National Poetry Month Celebration
Ashley Hayes is a professor at Crafton Hills College where she is currently the faculty advisor of The Sand Canyon Review, Crafton Hills College’s annual literary magazine. However, before she began working with intelligent and charismatic students in order to flood the Yucaipa community with fresh poetry, fiction and art, Hayes received her MFA in poetry from CSUSB because she couldn’t resist the urge to be herself and a poet simultaneously. On three separate occasions, Hayes has given true stories about why she is a poet:
“Honestly, I often find myself writing poems when phrases seize my pen and my lips fumble pictures of like sounded words or shapes in a kaleidoscopic past or present series.”
“True story: I am highly susceptible to distracting occurrences like brake lights illuminating smudges on a windshield. More often than not, I can be found on the side of some road doodling in tongues.”
“Of course I like the whole romance of poetry thing, but, and this is between you and me, I really just like to see poetry naked.”
It is also important to note that Hayes is an incredibly happy person because not only does she feel fulfilled and inspired by her profession and poetry, she also has three ridiculously amazing womb creatures, Harley, Veyda and Calliope, who she is most certainly cuddling with at this very moment.
Where do you draw your inspiration from to write poetry?
As a confessional poet, I draw my inspiration from my life: from those seedy little moments that I just can’t weed out of the windowsill. It’s tricky to name which part of me feels so compelled to press the ink firmly into an innocent sheet of paper, but whichever cell is responsible for the neuron firing my hand mobile must move because it cannot not move. It’s a helpless compulsion, really. The mere sight of some unexpected noun shivers on a memory or shakes an emotion out of me, and I am wide awake as the fervor causes words to stutter on the images my eyes only see when heard.
What advice do you have for someone that is threatened by poetry?
Poetry is scary. It requires a constant state of vulnerability. You sit in some cozy corner and open a book of short lines trailing down a page, broken little lines that are meant to manipulate your emotions, to trick your mind into seeing things that are not really there, to force your foot into another person’s dirty shoe. I get it, really I do.
And to write a poem? Well that’s just torture. You start fully overwhelmed by an intensity that quivers your hand into the throes of artistic expression, and while your squiggling out the feelings, you fight with each word because there is always a word that fits a little better, and then each scratched out word sets aflame self-doubt because really the poem is only a few stranded word islands surrounded by a sea of ink blobs at this point, but you push (the pen) on even though it kind of hurts to keep going, and you rarely know when it will end or where it should end until all of the sudden it comes to an end, and the intensity leaves you lonely and confused because best case scenario, somewhere in the pen flurry, you end up with a couple lines that you like, so you read those lines over and over in a love/hate relationship until you are able to abandon fears of rejection long enough to find some person to show those lines to, and then the first thing you do is apologize to that person, saying things like: “Oh man, this poem is a mess,” “I’ll probably just throw it away as soon as you’re done reading it,” or “Nevermind,” and if they like it, you don’t believe them because why would someone else like your silly scribbled out expression of what it means to be a sentient being, and if they don’t like it, well then you rarely gather the courage to ask someone else to read it again, and those words that you found captured a potent moment in your personal experience of living gets buried in a drawer until you decide you want to give the poem another go.
No, poetry is absolutely threatening because you have to come face to face with the whole world at once through the eyes of human existence at its greatest and most powerful state. You have to admit that you feel and that you like feeling, and I do not deny how scary that can be, but in the words of my first mentor and best friend, “Grow a pair, pal.”
What is an interesting fact about you?
If I had to pick one entity to be my favorite for all of the five senses, it would be water. Also, I completely agree with Heraclitus.
Where are you from/Where do you live?
I came from a warm womb and live in the present tense as often as possible.
Who is your favorite poet?
They all are in one way or another. Emily Dickenson changed my life, and I always think of her first when someone asks the favorite poet question. So if you are uncomfortable and need a finite answer, stop reading because for you, my favorite poet is Dickenson.
For all of you crazy adventurers, those who rogue off the binaries, rejecting the fork in the road completely to follow some trail of shrubs instead, poetry is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, poets are my favorite people hands down, but if given the choice between being in a room with one poet and being in a room with a dozen poets, I’d almost always choose the dozen because each would add a personal spunkiness to my running understanding of what poetry is capable of. And I don’t have a favorite type of poetry either because quite frankly, poetry isn’t cheese; it’s everything that matters most to me. Poetry makes me feel more human and more alive. Poets are my favorite, and if you’ve written a poem or are going to write one, you are my favorite too.