Interview: The Transgressions of Alexis Rhone Fancher
Interview conducted by Nolcha Fox
Alexis Rhone Fancher is a renowned photographer, poet, and writer. With her unique eye for capturing moments and her ability to evoke emotion through her words, she has become a respected voice in the art community.
In this interview we delve into the mind of this talented artist, exploring the inspirations behind her work, her creative process, and her thoughts on the role of art in society.
NF: Tell me about your literary and photographic journey that brought you to where you are now.
ARF: I’ve always been a writer, far back as I can recall. Poems and little songs when I was a child, more serious work in my teens and beyond. I’m a voracious reader; it was a small leap to wanting to see my own words on the page. In college, I studied theater and playwriting. My emphasis back then was on acting, but I found myself more drawn to the written word, and to directing. I found I liked being in charge. As for photography, I’ve always had a good eye, I just had an intuitive sense as to where to point the camera and when to press the shutter. My husband calls it being prescient, i.e., knowing exactly when to press the shutter. It’s about knowing the moment before the moment. Timing is everything.
NF: When do you prefer writing to photography, and vice versa?
ARF: I don’t. Both mediums tell a story, or that’s the goal. I often write ekphrastic poems to my photos, as I did in DUETS, my just-launched collaboration with Virginia poet, Cynthia Atkins, published by Small Harbor. I shot 10 photos and Cynthia and I each wrote a poem to each of my photos. The result is a beautiful, elegant, ekphrastic chapbook that is making some lovely waves in the poetry world. It is always exciting for me when my photos and words come together. Each of my published collections has a cover designed and created by me. And most of my books contain my photos. I’ve been fortunate to work with many collaborative artists, poets, and publishers. There’s a delicious synchronicity when this occurs.
NF: What typically attracts you to the subjects you photograph?
ARF: I like to take photos of people, primarily. I look for the essence of the person, the clue that reveals them. I love it when my subject sees their photos and says it looks like how they see themselves on a very good day. I’m happy in the studio, where I control the backdrop, the poses, the music, and most importantly, the light. I also love street photography, catching people unaware as I walk the city streets, or hang out the car window, camera in hand, (husband driving), seeing what I can capture on the fly.
NF: Your writing is often unabashedly raw and erotic. What do you enjoy about writing erotic literature, and do you have a message in mind?
ARF: The message is, write your truth. The question is: If not now, when? The pleasure is exploring the naughtier parts of your nature.
NF: I enjoyed your poem, “Power Play.” What is the story behind it?
ARF: That’s such a fun poem! It was published in Harbor Review and nominated for Best of the Net. Here’s the thing: Everything is slightly askew when seen through a sexual filter. As an unabashed lifelong bisexual, I enjoy my sexual duality. I write to give others permission. I receive fan mail from both men and women. And yes, there really is a fan in Nova Scotia.
NF: You have collaborated with other poets and visual artists. How is this different for you from writing solo?
ARF: Writing solo is like writing in a vacuum, whereas collaborative writing is a shared endeavor. I only write with writers I highly respect, both their work ethic and their talent. I enjoy what these writers bring to the table. They enhance my work and make it better. It’s exciting to see what shows up.
NF: Please summarize each of your most recently-published books, if you don’t mind.
ARF: State of Grace and The Dead Kid Poems both deal with the death of children and young adults, all taken before their time. State of Grace chronicles the illness of my only son, Joshua, and his death from cancer at age 26. Junkie Wife explores the disaster that was my first marriage. EROTIC: New & Selected, and the upcoming BRAZEN are both full-length, erotic books, published by New York Quarterly.
NF: What is the difference for you between publishing books and publishing individual poems, and do you have a preference?
ARF: When I write a poem or a story, oftentimes, in the back of my mind, there is a targeted, possible home for it. The usual pathway is to write the piece, and submit it for publication in a literary magazine or journal. Once it has been published, the poem goes into a book, with acknowledgments at the end, listing where the poem was first published. Having the majority of the poems in the collection published in individual lit mags and journals shows the book publisher and the reader that the piece has legs, i.e., has an audience.
NF: How does your husband collaborate with you?
ARF: We share a studio. I believe that poetry is an oral tradition, and should be read out loud. I write out loud. He can’t help but hear me. Occasionally I use him as a sounding board. We work closely together in the photo studio, he handles the lights and creates the poses. He’s a master photographer, among many other skills. I like to say I married my tech support. How lucky is that?
NF: You mentioned that you live in San Pedro, CA, and that you would eventually like to move to the high desert. What is the draw to moving from big city living?
ARF: City life has gotten more and more crowded, expensive, and predictable. Even outlying cities like San Pedro are seriously overpriced. Although we love living by the ocean, we are looking for a desert oasis out in the Mohave. I’m curious as to how the desert will affect my writing.
NF: You told me you are working on a pillow book of very naughty poems/flash to be titled TRIGGER WARNING, in conjunction with Canadian painter, Kenna Baradell. What inspired you to put this book together?
ARF: Kenna and I have long been internet friends, although we’ve never met in person. We’ve discovered that we have a shared aesthetic. She painted a fabulous portrait of me, naked, reading from one of my books, surrounded by naked poetry lovers. I was immediately charmed when Kenna sent me an image of the painting. “How did you know what my vagina looks like?” I wrote back, only half-kidding. We decided to work on a chapbook of my erotic poems teamed with her paintings, and her artwork on the front and back covers, to see where it took us. We’ve teamed up with publisher/editor extraordinaire, Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash Press, who will be publishing the book this summer. Stay tuned!
NF: What other projects are you working on now?
ARF: I have a coffee table book of my photos of Southern California poets I’ve been shooting for over ten years. It will be published in 2023 by Moon Tide Press. And my next full-length book of erotic poems, BRAZEN, will come out in March 2023, from New York Quarterly, which published my most recent full-length erotic book, EROTIC: New & Selected. I have two chapbooks I’m working on, as well. I’m happiest when I have several projects in motion. Literary multi-tasking. It’s a thing.
End of Interview
Nolcha Fox has written all her life, starting with poop and crayons on the walls. Her poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her three chapbooks are available on Amazon.
Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Verse Daily, The American Journal of Poetry, Plume, Diode, Spillway, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. She’s authored nine poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife(Moon Tide Press), The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press), DUETS (Small Harbor Editions), EROTIC: New & Selected (NYQ Books), and STILETTO KILLER (Edzione Italia). Her next full-length collection, BRAZEN (NYQ Books), publishes in early 2023. Her photographs have been featured worldwide, including the covers of Pithead Chapel, Witness, The Pedestal Magazine, and The Chiron Review. A coffee table book of her photos of Los Angeles poets from Moon Tide Press will be published in 2023. She is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of The Net nominee and has been the poetry editor of Cultural Daily since 2012. She lives with her husband on the bluffs of San Pedro, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles. They have an extraordinary view.