Ashley Inguanta by Lauren Laveria
FLB: What inspired your story for Rough Magick?
AI: I wrote "Paradise" shortly after I visited Joshua Tree for the first time. I was born in New York and left for Florida with my family when I was turning 16, and the landscape of the East coast fascinated me. In New York, the ocean was dark, and I found music in that. But in Florida, I was drawn to the powder-blue ocean, the way it covered the earth like a long, flat jewel. I started to pay more attention to the earth, its details, its gifts. I wrote paradise at 23. After understanding Florida's landscape for quite some time--the way it moves you through air and water--I arrived in Joshua Tree and its surrounding places. In the Mojave Desert, the earth is thick and the air is dry. In Florida, if you dig far enough, you will hit water. The Mojave has a different story--its layers are all earth, rocks that have been shaped and moved over time. When I wrote "Paradise," I wanted to make the Mojave human somehow, to pull the humanness out of its landscape.
FLB: Romantic love and the loss of it are dominant themes in your work and you write about them with great power. What does this theme mean to you?
AI: Grief is a journey. When a relationship ends, I believe it's healthy to honor that grief by being present on its journey within you. To honor my grief, I write. I write to heal. I read to heal. And in that healing, there is growing. Evolution of the soul, the self. With healing comes a strong sense of self-reliance. Dedicating most of my writing to the themes of love and loss helps fill holes deep inside of me. By showing these emotions to the world through art, I hope to help people open, to honor their grief, to grow wholeheartedly on their journeys.
FLB: You are very influenced by place, it seems (I know you are obsessed with roads!). Where have you lived and how have these places affected your work?
AI: Yes! I love roads. I love knowing so much about roads: Their names, their types (highway, freeway, county road, avenue), their textures (well paved, dirt, untamed concrete), and their altitudes. My love for roads comes from a love for roaming America, its wide landscapes. Most recently, I fell in love with Bouquet Canyon Road in California's Antelope Valley. I love the way this road moves like an ocean, a gentle push and pull. As a kid (from birth to 15) I lived on Long Island and took care of my cousin's horse. I remember going on trail rides and deeply appreciating the small, winding roads that lead to hidden fields. I've lived in Florida on and off for about 14 years, and its swamp roads near the Canaveral seashore have given me many hours of peace. When I lived in Brooklyn, I walked the roads, and each road helped me learn mindfulness and grounding. I lived in California for a very short time, moving between the South and North, and the Pacific Coast Highway taught me more about poetry than I knew was possible. I feel grateful to have had these roads as travel companions.
FLB: When did you first know you were a writer?
AI: Honestly, I do not know. Writing has provided me with a safe space from a very young age. I remember being 15 and skipping class to hide in the C-wing stairwell and work on my poems. At 12, I wrote to understand something about myself I could not find language for. I was developing romantic feelings for a woman, but at this time in my life, I was not taught words for this feeling. I knew that I listened to love songs and thought about her, but it took me some time to put the pieces together. I remember being scared, lost, and alone. Writing gave me space to process this very intimate part of myself.
FLB: Where do you get your inspiration?
AI: Humans create so much: We create buildings, bridges, books. I am thankful for our ability to create, but I also find great solace in nature's ability to create. When I explore land that has gone untouched for quite some time, I feel connected to a creator that is not human. Nature is a beautiful, loving, and powerful force. When I spend time in nature, I feel honored. I feel understood. I feel like my body recognizes where it came from. This is one of the biggest gifts. Nature is the foundation from which I create.
FLB: Who are some of your favorite writers?
Am I allowed to say you?
FLB: I love you.
AI: Your writing influenced me to take risks, to heal from anorexia, and to form trusting, loving, healthy relationships where boundaries are respected and held dear. Mary Gaitskill's writing teaches me to find my own power, to cultivate strength in a gentle way (because sometimes being gentle is extremely strong). Adrienne Rich's writing encourages me to stay open to love, no matter how much my heart wants to close. Molly Gaudry's writing helps me understand how to move about this world as a sensitive, introverted woman. Stephen Graham Jones' writing takes me by the hand and says, Don't ask for permission--be wild.
FLB: You started teaching at the university level at a very young age. What was that experience like?
AI: At 22, UCF asked me to teach my first two undergraduate Introduction to Creative Writing classes. They were summer classes, and I was very scared to teach them, mainly because I was still learning so much in grad school. Many of the students were my age. But as the semester began, I realized that teachers do not have to know everything, nor should they. So I began to think of myself as a guide, a fellow writer. My students were my guides, too. I did not hide or ignore the fact that I was young; instead, I made my age work for me. I remember thinking, "We are all artists. We are all in this together."
FLB: I agree! You’re a visual artist as well as a writer. How do these influence each other?
AI: I am a person who relies heavily on my intuition. If an emotion feels like a poem, it usually is. If an emotion feels like a piece of visual art, then it most likely will come out that way. My second collection, For The Woman Alone (Ampersand Books) is a collection of poetry and photography. Adding photography was my publisher's idea, and I am so grateful for that. I took almost all of FTWA's photographs for the book. This is the first time my visual art and writing have taken on such a large partnership.
FLB: What are your plans for the future?
AI: I would love to grow my visual art practice to include a strong understanding of fine art film photography. A friend gifted me a Canon A-1, and I love it so much. I love looking through its viewfinder, taking time to focus each frame. I hope to become very good friends with this camera. Also (this is in my wildest dreams, honestly), I hope to fall in love with a talented woman and write a book with her. I don't know if or when this will happen, but I hope that one day it will.
FLB:What else are you working on now?
AI: I have been working on my third collection of poetry, Bomb, for over a year now, and it's almost finished. Bomb is the story of two women who love each other deeply. One is attaching a bomb to the other. As the bomb builds, both women experience this as creation, as intimacy. When we find out what the bomb is made of, we may be surprised.When the world these two women have made explodes, they learn something excruciating and necessary and exquisite.