silvi alcivar portrait typewriter why i write

WHY I WRITE VOL.14 – silvi alcivar (the poetry store)

my poems emerge from the dark of you meeting i. then there is something more than light. there is life.

BIO: as poet and owner of the poetry store, silvi alcivar writes and sells custom poetry on-demand and as art. to date, she’s worked in places as small as someone’s living room, as intimate as a funeral, and as recognizable as tedX. in addition to selling tens of thousands of poems worldwide, she’s performed on stage and radio and exhibits art in galleries throughout the bay area. her truest passion is in teaching poetry classes for the elderly, which started in 2005 and will continue until she’s too old to do it. she’s grateful to cornell university’s college scholar program for giving her the opportunity to choose a college path of her own choosing and penn state for introducing her to the true meaning of an MFA (read: mother f*cking artist).

Picture: scott r. kline

Why I Write, by silvi alcivar.

to understand

even when i think i want to, i cannot ignore the impulse to write, to try and make sense of the world through remembered bits, observation, imagination, feeling into beauty, attempting to translate silence, awe, heartache, joy, the moment into meaning, and all the conditions of being human into something called a poem.

to discover

when i was three years old, my ecuadorian immigrant mother was learning english by looking at flashcards, simple words and pictures together—apple, baby, ball. i learned with her. words seemed made less of letters and more by an entire image i recognized and “read.” to this day, word and image, word as image, remains an integral part of my art’s impulse and aesthetic.

my father read to me often, bedtime stories about a frog that ate so much he exploded, or jacques cousteau adventures in the sea, or a gull that aspired to fly toward a life beyond normal gull life. this fostered my love of reading and discovering what word and imagination could do, how they could record and alter the world i knew. i devoured books and spent my first allowance on little golden books series—the saggy baggy elephant and a short anthology of poems for children.

i grew into an adult inextricably linked to literature. studied poetry in college and got a master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing. thirteen years ago, when i moved to san francisco post graduate school, i got myself a typewriter (which were not yet so en vogue), set myself to the task of writing for three minutes a day. soon after i found a charming little wooden desk on the street. i put the desk in my room, and sitting there, hands on typewriter keys, poems poured out of me.

to connect

long story short: my vocation pursued me mercilessly until the poetry store came into being and i said yes to making a living full time as a poet. i’m humbled and simultaneously astonished that, to date, i’ve written something like 75 thousand poems for almost as many people. my poetry lives in the moment two strangers meet over my red royal typewriter—the anonymity an invitation to speak, the typewriter keys a willing listener. i am repository for every kind of story, love and loss the most common, of course. i consider all of it a profound act of listening. it’s an honor and a challenge to have a job that heals myself and others. it’s work that works my soul and has saved my life, reminding me over and over again what it took too many years of life to understand—i exist and i am connected and this is everything.

Selected gratitudes (editors choice)

Silvi Alcivar is known for her gratitudes, shared on the poetry store’s Facebook and Instagram. From reports of random acts of kindness to everyday small joys, find our favorites below.

Written by Silvi Alcivar (feel free to send her business inquiries here) / become a patron at patreon.com/silvialcivar. 

Compiled by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

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