Ashley Julie Kay: "There Are So Many Ideas at Once"

Kicking off a fall full of poet interviews and book reviews, CPR editor Ju'Juan Day had a quick chat with Ashley Julie Kay, a poet from the south suburbs of Chicago, to learn about her experiences as an emerging writer, the changing landscape of publishing, and where she finds inspiration.

CPR: Have you recently found yourself in conversation with another writer or artist?

AJK: No, I haven’t, but my cousin writes. He does poetry and short stories about the black male perspective. Not a lot of people [I know] talk about writing. I don’t really have a writer’s community because I am very private with my writing. However, I am in a transition to putting work out.

How does geography or landscape influence your work? Do you need to be in a certain environment to write?

When I write poetry I tend to think about it in that moment. I can get inspiration from current surroundings, not just a specific area. I can write wherever and I can find inspiration anywhere. When I am around nature, though, I tend to produce more poetry.

What is the poem you have always wanted to write, but have not been able to?

I write about different aspects in different poems relating to specific incidents or something happening. Ever since my cousin died I have used that as inspiration for my other poems.

Describe the value of being a published poet in an increasingly digital literary landscape. What is the future of the published poem?

Bigger than ever. On social media you can share your poems. I believe being a published author will give you longevity. A poet would potentially need both social media and published work. Networking will help you get well-known, too.

What is your biggest pet peeve about your own writing? Other writers’ writing?

[For me, it's] the process… there are so many ideas at once. Also, lack of focus because there are lots of ideas. However, it could be a good thing. Plus, I don’t want my work sounding the same. [As far as] other people’ writing... Formatting. I am a visual person so I like formatting. I like poems to look a certain way because it is easier to read. If it is a long poem, I am probably not going to read it.

How do you know when a poem is done?

When it typically comes to a natural end. When all the emotions [are] out, you are done. Feeling like there is none left to say. Sometimes a finished poem is an unfinished poem.

If you had to give your life a title, what would it be? 

Tortured Soul. The meaning behind that is people not understanding you. Only a few people that understand who you are as a person in society. I am biracial so when I grew up I used to get this feeling like, “when I am around black people I am not black enough, when I am around white people I am not white enough.”

Ashley Julie Kay was born and raised in the South Suburbs of Chicago and is an emerging poet whose work focuses on deep reflection of her life experiences. You can find her on twitter at