by Julie Lineback

Laura McKee has known Alva for six years.

And although McKee has lived in places as far as the Netherlands and France, she has never met Alva. Rather, Alva lives through McKee’s poetry, collectively named “Alva and the Beast.”

Laura McKee
Photo credit: Patricia Heys

“It’s a series of persona poems, which means the speaker of the poems is a character, and it’s taken on wildly different forms and subjects over the last several years,” said McKee, who is an instructor in the University of West Georgia’s Department of English, housed in the College of Arts and Humanities. “I just allowed myself to experiment by writing another weird Alva poem and throwing it in a box.”

McKee will have an opportunity to complete Alva’s tales this summer when she attends a three-week residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). Admission to VCCA is highly selective, and she will be one of 25 artists in attendance.

McKee, who has been writing seriously since she was a freshman in college, described her voice as “introspective, focused on internal states and motions of the mind.”

“My voice alternates between being playful — exploring the humor and absurdity in experiences — and being gravely serious,” described McKee, who writes under the name L.S. McKee.

Her writing style is apparent throughout her Alva poetry, with titles ranging from “Alva and the Soldier’s Letter” to “Alva Goes to the Neuro-Ophthalmologist.”

As Alva is a character who develops, certain themes and experiences are explored throughout the book, McKee said, but many of the poems could stand alone.

“Ultimately, I think it’s a story of understanding who we are, how we develop and construct our ideas of self in this highly fragmented, highly mediated, often isolating and violent world,” she continued. “But there is a lot of joy and love and heartbreak in the work, too.”

McKee shared that while the manuscript is close to finding its final shape, it is hard to focus during the school year while teaching. She considers the VCCA residency a huge gift, enabling her to fully immerse herself in her craft in a creative atmosphere, free of daily distractions.

“Equally important is the chance to build community — to engage with other artists from all kinds of backgrounds and who work in different mediums,” she concluded. “Much of my writing, my creative life, is inspired by visual art, so I can’t wait to see what other projects folks have underway.”

Posted on June 18, 2018