Ashley Opheim

Ashley OpheimAshley Opheim is a poet, editor, and founder of the intersectional feminist literary press, Metatron. In 2014, Opheim published her first book of poetry, I Am Here. Last year, Opheim landed the emerging publishers grant from the Canada Council. Opheim’s Metatron and its sister blog, ÖMËGÄ, publish contemporary writing drawn from an international crowd.

Have you always been good at writing?

 I’ve always been interested in communicating. When I was a kid I would strike conversation up with literally anyone anywhere and babble on about whatever was on my mind. I was obsessed with reading and escaping everyday life through stories. I think that my curiosity in communication and my fascination with the imagination naturally led me to writing, and I think that the curiosity that drives my writing has naturally led me to do it a lot, read a lot and therefore get better at communicating my ideas in somewhat interesting ways.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?

Yes! I remember the first “serious’ poem” I ever wrote was called Cosmic Jacuzzi. It’s about floating around in outer space and feeling surrounded by the tender feeling I have for a crush.

Did you deal with self-doubt when you were first starting out? How did you work through it?

 Of course! I surrounded myself with people who were confident in themselves and their work and I learned about the importance of structuring myself around blind optimism and confidence, and also about the importance of doing the work. The key to making something happen is making it happen. I was lucky enough to meet some people who were personally invested in me believing in a vision I had dreamt up for myself somewhere along the way, so I owe it to them, too. The people who don’t believe in you are also important, too, because their doubt is good ammunition to prove them wrong.

Do you read your old work?

 Sometimes, yes. I like going through my archive from time to time and reflecting on where I’ve come from.

 As a young writer, how did you support yourself?

 I never relied on living my life, financially, as a writer. In lots of ways, my way of supporting myself as a writer was supporting the community of people around me also writing, so that there was a vaster system of support around me/us. It was funner that way, too.

When did you realize that you could make a career for yourself as a writer?

 When I stopped treating being a writer as a possible career choice.

 Who do you write for?

 First and foremost writing is a gift to my self. But I also write for “the other,” which is sometimes one person and sometimes the entire galaxy. Sometimes I write with future generations in mind, especially when I’m trying to describe what the world is like in 2017. Sometimes I write for whales in captivity, sometimes a beautiful sunset. It depends on what is moving me at the time.

Are you of the write-everyday-no-exceptions ilk? Or do you only write when you feel like it?

I only write when I feel like it. Luckily, it’s not something I have to force. There is an aspect of sacrifice though, especially in the process of editing with a publication in mind. That’s when it becomes devotional. That’s when it becomes work.

Do you practice any other forms of art?

I love dancing. Dancing is the physical expression of what I understand poetry to be.

As a writer, how much of a priority is socializing for you?

 Socializing is a priority to me generally as a person, so it’s inherently important in my life as a writer. I also very much need space and solitude, too. It’s a hard balance sometimes. I have a hard time deciding whether I want to be alone or around people a lot of the time.

Do you think social media is important for the success of emerging artists and writers?

Yes, absolutely. But it’s not for everyone, nor should it be. I think poetry that does well on social media platforms like Instagram is almost a whole new genre. It has its own unique set of restrictions, rules, and sensibilities.

How do you deal with envy as an artist?

I write about it. Envy and jealousy are two of my least favourite emotions. They are just so toxic, so difficult to place in the body, impossible to hold. I use writing as a means of freeing myself from keeping those feelings inside. At least I try.

 Do you think receiving a BFA or MFA in creative writing is beneficial for a young writer’s career?

 I think furthering your education in a field like creative writing, if being a writer is a passion of yours, is a good thing. But so is attending more workshops and local readings. So is reading a lot and finding out what you like. So is writing everyday. The university system isn’t built for everyone and not everyone comes out of university successful. Some people are better off coming at it from their own angle.

Why is poetry important?

In a world that is constantly trying to distract us from feeling our feelings and thinking our thoughts, poetry is the revolution.

Do you have any advice for young writers or new writers?

 Start announcing to people that you are a writer. Don’t flinch. When someone asks you what you do, say I am a writer in full confidence, because you are if you write and care about it. And the more you say something, the more real it becomes. Try it!

Claudia Wilde is a third-year creative writing and psychology student at the University of British Columbia. She volunteers as an editorial assistant at PRISM international and is     an editor and writer for Her Campus UBC. She writes poetry and fiction.

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