4 Questions with Laura Ashley Laraque.

Laura Ashley Laraque

Q: Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

Hi, my name is Laura Ashley and I am a Indie author. I’ve been writing since the 5th grade and haven’t stopped since! I really do enjoy expressing my thoughts and emotions through words. My writing is primarily poetry and at first I always would gear my words to rhyming but expanding my horizon with writing as I read more and got involved in the community. What influences my writing is pain; it moves my words to be more raw and honest. However, more recently I have been focusing on the healing aspect of my life in my words.

Q: What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

Since I am all new to the promoting aspect of my work, I mainly use social media platforms to get my work out there. Of course I also use word of mouth and speak to different ones about my passion for writing as well. I also do custom poems on the side if I know someone has a special occasion coming up or just needs some comforting words to hear. As far as time management, at first it was eating a lot of my time and I become very consumed with needing to post and promote constantly. I came to a point where I had to prioritize and see what was most important in my life, which was my health and well being; without that I’m nothing!

Q: What projects are you working on at present?

I do have some projects in mind that again I am trying to prioritize in my life. I am working on a Youtube channel that caters to spoken word and creating a open space for people who suffer from chronic illness, such as myself, and just topics that the writing community may want to discuss. I am also working on recreating a revised edition of my debut collection “Table for One’. I’m excited about that as well but I am working diligently to make sure its just right.

Q: What does poetry mean to you?

My poetry embodies who I am and what my heart feels. At first I was shy and didn’t really want to share my pain, lack of confidence and so forth. Yet, I realized it’s so important to be open and honest with who you are and not to so much hide behind your words. I still find a way to express how I feel without bashing or being too much of an open book; although I feel sometimes I can be otherwise lol. Poetry has created a healing path that I will never regret stepping foot on. It has left me vulnerable and naked to the eye but has brought out this beam of sunshine that I allowed to be crowded out by the troubles I faced. This passion I have, will never fade off and will always be a part of who I am.

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This collection of poetry talks about a woman who has experienced what many have, heart break. In the midst of her pain, she takes on a journey to learn to love herself. Also, expressing emotions and looking back on memories that although left scars, have led her to sit at her table alone. Finding yourself is crucial and she explains how she accomplishes this day by day.

Continue reading “4 Questions with Laura Ashley Laraque.”

4 Questions with James Diaz.

James Diaz

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Q: Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

A: There’s a wonderful scene in the film Wonder Boys where Rip Torn stands at the podium to address a university crowd full of literature students and the first words that he says are “I am a writer,” in a professorial, masterful way, to which Tobey Maguire’s character (incidentally named James) roars out in laughter. I kinda feel that way. It’s a little silly to say “I am a writer,” in a overly assured manner. I’m a broken thing who somehow finds that words are a miraculous binding agent, linguistic glue for my soul. I grew up in a violent, drug and abuse ridden home. I remember when I was 13 finding a Rolling Stone magazine in which these prisoners who were serving life sentences had turned to poetry as a way to cope with their impossible situation. Their poems spoke to what I was feeling inside, also a prisoner to a harsh environment, I thought to myself (and I’ve probably never really stopped thinking this) maybe I can do this, perhaps this can help me to survive. And it did. I learned from these prisoner/poets that words can set a soul free, even if it’s all too painfully obvious that we are maybe never really free. Something in us, (in me) is broken. Words don’t fix it, but they cushion me against total darkness/oblivion.

My themes tend to center around trauma and dissociation. For me all words are coping mechanisms to begin with. Language is how we confront the void and chaos of a world without meaning, it’s how we contain our unknowing and anxiety of the unforgivably strange. Poetry, to me, is therapy in motion. I find psychotherapy is itself a shared poem between two people. Poetry starts when I see you as another strange me, as two lives intertwined and yet still separate. I speak- call out to “you” and you respond, this is a poem, a kindness. Therapy is about repairing the soul and I believe that’s what poetry is as well. A lot of what goes on in a consulting room is about shared enactment and creatively working with trauma’s, giving them new narratives over time. If that’s not poetry, I don’t know what is.

My Influences have ranged over the years. As a young man I was, as you might imagine, obsessed with Rimbaud and Sylvia Plath. In my 20’s my influences were William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, J. G Ballard, Bukowski, Kerouac, Miguel Pinero and the nuyorican and language poets. My influences now tend to be pretty small: Jorie Graham, Alice Notley, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Eigen, Helene Cioxus, Toby Olson. I don’t read nearly as much new poetry as I should. But there are a few modern poets and writers who have impacted my work in one way or another and for very different reasons, Sarah Certa, Julene T. Weaver Brian Jabas Smith and Rachel Custer.

Q: What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

A: I don’t really have a steady submission regiment, partly because I run my own lit journal now which eats into a lot of my time. I am constantly writing, I’m just not sending my own work out as much as I used to. When I get a publication I’ll share it on social media, that’s pretty much the extent of it. I have a book coming out this year, so there are promotional things that I have to do for that, like attend readings. The last one was at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamburg, Brooklyn. It is nice to be able to share my work with people in the flesh and blood. I’m probably not the best public speaker but it’s important to be able to put your voice into your words, like breath into clay. That’s the vulnerable part, to show up with poems in hand and risk opening your world up to strangers.

Q: What projects are you working on at present?

A: I am so excited for the release of my debut book, This Someone I Call Stranger, which is being published by Indolent Books and the incredible Michael Broder. I am so grateful to him and the whole Indolent team, including Samantha Pious, who edited my book. I can hardly put it into words without sounding maudlin, but I am beyond grateful. And to Jessie Janeshek, Sarah Certa and Kym Tuvim who wrote such kind, beautiful blurbs for the back of my book.

I’ve been collaborating for the past year and a half with my friend Elisabeth Horan, a wonderful poet who I got to know through AHC. I’ve lost count of how many full poetry manuscripts we’ve written together by now, it’s at least close to 8 full lengths so far, and a smattering of chapbook manuscripts. We are looking for publishers but haven’t had any luck so far. The greater part of that process for me though is just writing with her. We draw the best out of each other. Again there is that thing about two poets calling out to one another. Our collaboration feels a lot like that, creatively processing our lives.

Other than that I am continuing to edit Anti-Heroin Chic. It’s hard to believe we are in our third year now. A lot has happened since it began, and I’ve learned and grown a lot through the process of being on the other side of things. Editing a journal can be grueling, but ultimately very rewarding. I am so humbled by the people who have shared their worlds and work with me.

Q: What does poetry mean to you?

A: Oh boy. How much time do you have? I could write 20 pages on this question alone, but I’ll try and keep it short.

Poetry, to me, means we’re not alone. Language opens the world up and builds bridges to one another. It’s true that no man or woman is an island, but I think that’s because of poetry, it connects us. This is what art does, it communicates the incommunicable, it’s a felt sensation, like that perfect song that brings you tears. It makes us vulnerable, hence ethical, if we’re exposed so too are others. Poetry, in that sense, is political. I say all the time that I firmly believe everyone is a poet, I’m not sure if people realize how serious I am about that.

We all have a story to tell, in other words we all have pain and trauma to process. We all have a need to call out to others, to be heard and to answer the call that comes back to us. That’s poetry. A shared experience of the sensible human world. Of our fragility, our brokenness. Many of us like to pretend we’re inviolable, but we’re not. That’s both the pain and beauty of what it means to live. It hurts and it humbles us. A poem hurts and it humbles. It might not make us whole, but it will build us up in love, imperfectly holding us together.

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In our era of irony, disposability, and impatience, the poems of This Someone I Call Stranger, James Diaz’s debut collection, reverberate with rare authenticity and lyrical pain. Threading through a past of blind forests and dark basements, empty cupboards, dirty needles, hospital floors, and bad men who won’t die, this book is a necessary example of duende for the twenty-first century. These poems will arrest you. They have hungry souls, and they ache without breaking. They will hang in your brain and settle in your bones, and they will also move you forward, bravely, toward uncertain light.

4 Questions with Hannah Cohen.

Hannah Cohen

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1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

Uh well, I’m 26 years old and I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, so it’s not really surprising that I’m still here, writing.

My writing has several influences, so I can’t really pinpoint one specific source. I change this answer a lot, actually. If I had to name actual poets, I guess I’m heavily influenced by Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, WB Yeats, and Denise Levertov. I write about my interiors and exteriors, as well as my mixed religious heritage and family problems.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

So the majority of my chapbook/poetry promotion is definitely on Twitter. Despite its many, many, issues, I’ve yet to find a better way to connect with and meet so many new writers and build an audience for my work. I also share poems on Facebook and sometimes Instagram. I’m pretty much always on the Internet, which can feel overwhelming at times.

I write when I can. I work a mostly 9-5 job so I have some weekends, nights, and days off where I can focus on my writing.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

So I’ve really enjoyed writing essays/non-fiction lately and I have some ideas that are in the process of becoming paragraphs and sentences. I’m working on my poetry manuscript that was my thesis in grad school, but I’m reworking it and adding new poems. I did originally submit it as a chapbook to a few places, but perhaps it’s better off as a collection. I also have some one-off poems that may or may not be part of a new manuscript.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is my lens to see through the world and the best tool for figuring out who I am. It’s my connection to people, and it’s, I think, an art that continues to amaze me.

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4 Questions with Natasha Head.

Natasha Head

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1, Tell us about you, and your writing ( themes, influences etc. )

A1. I’m one who writes because I always have. Sharing was never really the plan…but give a girl a blog and you just never know. I wrote my way through high school, careers, relationships. It would seem a journal doesn’t judge you quite as harshly as your peers. At the end of the day it will always be my therapy. And those pages are also very patient.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

A2. Promoting my own work proves difficult at best and I rely heavily on the networks to do so. It’s been ten years now, and the shallowness and selfishness has taken its toll. I now rely on Instagram which allows me to easily cross post and keep my few remaining accounts active. People are people even in their digital personas and people take a lot of time. I’ve had years of my writing life hijacked and have grown much more protective of my space. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible talent and these days I’m working a little harder at the real world version of myself. I’m a small town country bumpkin and proud of it. A small reading in a park, church, or library is an adventure in itself. It’s pushing my comfort zone…and as a result pushing my writing in a brand new way.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

A3. Right now my goal is to commit to my 4th collection. It’s been some time and focus shifts. I’ve been editing and reworking and making poetic excuses for far too long now. Locally, it’s library readings for me and hopefully connecting with a few local writers. I opened my own little curiosity/pawn/smoke shop with my family and I would love to open up the space to invite our local artists and writers to take part.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

A4. I love poetry because YOU, no matter where or what you come from, are a living breathing epic poem being written in real time. Some of us just choose to write it down. There is a poem for everyone, and it can be life changing when you find those words, that writer, that shares your story.

Poetry Files. Drop them, by @AlisonMalee

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Friends, this poem has become my anthem! If ever you needed a poem for a situation in your life this poem would be IT.  Taken from Alison Malee’s new book The Day is Ready for you.  Preorder it now by clicking on the cover image. It releases May fifteenth.

Thank you to the publisher,  and Netgalley, for an ARC copy of this book.

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