Interview with Ashley Inguanta, whose poem, ‘Hollandia Farms,’ can be found in Issue One of Into The Void.
Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?
With this work–this work of writing and making art–I hope to honor the sacred, transformative connections of this world. This is what I (re)create for–to honor and to hold the energies that have come into my life as sacred. With this work, I hope to help people open. I hope to help people access, spend time with, and understand a very private and tender part of themselves deep inside.
What are the major themes found in your work, and why?
In my work, I explore how connection and abandonment shape that sacred place inside of us–that place only very special people, if any, will be able to access during our lifetimes. Connection–as it’s forming, as it grows, and as it changes shape–is a brilliant part of the human experience. Our lives are a series of relationships: The relationship between you and yourself, for example, or you and the land, or you and an animal, or you and your passions, or you and another person. Exploring these connections in my work is how I honor them, how I say “thank you,” how I honor the cultivation of emotional intelligence, how I honor love.
Why is art important?
Literature and art allow humans to understand that deep, sacred space inside of other living and non-living beings, and within that experience, literature and art help humans slow down, open, and access that sacred space inside of themselves. Literature and art help humans do good, necessary, and expansive work inside of themselves– (which, in my experience, is an under-appreciated yet extraordinarily brave and noble type of work). Literature and art help us understand what it means to be alive.
What are some of your favourite writers?
I can go on forever and ever with this question. I especially love the work of Francesca Lia Block, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, and Donald Judd. I remember reading Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca in college. I was isolated, had few friends at the time, and was in recovery. I read Girl Goddess #9 and I wished, wished, wished that someone would come to my window, want to love me–just like it happened in the book.
Mary Oliver’s work helped me both deepen my connection to nature and strengthen my faith in what is spiritual. I love how soft and strong Mary Oliver’s poetry is, how much it teaches me about prayer and honor. Her book The Leaf and The Cloud helped me take myself out of a 3-year period of mourning, of trying desperately to find a sense of peace that had left me.
Adrienne Rich’s work helped me harness my sense of love for another human. Twenty-one love poems in particular felt like a saving grace to my heart. When I read it for the first time, I remember thinking, “Someone wrote what I’ve always wanted to write, what I’ve always been trying to find the words for.”
When I visited Marfa for the first time this year, I saw Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete and 100 untitled works in mill aluminum. I felt like I’d been transported to another word of light and shape and possibility–and yet, I was still here. Donald Judd’s work helps me understand that this world exists in a space that is older and wiser and more powerful than construction, bulldozers. Judd did not build on new land. He honored the land in a way I strive to–by renovating and keeping the original aesthetic of the structure, not bulldozing, and by honoring nature by letting it be, by leaving the land alone.
What book are you currently reading?
Right now I am re-reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Edwin Bryant. It helps me stay healthy, reminding me that I can find an anchor, a focus, within myself at any time. I have also been reading about the yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines for healthy living), which are the first two branches of eight-limbed yoga. The yamas and niyamas remind me that the answers I seek can be found in non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and in non-greed; that the answers I seek can be found in cultivating purity, contentment, a sense of discipline, a deep and honest self study practice, and by surrendering to a higher power.
What is your favourite piece in Issue One?
“In Sepia” by Vincent Steed. This poem honors grief with precision and softness. It reminds me of something Mary Oliver would write. This poem is the desire to bring something back, the finite nature of concrete, and the ever-changing state of rain. The motion of rain. The hope of a rose. I tried to read this poem aloud and cried. It will always stay with me.
Where is another place we can find your work?
You can find one of my nonfiction pieces, “A House, A Girl” in The Rumpus. You can find some of my poetry in “Adrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer Women,” and you can find some of my photography in my collection “For the Woman Alone,” published with Ampersand Books.
What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?
My new book of poems, “Bomb,” is coming out with Ampersand Books in October. This collection of linked poetry explores the story of two women as they fall in love. As they fall in love, one attaches a bomb to the other using orchids, branches. Soft things make the bomb, hard things make the bomb. I will be working with violinist Sarah Morrison to record a version of this book, which we hope to have available on Spotify and iTunes sometime in 2017.