Alexander Long’s day starts out busy and just gets worse from there. After the gym, coffee and a few hours spent trying to read and write, he goes to work, which happens to be teaching at West Chester University in the English Department as a visiting professor. Later, he tries to fit in a little practicing time with his band. In between all of these other activities, he managed to compile a book of poems to be published. Vigil, Long’s first book of poems will, be available on October 1, from New Issues Press Poetry Series. “I can’t not work,” he declared when asked how he fit the book in his schedule. It also helped that these poems were very dear to him since most concern the death of two close friends. The book suggests an underlying theme of mortality and most of the poems are elegies, which are poems that celebrate the life of a deceased. Many poets and musicians, such as Walt Whitman, James Wright and Samuel Barber, encouraged Long. He believes that “true inspiration is so rare,” and to be a great writer you must put, “hard work in service of writing everyday whether its writing or reading.”
Long tries to teach this concept to his students everyday. One of his rules is to never delete anything even if a student feels it is really awful. Brandyn Miller states, “Professor Long taught me a lot about creative writing especially in the poetry unity. I feel as though I really improved my writing due to him.”
He also believes his music career helps his writing. “The music and writing blend together because both require a lot of listening.” He goes on to explain that he plays the bass in his band, and that requires listening to both the keyboard and singer. Poetry requires listening because that is what good writers do; they listen to others words and to their own thoughts and emotions.
Fleda Brown, who works for the publishing company of the book, noticed the combination of music and poetry. “The result is a held blues note that yearns for what can’t ever be reached,” she said
One more accomplishment appeared on Long’s list just a short time ago; he received his Ph. D from the University of Delaware. His dissertation topic examined the dynamic relationship between two contemporary writers, Larry Levis and Philip Levin who ended up becoming true friends. Although he learned many facts through this project he states that the most important thought he took away was, “Things get done if you keep at it.”
The most memorable poem in Vigil for Long, “The Gazing Eye Falls Through the World,” describes his heartbreaking divorce. This poem was the hardest poem for Long to write due to the extremely personal nature of it. Three years and sixty-seventy drafts later the poem was finally completed. When he first started writing it, the divorce just happened and the matter was too painful to write about. However, Long felt “that it was just something I had to get out.”
Vigil will be available in Sykes and at Dynamic bookstores as well as online at Amazon.com and select Barnes and Nobles. Long will perform poems from the book around the area many times. The first one will occur on campus on Oct. 4, at the New Poetry house by the E.O. Bull Center. On Nov. 7, there will be a reading at Voices and Visions Bookstore at 4 and Chestnut in Philadelphia. The last fixed location is the Steele City Coffee Shop in Phoenixville, but the date is yet to be determined. For more information on how to buy the book, information on Alexander Long, or readings visit SPDbooks.org and www.alexanderlonghome.com.