But first, quick bio that I copy/pasted:
Lexi Spino is a 25 year old poet from York, PA. She released a chapbook in 2013 through Poemsugar Press called "I'm A Wanderer Not A Runaway," which was focused on dealing with depression. Since then, she has recorded a spoken word EP called "Suicidal Since Birth," featuring numerous musicians, which was released in December 2016 (available on Bandcamp and on cassette). She also wrote an e-book titled "A Collection of [Not Such] Simplicity," which is available for free. Known as the Joan Jett of poetry, Lexi has formed an edge around her words and performances, which takes depressing concepts and gives them a punch that leaves you on winded on the floor. And sometimes she'll scoop you back up and help you breathe again. Sometimes.
"She shares a birthday with Salman Rushdie and Paula Abdul and that pretty much sums her up, right?" - Shoop
Many of your poems are emotionally charged. Is it ever difficult for you to maintain a balance between the cathartic and the rumination in your writing?
That’s a very good question, and I’m not sure I ever really thought about that before. I think most writers who perform their work find it cathartic in a sense no matter what. Most even find the writing process in itself cathartic. Poets specifically tend to like to push boundaries and make people think or question. We also like to whine and complain...a lot, ha ha. For me personally, all of my work is personal on some level. Whether it be me performing something written about a certain situation that I experienced, or one about questioning religion and faith, it’s all cathartic to me. However there is a difference in the way I perform the different types of poems. Delivery and wording and tone can mean everything when you perform. So, I guess the short answer would have been yes and no.
How did you find out about Poemsugar? What was the experience of being published and promoting a book at such a young age like for you?
When I moved back to my hometown [at the age of 20] was when I seriously got into writing and performing. I always wrote. I have been writing poems since I was five. I just started taking it more seriously then. The two most prominent poets in the area actually created Poemsugar Press as a local publishing company. It no longer exists. One of them is still my editor though, and they were both huge mentors for me in beginning. Back then I thought it was a way bigger deal than it was in reality. I did a couple local shows to promote it and they were my first paid performances. Really though, looking back on it, I had no clue what I was doing and the book was not very good either. I was still finding my voice and flow. What I wanted to stand for and what I had to say that was actually important. The whole thing was really sloppy and rushed honestly. Back then though I thought I was the bees knees. Younger me just liked the attention and that was the difference really. It should never be about the attention. It should always be about the soul and the art.
Your readings come off both conversational yet slightly theatrical. How long did it take you to "find yourself" as a spoken word artist?
I’m now 25. Five years performing and I am still fine tuning things. I’d say to get to where I am now it took about three and a half years. It’s an extremely long process and such a personal journey. I’d like to think I will always be fine tuning to it. I look at everything in life that there is always room for growth and more to learn. The minute you think you’ve completely got it all, that’s the minute you truly stop living.
In your audiobooks, how do you construct the atmosphere? There's more ambiance and production to it than one might expect.
Well, I don’t look at them as audiobooks. What I have on spotify [Suicida Since Birth] is actually a spoken word EP. One day I want to do a full length album with a bunch of different musicians who I have met and have inspired me throughout the years. I have such a huge love for spoken word bands. I get a lot of inspiration from La Dispute and Listener. Being an individual poet will always be my number one, but one day day I would love to have a band as a second project. So really that’s the difference. I went into my friends basement studio and busted out a concept album in less than a month. I looked at it more as a music project than just a poetry recording backed up with music. It’s a whole other ballpark let me tell ya.
What's your favorite movie?
This is such a hard fucking question. Like honestly out of all of these questions this is the one I'm more pissed off with. Not because the question itself sucks, but because who the hell can choose just one movie?? I would have to go with Factotum. It’s a movie based off of a Bukowski novel and it is absolutely brilliant. I suggest every writer watch it at least once in their lives.
How useful is Instagram for you as an artist?
If you know how to use social media correctly, I am sure it is extremely useful. I however suck at technology and it actually also scares the shit out of me. So...for me it isn’t useful one bit. I have one though, and I do post frequently. lexi.spino.
Has there ever been a single reading event that you would call your best or favorite? If so, why?
I have done so many readings at such different venues it really is hard to pick an absolute favorite. However one that stands out to me as a special one is when I performed at Tattooed Mom in Philadelphia during my mini tour to promote This Is Not For You. It was the best turnout of strangers I have ever had. So many locals who had heard about it and showed up to hear people shout emotional words in this punk bar. I had two other performers drop out of the show, so it was just me and one other girl for like three hours. After the show I had multiple people come up to me telling me what lines/poems really hit them most and asking me questions about my process and advice and compliments and it was a lot to process but it meant so much to me. Also, in case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge fan of run on sentences.
How many of your poems are written about real people?
I can promise you that every single poem about somebody else is a real person. Except for the poem Leonard. That poem is about a demon. So it really depends on your beliefs if he’s real or not.
Who would you say, in your personal life, was the biggest influence in your writing?
One of my best friends, Boots. A nickname obviously but I won’t put his real name out there, he likes his privacy. He has been just a huge inspiration in my life in general. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for that guy. The other one would be my current partner. He’s been my biggest supporter and there are so many things I have written from him being a muse. Lastly, my mom. She’s probably my biggest fan, and she also isn’t afraid to tell me when something I am working on makes absolutely no fucking sense. She also just has a brilliant and kind soul and I am the person I am today because of her.
Is it ever hard separating yourself from Lexi Spino the artist? Do you see a difference between your narrative voice and off the record?
Usually it isn’t, but it definitely can be. I do see a difference for sure. I think others who are extremely close to me also see a difference. It’s the hardest when I perform newer extremely personal poems. I am a huge advocate for stopping the stigma on mental illness and I try to connect to people who struggle with it on a daily basis. Also anyone who has been mentally/emotionally/sexually abused. So sometimes performing the poems about my experiences that are newer still get to me while I’m on stage. I have cried before during a performance. I have had a panic attack and huge dissociation fit to the point where I blacked out for half of my set. These kinds of situations are not common at all. I have gotten myself overall to a point where I have found the balance between “this is me and my voice” and “time to put on my performance persona”, but there have been a handful of times it’s slipped.
If not for writing, is there any other medium of art you would consider?
Growing up I did dance for 17 years and I also taught it for four. I recently started teaching dance again actually. I also did a performing arts program my last two years of high school and was super into acting. This past year I have gotten into creating artwork also. So...all of them??
You seem to travel to promote your books with readings, from what I'm seeing online (at least more than a lot of authors today do). Do you ever feel like you're living the tour life? Does that inspire you or make you feel accomplished?
I am huge into doing readings and trying to get exposure. I have been working on combining poetry and music communities into performing together at venues as well. I usually only have like two or three shows a month in surrounding areas though. I did one mini tour last year to promote my book This Is Not For You and that was two months straight of traveling places and having like five shows each month while also balancing my job as a manager of a burrito shop and that did indeed feel like living the tour life. It is inspiring in a sense and I definitely did feel accomplished, but many people like to fantasize about tour life and it being so much fun and magical almost. It’s not really. You tend to be broke. You use a lot of the money you make at shows for food and traveling to the next place. I slept on friends couches and it was exhausting. Don’t get me wrong I loved it, but there really is nothing extravagant about it. Unless you’re like extremely famous and rich, but most of us are usually starving artists. Literally.
What would be your dream line-up at a poetry reading? (It can include yourself with people supporting you, living or dead people, whatever terms and conditions you wanna play by.)
Oh jeez. This is going to sound like one insane show with people who probably do not belong together at the same event but here we go. It would be a poetry and music show. Me, Bukowski, Andrea Gibson, and Neil Hilborn for the poets. Julien Baker, Keaton Henson, and Tegan and Sara for the musicians. It would be the most emotional party ever.
Follow Lexi Spino on...