"Rose Hips" now live in MUSH/MUM #4

Super super stoked about <<this one>> going live for all you folks to read online

I've admired MUSH/MUM's roster for a while now, how they're deliciously pushing and subverting form in every which way. Reading that emailed acceptance as I touched down in JFK was exhilarating. I've often said this last batch of poems were like my babies, and if I had to chose one (like all bad mothers inevitably do) "Rose Hips" would be my favorite. This poem comes from a fraught (and ongoing) relation and exploration of my body, identity, and orientation as well as a long-distilled retrospect on a shitty illicit 3-time hookup. It's also a personal beloved Fuck The Captalist Imperialist Patriarchy manifesto. And like all recent poems of mine, this features a Composite Fuckboy: the combined cesspool of deceit and late night texts. Oh, and where would this poem (or I for that matter) be rn were it not for reading Karyna McGlynn's "I Can't Stop Being Performative" in the Kenyon Review summer of 2015. That piece had me thinking about narration and levels in a whole new light, a light which bathed and nurtured my own lines. 

"Rose Hips" took its own slow time to bloom and I'm so happy to share it now with y'all alongside some amazing writers in MUSH/MUM #4.

hope you enjoy🌹


2016 reflections:::2017 projections

I recently traversed a transcendent wormhole with my roommate and calculated my Human Design (HD) chart. I’m not sure how many of y’all are into/familiar with this, but it’s an amazing personality and design analysis that combines astrology, the I Ching, chakras, and auras. I’m a Projector type with my Ajna and Throat defined—only one defined center away from Castro's ! (whose had a fixed spleen)

hello, it's me, your friendly overthinking chatterbox :)&nbsp;

hello, it's me, your friendly overthinking chatterbox :) 

Just like delving into my full astrological star chart gave me wonderful personal insights and clarity, HD has helped me understand and become aware of my body’s natural tuning. Learning about HD, you hear lots of talk about broadcasting in regards to one's defined centers. Since my Ajna and Throat are defined they are always *broadcasting* to some extent, leaving those undefined/open centers more as windows, through which energy can pass freely and be absorbed/overcompensated/accounted for, etc. etc.

I’m a highly emotive person, which is in large part why I’ve always felt compelled to pursue the arts in several capacities. And I’m a skilled communicator, both written and spoken. With a fixed Ajna center—which encompasses that o-so-troubling-but-fascinating aspect of existence which allows us to not only think about but also question the interior of thoughts, the whys and hows and patterns of it all—I also synthesize lots of material, novel or otherwise, fairly routinely and systematically. 

But both of these fixed parts can cause trouble in my life. I’m working through that trouble, and what better (and predictable, let’s face it) way to do it, but lay it all out here in cathartic ramblings of yesteryear reflections.

2016 was a doozy—at large and on a much more micro, intimate level for me. It was the first year I’ve really been <on my own> not to mention <on the road> and far far away from my Florida hometown for a long stretch of time. I became financially independent in ways I've never been before and learned a slew of things through countless mistakes and a little too much debt on my hands. The learning curve really is steep, but I remind myself that ever step forward ultimately builds endurance. 

Maybe I grew some callouses last year. Which isn’t to say 2016 was all healing—it also had its share of tears and anxiety and larger existential questioning. Yet I grew and recovered from a very open-sore-sort-of year in 2015. The months immediately post-grad weren’t the kindest nor the happiest, but looking back now I recognize I had to interrogate a lot and break all of it down to move froward: see, (1) ego, (2) ambition, (3) aspirations, and (4) happiness. 

And then I find a moment to stop, like now, and take a big breath. Fully take in where I’m at now. Starting a new year with a job that speak to my skills and offers an open, creative, warm environment. Working on my craft and thinking more consciously about what all this art-making and feeling these teacherly feels really means. Considering grad school more seriously than ever before. Living in a thriving metropolitan city where I honestly have too much to do, all alongside one hell of a support system and close friends. 

I am incredibly thankful for last year and the countless people I’ve connected with along the way that nurtured me. Major shoutouts to the Hoyers, the staff & fellow past interns at Copper Canyon Press (here's lookin' at you VP, Janeen, & Ron) the whole Banana Leaf fam (ily, Fern) Steven, Alex, the Stuy Eye pals, my mom & dad, and all the strangers and random one-offs I’ve met and been changed by <3

I feel like I just did a shameless pseudo-acknowledgements-esque plug for my own damn year—yuck. Hell, this isn’t a novel, but if it were it would be the super messy, uncut version. As for those aforementioned major goals, re: breakdown of ego/ambition, I’m excited to dig into 2017 and work on a few (big) possibilities:

  1. Participating in some kind of workshop/summer program/retreat, DIY or otherwise
  2. Pursuing higher education for my writing, whether that means a traditional grad school MFA or otherwise attained 
  3. Completing a large collaborative project that’s been in the works for a while
  4. Interning at one of the {{zillion}} arts non-profits/presses/venues in NYC
  5. Compiling a chapbook for (maybe? eventual?) digital distribution 

And here’s another list, because this time of year you just can’t get enough of 'em.

Notable Artists Seen in 2016:

  • Mark Doty (Port Townsend, WA)
  • Ellen Bass (Port Townsend)
  • Richard Siken (Seattle, WA)
  • Ocean Vuong (Manhattan)
  • Solmaz Sharif (Manhattan)
  • Jessica Pratt (Queens)
  • Bryce Dessner (Knoxville, TN)
  • Angel Olsen (Knoxville)
  • Philip Glass (Knoxville)
  • Kamasi Washington (Knoxville)
  • Nico Jaar (Knoxville)
  • Mitski (Brooklyn)
  • Big Ups (Brooklyn)
  • Jenny Hval (Manhattan)
  • Girlpool (Brooklyn)
  • Thee Oh Sees (Manhattan)

And with that, I offer a toast I never got around to NYE because I was too busy laughing and drinking the champagne. Here’s to seeing where it all goes. Cheers to good health and meaningful connections and ambitions. May you all thrive and defy in 2017, in the face of proposed tyranny, in the face of self-doubt. Tackle all your demons and fight back. I love you all <3 <3 <3

Summer Reflections

Wow wow wow. And just like that, 5 months later, it’s over. I’ve been thinking over some words to pay respects, and I think brevity serves it best: cathartic, transformative, reaffirming, inspirational—interning with Copper Canyon Press has meant the world to me. I know I’ll be thinking back on these times again and again for years to come.

the baddest bunch of poetry publishing interns around

the baddest bunch of poetry publishing interns around

Moving to Port Townsend has taught me so much. I’m working on a large(ish) project I never would have considered/thought up if I wasn’t here. I'm opening up to newer forms and genres and creative projects. I've met some incredible people that have made this cross-country journey less isolating. I’m so fortunate I got to spend my first half of 2016 in such an amazing place. 

celebrated a poem's 1 yr by dressing it up with some pretty graphics (from "Vice")

celebrated a poem's 1 yr by dressing it up with some pretty graphics (from "Vice")

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I want to be more deliberate with my reading and reflections, especially with posting some thoughts/feels on this blog. Copper Canyon has been extremely generous and I've acquired a ton of awesome poetry books these past few months. I want to give them all the time and thought they deserve. I’m not thinking formal reviews or anything, just thoughts, favorite passages, and maybe an overall impression blurb... 

I’ll also be working like mad @ the restaurant (saving up that $$!) for the next couple months and then it’s NYC or bust (!!) Please send any and all helpful tips and/or love my way. This next move is gonna be even bigger than the last, so I'm soaking up all the good energy I can.

Hope y’all have a lovely summer! Keep grindin' out the goods and (try to) stay cool in this summer heat <3 <3

Kid Type A

One day, during my last semester of undergrad, my workshop professor asked the class if we preferred to clean as we cooked or make a mess and leave cleaning ‘til later. We were discussing the revision process for personal essays, in particular. His cooking metaphor framed the question at hand: How did we revise?

It’s a different question than the age-old process question: “How do you write?” And a much better alternative to the disastrous “What do you write?” My professor never failed to mention how literary nonfiction was doomed at cocktail parties.

“So, [insert name here], what do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh really? What kind of stuff do you write?”

“Well, um, stories, sort of. Essays, but not boring ones, not the ones you’d write in school. Maybe ‘personal essay’ might give you a better idea of… No? Well, I guess what I write is sort of like if fiction and nonfiction had a strange, unfortunately named baby…”

This could go on for hours without a trace of comprehension from the aggrieved, martini-sipping instigator.

“I mean,” my professor would say, “what the hell is creative nonfiction anyway? What, so now I know what it isn’t? It isn’t destructive fiction?”

He’s pacing around the small classroom at this point, agitated, making a point he’s made countless times before.

“Well, my apologies, I had no idea what you do is write creatively. I’ll be damned.”

It is a bit of a face-palm moment. Of course what essayists do is always in the pursuit of something creative, something more tangible than far-fetched sci-fi, time-melting, plain old fiction. And, of course, that same professor would shake his head and strike through that previous “of course” couplet. He was like that. Get to the point. Question your italics. Say what you mean and don’t assume. Write something, breathtaking or complete shit, and then walk away. Go to sleep or eat some dinner. Don’t overwrite and don’t be afraid to let things get a little messy in the kitchen every now and then.

The chef who cleans as they go is the writer who revises as they go—maybe they polish every paragraph, every sentence, even the smallest of prepositions. Or, as my professor eloquently put it, they're constipated. And if those writers were backed up, then the chef who cooks, makes a mess, and postpones the cleanup is the writer who’s got, well, diarrhea. (Important note here: His analogy, not mine.) Those were the writers who shat words page after page. 

When he posed this question, I was stumped. I saw myself as a writer in-between two cleaning methods. Sure, I craved a spotless kitchen, an open page where I was content to perfect the garnish on a perfect little sentence. I mean, if it practically came that way on the plate premade. But other sentences were messier and called for a more erratic environment: eggs left un-whipped, flour covering the stove top, butter melting on the counter. 

My professor told us to raise our hand when he said what kind of cook we were. I expressed hesitation, debating when to raise my hand. My fellow small group members scoffed. Behind me I could hear Kelsey, with whom I spent over seven hours in one sitting line editing and revising.

"Of course Ashley's the clean cook."

I smiled. Of course.

But I wouldn't understand until after graduation, weeks after my small group’s intimate (read: poorly attended) reading and days after I turned in my final revision. I wasn't cooking much in college. Back home I started up again. That’s when I noticed how I put back the seasonings in the cabinet while the shrimp bubbled over the stove. How, when I was done with it, I neatly packaged the spinach in its bag, placing it next to the butter, which was safe in its allotted compartment in the fridge. 

Everything was in its right place.