soundtrack of our teenagehood. Oh, and I';ve seen Sunset Blvd, with Hugh Jackman as
I also am fond of opera, which I feel lucky to have experienced because, when I lived in
Cardiff, the Wales Millennium Centre offered fantastic seats up in the Gods (the nosebleed
seats) that were incredibly affordable, yet one did not sacrifice acoustic quality for it.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm working on a multi-volume project called Diaspora, with poems that respond to
Filipino idioms. Paloma Press published Volume L of Diaspora earlier this year, and I have
four more volumes waiting in the wings.
What would you say to people considering a career in writing?
Be a reader. Learn self-compassion. Map your path, but enjoy the detours along the
Have you ever been to Tokyo? What are your impressions of Japan / Tokyo?
Gosh, I'd love to be there. All my cultural impressions of Japan are filtered by movies and TV, so it's be great to dispel my misconceptions by actually being there!