Colleen Louise Barry, feeling one of her multitudinous selves. Melissa Kagerer
As the curator of Pioneer Square art space Mount Analogue and as the editor of the poetry press Gramma, Seattle artist and writer Colleen Louise Barry spent a lot of her time presenting the work of others in spectacular fashion. Though she’s since moved on from both of those projects, she’s left a trail of glitter, silk roses, inflatables, and BDSM operas that will surely live on within the minds and Instagram feeds of Seattle art-goers for years to come.
But now, with the upcoming publication of her first collection of poetry, Colleen (After Hours Editions, 2022), Barry is finally doing something for herself. Fittingly enough, it’s also about herself. Kinda.
In the last month or so, she’s been teasing out the book’s themes over email with New York-based writer Sarah Jean Alexander, who released her second book of poetry, We Die In Italy, on Shabby Doll House. Barry describes Alexander’s new book as “deceptively simple, full of optimism, food, and friends,” and she compares reading it to “a slow afternoon with nothing to do but love the world.”
Their conversation below addresses Barry’s choice to name her book after herself, Alexander’s rediscovery of her voice after breaking her jaw, and the origins of their new mantra: Fake it until you feel it.
Sarah Jean Alexander, stuck and relaxed. Courtesy of Sarah Jean Alexander
Colleen: I adore the way that you and Lucy Shaw published your books as Shabby Doll House. It feels authentic and collaborative and like it’s fueled by a deep love of poetry, books, community. Can you talk a little about the process?
SJ: Lucy and I have been publishing writing and art online via Shabby Doll House since she began the magazine in 2011. Then Lucy created ~Profound Experience of Earth, a collection of travel essays, in 2019, which transitioned into the ~Profound Experience of Staying at Home Quaranzine, a weekly magazine series once lockdown began. As lockdowns continued, she created the ~Profound Experience of Poetry book club. These spaces began to grow within themselves, unique microcosms of innovation nurtured by Lucy, and it’s a huge reason why we felt capable of self-publishing our books.
When we individually began to wrap up our writing projects earlier this year (which then turned into We Die in Italy and Lucy’s incredible novel Troisième Vague), we naturally circled back to Shabby Doll House as the only way we could visualize them coming to life. We wanted to own the process completely.
On each of our book’s last pages, we provide a link to a hidden tab on shabbydollhouse.com with “behind-the-scenes” content: Images directly referenced in our books, photos of …….