Hello and thank you for visiting. I am a New York-based writer and editor.

In addition to magazine writing (BOMB, The Paris Review Daily,
Guernica, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Mixte Magazine (Paris),
Nowness (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc), I provide editorial services and consulting
for individuals and organizations on a freelance basis. I am an elected
member of PEN America. I also work as an editor at the United Nations.

Previously, I was the Editorial Director at Mana Contemporary; the Senior Art Editor at Guernica; and Editor-in-Chief at Tokion. A full résumé can be found here. Extracts and links to select recent articles are below. A peek into the past can be found here. I'm more frequently on Instagram than Twitter. Contact: alex@alexzafiris.com.

****Currently the writer-in-residence at Yale's Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM), where I created a new journal, Maquette. (For more info, see this write-up from the Yale Daily News).

***Currently in research and development for Other Fields, with Gabriel Winer and Dana Karwas. Interested parties please get in touch.***

**Currently the contributing editor for the third issue of Romance Journal.

*Recent writing:

We are what we care about. And if what we care about can only exist in our mind, how does life unfold? In Raven Leilani’s hilarious and very moving debut, Luster, the protagonist is Edie, a young Black woman whose overwhelming desire to live and love is met with abject resistance. Edie has a deep curiosity and roguish, devastating insight about the world––nothing escapes her eye. And yet, despite this hyper-awareness, we meet her at a dead-end, thankless job, at which she has disgraced herself, she says, by becoming “the office slut.” We watch her, agonizingly, as she enters into a relationship with a middle-aged white man, Eric, who has just opened his marriage. Before they have sex, he pulls out a piece of paper, upon which are jotted the rules of the game, drawn up by his wife, Rebecca. Edie ignores every single one of these conditions, and by doing so, ends up being invited to stay with the family in New Jersey. From my interview with Raven Leilani about her debut novel, Luster, for Observer, August 2020

I held my breath many times while reading this book. Where I had once found Georgia O’Keeffe cold and unapproachable, I was suddenly moved by the portrait of a vulnerable woman who worked incredibly hard to maintain a streamlined, elegant independence within which she could freely create. In just three pages, the piece “Bad Surprises” confronts death and violence: bringing together an essay by the queer critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Trump’s election, a poetry reading by Eileen Myles, and a play by Richard Porter which investigates his sister’s suicide. If only for a few moments, the multi-streamed narratives of despair, love, horror, and hope in my head morphed from noisy pressure into an expansive landscape. In her love letter to John Ashbery she writes: “He washed language and put it back on the shelves all wrong. It looked so much better that way.” Laing’s insights led me towards redefinition and discovery, both inside and out. From my Q&A with Olivia Laing about her new book, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, for BOMB, May 2020

The words create image, illusion, fantasy, and projection, circling back under, over, and around the facts he has already given us, imbuing them with lust, fear, courage, nihilism, and rage. Punctuation recedes almost entirely, the form shapeshifting with deep breaths and tides, broken only by new paragraphs. Recurrent dreams of abandonment and loneliness surface in quiet italics. Memories and literary references fuse and spark: he rails against the unwanted external voices that crowd our minds. Light emerges and dips continuously as the source of existence and meaning, while darkness rears and disappears alongside. From my piece on Lawrence Ferlinghetti's new book, Little Boy, for BOMB, May 2019

I loved the actor Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott in the three-part series A Very English Scandal, an account of a true story of political power, repressed homosexuality, and emotional independence in 1960s Britain. Scott is a young man with feelings so strong he is both medicated and liberated; he is the new generation before it became truly visible, emerging from under the concrete hard denial of the upper echelons of influence with his beauty, charm, and male body. The tragedy of his abuse at the hands of an older man whom he claimed to love led him to find his voice in an era where he had nothing to lose, while gaining everything in the process. The story of Scott is portrayed both truthfully and fictionalized for entertainment; he is presented as an individual whose instability and desire flowed together to form a new kind of freedom. Discordances like these fill my own life and those around me, as it seems like we’re all so bruised by the fallibility of true expression, especially now. Whishaw’s sensitivity to this made his performance feel like public service. My contribution to BOMB Magazine’s 'Looking Back on 2018', December 2018.

"I'm always painting myself, even subconsciously. I really relate to my feminine energy. I'm happy being male, but, I find women so much more open with their emotions. When I paint a woman, I feel like I can say a lot more than when I'm painting a man." The artist and designer Patrick Church for Mixte Magazine (French text), September 2018

"The film was definitely about birth, about having a child. Part of the reason that I always thought of Evangeline trying to get so close to Madeline was her wanting to know: “What is it like to have a daughter? One who is a different race than you?” Her connection with Madeline feels really strong because she does, in some ways, want to be her mom. There was a sweetness and a toxicity at the same time. Moms are complicated." The director Josephine Decker on her new film, Madeline's Madeline, for BOMB, August 2018

Chelsea Hodson and I met in 2014, when we both worked for the Marina Abramovic Institute. I was there as a contributing editor for the online journal, Immaterial, and Hodson had been invited on the strength of her breakthrough essay, Pity The Animal, released as a small chapbook. In it, she examined both the power and surrender of her physical self, and the private and public crosscurrents which form and move around her. She traces similar connections with the same vitality and agility in her new collection of essays, Tonight I’m Someone Else (Henry Holt and Co.). In these pieces, she considers entirely different lives in a millisecond––“He kissed me on the kitchen counter, threw my phone across the room when it rang. I didn’t yet know who I was, but I saw the opportunity to become a certain kind of woman. Harm swayed toward me. I responded with something else”––and confronts the variations of desire: “Money needs us, depends on us to mint it, distribute it, exchange it, make it mean something, make it last. Dreams, on the other hand, don’t need us at all. Some people have needed me, but the ones I wanted most didn’t need anything or anyone.” From my piece on Chelsea Hodson's new book of essays, Tonight I'm Someone Else, for BOMB, June 2018

Reed knew about love and the difficulties of allowing it to co-exist with transgression. Anger and provocation seemed to help. He could also get it unforgivably wrong. That summer, he needed to go back to the source. From my piece on Lou Reed's new book of poetry, Do Angels Need Haircuts? for BOMB, May 2018

His pursuit mostly resembles a dream state. Rather than confront a subject directly, he follows sensations that hover between logic and unreality, capturing flashes of intuition and collapsing dimensions of time, all with a healthy mistrust of traditional narratives. Writing entered into this process where communication could not, filtering fiction and personal experiences between these impressions. From my piece on Adam Golfer's short film Two Sunsets for BOMB, April 2018

“There’s a real confidence in someone who adopts a uniform for themselves. It frees you up for so many things.” Designer Thom Browne in Mixte, (French text), February 2018.

It was 1961. Eisenhower had cut ties with Cuba, JFK was sworn in, the Berlin Wall went up, the Shirelles were in the top ten for “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and America fizzed with the unchartered sexual dynamics created by the newly introduced pill. Meanwhile, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the homegrown poet-anarchist Tuli Kupferberg—already immortalized as the figure who survived after leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge in Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem “Howl”—put out the first issue of Yeah! The opening page presented the zine as “a satyric excursion published at will,” and it begins:

I want
      to put
           the revolution
at the service of poetry.

I want
      Comrade Stalin
           to say
Tuli, tell me how to revive
the bodies of my dead Ukrainian peasants
      with your magic words

On the re-issue of Tuli Kupferberg’s 60s zine, Yeah! for The Paris Review Daily, November 2017.

I'm both interested and defensive about seeing Ad Reinhardt's Blue Paintings at David Zwirner. Reinhardt was a bully for Purism, denouncing all work that found basis in self-expression, style, or purpose. He was heavily active in the 1940s and 50s as a painter, and also a controversial writer and cartoonist. Everything he said and did swirled around his vision of "Art-as-Art" and nothing else. He wanted to rid all evidence of the outside world from his work, saying in 1964, "I picked up the idea of imagelessness myself in Islamic art, Byzantine iconoclasm, and the Puritanism and––well, the ancient Hebraic and Islamic distrust of images." According to him, even the having of ideas is primitive. So I disagree with him quite strongly, but in another sense, I believe him. Perhaps he really was complicit with something much larger that endures still, and is present and alive on these canvasses. My contribution to BOMB Magazine’s 'Fall Arts Preview', August 2017.

A flash of beauty gives Alejandro his first sense of self, and he begins to write. Poetry shapes his vision, and then his action. He breaks from his family and finds another world just moments away from home. Darkness and light edge against each other continuously in the film and throughout Jodorowsky's life as an artist. Even as he sits opposite me now, in the Manhattan offices of ABKCO Films, he puts his head in his hand and closes his eyes as he remembers his youth. "You cannot believe how much I suffered," he says, gently. Interview with the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky about his new film, Endless Poetry, for BOMB, July 2017.

I remember—always with the same strong feeling of clarity—the first time I saw a collection of portraits by the German photographer August Sander. It was a couple of summers ago in New York. I had spent a few days shrink-wrapped by anxiety, my mind blurred and alienated. I walked past the gallery and felt a pull, an invisible open signal, and so I entered. About ten black-and-white works, taken in the early 20th century, hung eye-level on the wall, each presenting a stranger with a face that I instantly recognized. The alluring painter’s wife, knowing what she does about sexual desire, in her loose pants. The young secretary with her hunched shoulders and defensive glare. The high school student, in the wrong clothes and the wrong life. The arrogance and abject denial of the soldier, under his helmet and in front of his land. All of them very different, but each with a simple stare, their inner selves resonating through these one-dimensional representations of their long ago lives and into mine. In their image, I began to regain a sense of my world. My review of the photography of August Sander for Guernica, June 2017.

“Richard Burton used to say—of course, he was married to one of the most incredible actresses in the world—but, he used to say: ‘An actress is a little bit more than a woman, an actor is a little bit less than a man.’ Being an actress is an extension of femininity.” Actress Monica Bellucci in Mixte, (French text), May 2017.

“I see shame as part of a process of becoming free: to create or, yes, to love. These sometimes have to be fundamental acts of disobedience to one's upbringing or conditioned view of the world. In other words, one can feel ashamed of what one's doing while at the same time knowing it's the correct thing to do. I don't doubt that, for me, part of the satisfaction in the act of writing is that it violates numerous taboos of my childhood that still weigh heavily on me. In the moment of writing, I can be free of them.” Writer Rachel Cusk on her new novel Transit in BOMB, February 2017.

The red hot center of Danny Lyon's work is freedom. His contrarian instinct and unapologetically engaged eye leaves no room for denial of the other, in both personhood and politics. This year's Whitney retrospective, Message To The Future, celebrated this drive by giving space to his most captured subjects––civil rights, incarceration, outlaws, love––and showed how his images hold the past and present together: accountable, with no escape route. My contribution to BOMB Magazine's 'Looking Back on 2016: Art & Film', December 2016.

"I'll often think about the way Heaven Knows What moves from scene to scene without any real plot, and yet there's a momentum that moves it forward. That’s really mysterious to me. And I like this notion of an unwavering or an unflinching gaze, and I feel like the movie really shows that. And that's something that I have consciously tried to think about: how they do this in the film, and how that can translate to writing." Writer Chelsea Hodson on her favorite film for Mixte Magazine's special 20th Anniversary issue (print only, French text), September 2016.

"One of the revelations in making this film is that we each have an eye. If you're practicing a craft––writing, drawing, painting, filming, photographing––you start to gather evidence of the way you see and what you care about. There's this illustration where the unconscious mind is a tiger, and the conscious mind is a little monkey sitting on the back of the tiger's butt with a steering wheel, but it's not connected to anything. When I'm filming, I'm the monkey with a steering wheel. I know what I'm doing. But there's a tiger inside of me, heading in some other direction. I'm doing and filming things that have to do with my interior reality, that reveal me, and inside that there is no constant me." Cinematographer and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson on her memoir Cameraperson in BOMB, September 2016.

"This utopian thing has been the underlying theme of everything I’ve done, the fantasy of unlimited options, all-possible futures, that is the engine of American growth and export. Our brand around the world is a serious problem. It’s a complete disconnect from the facts of life. There’s something inherently sad about that, because those facts are the structure and architecture of life. Limitations make up our forms, and they’re beautiful. Instead, you can’t talk about them. Things are possible, but they aren’t necessarily plausible all the time. Entertainment sees this exhaustion with that very thing." Filmmaker Rick Alverson on his film Entertainment in The Paris Review Daily, November 2015.

[Leon] Russell returned to Tulsa and Grand Lake as a huge presence with an entourage. Many of his friends—among them Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Charlie McCoy—appear in unguarded, intimate performances. Blank’s camera focuses on the locals with equal reverence, layering it all with lingering shots of the moon, ripples in the lake, or a wriggling catfish caught on a line. He films artist Jim Franklin scooping up scorpions from an empty swimming pool; he’s onstage with Russell, who samples from a plate of gumbo on his piano as he performs to a blissed-out crowd; he attends the demolition of a city building and a pie-eating contest. Towards the middle, he introduces a segment where Franklin feeds a baby chick to a snake while the artist sounds off about the corporatization of America, an unsettling and cynical metaphor that anchors some of the anxieties expressed throughout. Early on, a young Bill Mullins laments his generation’s lack of spiritual leadership. When Blank questions Russell about money, Russell responds that he can’t think about it too much or he’ll get blocked. “I won’t know what I’m doing,” he says. “If I feel I know what I’m doing, then I know what I am doing.” On Les Blank's 1972 documentary about Leon Russell, A Poem Is A Naked Person, for BOMB, July 2015.

"Once you leave the theater, you think of the complexities, the hall of mirrors, and then, when you watch it again, you understand how it’s done. I knew I was dealing with a subject matter that was not complex in its own right, but that generated complexity." Filmmaker Olivier Assayas on his film The Clouds of Sils Maria in BOMB, April 2015.

"The commonality in these histories—contemporary Baghdad and thirteenth-century Baghdad—seems to be this overwhelming loss or trauma, and then the rebuilding of something new. For me, and many others in the diaspora at this point in time, it’s a rebuilding that stems from the margins, from a migrant consciousness of sorts." Artist Hayv Kahraman in Guernica magazine's "Boundaries of Gender" special issue, March 2015.

"When you get the power, you have the responsibility of the power." Filmmaker Céline Sciamma on her film Girlhood in Guernica, February 2015.

Chitra Ganesh, an Indian, Brooklyn-born artist, is not religious, but her work brims with visual and narrative references to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Greek mythology, the literary and art historical canons, folk tales, and pop culture. She recognizes both the emotional clout and cultural heritage of these symbols, and her paintings, murals, photography, and drawings offer a space in which to find the untold or forgotten story, guided by familiar clues. Her most recognizable works are her digital collages, comic strips directly inspired by the children’s books of Amar Chitra Katha, an imprint founded in the 1960s to teach Indian history and lore. Her focus on female power is erotic, dramatic, and primal—characteristics often attributed to the ancient narratives from which she draws and that are so often sanitized for modern life—and her attention to marginal figures, unresolved endings, and mass imagery reveals a reverence for the individual and subjective experience. On artist Chitra Ganesh in Guernica magazine's "Religion in America" special issue, December 2014.

"If you try and argue with people on the street about labor exploitation as a central driver of the economy, eventually they will bring up art, how labor exploitation doesn’t explain the sale price of a Picasso." Art critic and activist Ben Davis in Guernica magazine's "American Empires" special issue, October 2014.

"Art really has a healing role in the world, and it makes people conscious of their commonalities. That’s what it does more importantly than anything else. We invent it to prevent people from killing one another, by creating a common affinity, a connecting tissue between people where none seems to exist. That doesn’t seem to be exactly the role of money, or commerce, or materialistic objects, which have their own independent life and force." Graphic designer Milton Glaser in Guernica magazine's "Class in America" special issue, June 2014.

"In Mexico they really wanted to kill me, they thought I was so weird. I changed the culture. Now all their museums want to do a retrospective of the work I did there. I became a legend." Filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky on his new film, "The Dance of Reality" in BOMB, March 2014.