When did you first feel like a writer?
Even though I’ve written seriously since my teen years, I first felt like a writer during my undergraduate program. I published my first poem in a small academic journal. I was 19 years old, and I not only received recognition from the English department at the college where I studied, I also received a congratulatory letter from the college president. It’s also the first time my family acknowledged that what I did was more than just a hobby.
What’s the most interesting thing that has inspired your writing and what was the result?
Part of me wants to say “The current war in Ukraine,” but as a Ukrainian American, I’ve been writing about Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian history, Ukrainian traditions for years. However, along with the current war in Ukraine, I also recently endured losing my partner to the ravages of untreated mental illness. The loss has inspired a series of poems that display the grieving process against the war’s backdrop; the collection also explores various aspects of pop culture such as music and film.
Paint us a picture: what does your writing process look like? Do you write in coffee shops at night or only on an old type-writer?
My writing process is actually very simple: I write entirely by hand, typically using a fine-tip Sharpie marker, and I write in cursive in journals. I’m very particular about my journals– the pages have to be college-ruled. I typically begin with a simple journal entry, something to the effect of how I feel that day. Sometimes a poem emerges; sometimes not. Other days, the poem has already formed in my head, freshly delivered by the Muse, and I simply deliver it onto the page.
Describe your ideal reader: who would your work speak to?
Hmmm… I would have to say my ideal reader is not only already well-read, but also curious. In much of poetry, I allude to history, events, pop culture, traditions, etc. I don’t “explain” in my poetry. I offer, and it’s up to the reader to discover the rest. Therefore, a healthy dose of curiosity and desire and a willingness to learn are endearing qualities.
Who’s an author you’ve changed your mind about and why?
Oh, this is a fun question. Honestly, I think Rupi Kaur is a poet whose work I used to rather enjoy. However, after a few terms of teaching online poetry workshops in which nearly every student has said something to the effect of “Rupi Kaur is the most inspirational poet ever,” I’ve moved on from that stage of my poetic life. Kaur’s work no longer speaks to me the way it once did (We all grow and change!). I guess the positive is that Kaur’s work still draws students into wanting to study and write poetry.
If you could interview any other writer/artist, who would it be and why?
Here’s a funny story: as a teenager, one of the reasons I began writing poetry is because I was exploring songwriting. I was exploring songwriting because I was obsessed with bands like The Who and Type O Negative. I absolutely loved John Entwistle, specifically his album Wistle Rhymes, because of its dark humor, word play, puns. I’d definitely interview John Entwistle, because I’d want to thank him for not only writing the music that helped me survive my rather tumultuous teen years and for being the greatest bassist who ever walked the Earth; I’d want to thank him for giving me the courage to explore life’s darker realms. His music ultimately sparked my love of poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud. Entwistle gave me the courage to write, and to write fiercely.
What motivates you to keep writing?
This is a difficult question, because ever since my youth, I’ve possessed this innate drive to write. When I’m not writing, when I’m not studying literature or thinking about writing and books and music, I don’t feel whole or accomplished. My need to constantly create definitely motivates me, especially at this time as I watch the war in Ukraine and cope with what is happening in my family’s homeland.
How do you deal with writer’s block or being overwhelmed by the writing process?
Exercises, exercises–I must do my exercises. Seriously, in order to combat writer’s block or that overwhelming feeling with which the writing process often leaves us, I walk. I run. I lift weights. I do 20 to 25 minutes of HIIT workouts. After that, I’m usually ready to sit and focus.
Where would you like to see yourself in a decade? A creative writing teacher? As a best-seller?
In a goth club, dancing to The Sisters of Mercy and Vandal Moon, snickering as an elder goth at the baby bats or in Lviv, Ukraine, strolling the streets during sunny afternoons after having spent the entire morning sipping coffee and writing in my journal. Just kidding. While I’m serious about one (or maybe both) of those two scenarios, I can see myself still writing book reviews and working as a literary advocate for other writers; I also see myself still teaching creative writing workshops. That best-seller? It would be nice, too.
What has your work taught you about yourself?
I’ve never had the best self-esteem. It’s an unfortunate consequence from years of being bullied throughout my high school years and even into my college years. However, my work has taught me to celebrate my individuality and encourage others to love and accept themselves. My work has also taught me confidence, because if not for the poetry community, I would never have the courage to work with people the way that I do, because before I began attending and performing at readings, I was very hesitant to interact in group settings. It’s not about competition. It’s about supporting one another.