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Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed poet and artist Nicole Asherah about her life, what inspires her poetry, and the work that went into her new book, A Life Cycle.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I am an author, artist, poet, and photographer whose work has the ability to help others heal their emotional and psychological wounds. The University of Roehampton in England offered me a position in their creative writing poetry master’s program despite not having a bachelor’s degree because of my ability to describe the abstract feeling of emotions in a way that resonates with all types of people. I use this skill to help others come closer to the emotions they experience in order for them to name, process, and release them.

Nicole Asherah, author of A Life Cycle, poet interview on The Table Read

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I never wanted to write a book actually. After being a poet for a few years, I figured I’d eventually release a book but I always wanted it to happen naturally.

When did you take a step to start writing?

A Life Cycle came about completely by accident. Since I was 16, I have always kept a journal on me to write poetry throughout my life and sit with whatever feelings come up. At the beginning of 2019, I flew to South East Asia alone to go backpacking for the next few months.

I started a new journal right when I got there. From there I had one of the craziest and hardest years of my life, which I tried to process through writing in my journal. Around February 2020, I was finishing my journal and felt like my style as a writer had completely changed. I questioned if I lost what once made me special as a writer because I felt I had no complete poems to show.

I decided to reread my entire journal searching for at least a couple of poems I liked so I wouldn’t feel so bad about my writing. Very quickly into reading it, I was struck by how profound it was. I realized a lot of the work wasn’t stand-alone poetry because it was clearly a book that followed a narrative arch and flowed into each other.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It will be about 3 years from writing the first poem to when A Life Cycle officially comes out.

What made you want to write A Life Cycle?

Since there was no intention when writing my book, I thought long and hard about why I decided to publish it. Every time I have reread this collection, I am struck by how moving it is in a completely new way to me. I have changed a lot in the three years since starting to write it and I have found wisdom from it in my current circumstances just as much as I found it in my past.

As an artist of different mediums, art has always connected and helped me through difficult periods in my life. During 2019, I had such deep trauma and pain and I had no media (books, paintings, music, movies, etc.) that made me feel seen in my experience and pain without retriggering me.

From reading my book, I realized that I unintentionally created art that can sit with you at the depths of despair and confusion and be that hand you need to walk you through it. Ever since realizing this, getting A Life Cycle out there to the people that need it has been my main goal in life.

What were your biggest challenges with writing A Life Cycle?

I think I just struggled to be honest with myself when writing it. To quote a poem from A Life Cycle, “I have a habit of not truly saying what I mean/ But in that people find beauty” (p.76). I didn’t hide my mental health problems or sexual assault to my friends, family, and therapist. I spoke about it openly, but it still felt like I could never get to the root of it.

Nicole Asherah, author of A Life Cycle, poet interview on The Table Read

I was too focused on not taking on a victim-mentality and not making other people uncomfortable by the intensity of my despair. I left all those conversations feeling like I didn’t speak the truth. I felt that a lot in my writing too. I struggled to take such a deeply intense experience and put it into words that captured it without in some way minimizing it or making it into what it wasn’t.

What was your research process for A Life Cycle?

There really wasn’t any. I learn a lot throughout life from my experiences, talking with people about their hardships, and consuming different art forms and educational media. This all plays a big role in how I see the world and therefore how I write.

How did you plan the structure of A Life Cycle?

As I was editing the book, I realized some structure was needed to guide the reader through their experiences which is why I created sections. The only part I struggled with was whether to name the first section Before or not to name it at all. I know it adds some confusion because it’s a book of 6 sections really with only 4 sections clearly named. But I think overall it puts the reader more clearly in the experience rather than sectioning it off in an analytical mindset developed after the fact.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did A Life Cycle need?

Yes, I did. I had some different people from different facets of my life with different backgrounds to help me edit A Life Cycle. I wanted to make sure it connected with people of all ages and experiences which is why I tried to make my editing group comprised of very different people. I think the bare bones were always there. But it did take many readings and giving myself time away from it to hone A Life Cycle into its most meaningful elements.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

I would say first think about what your book brings to the world. I think there is so much space in the world for all different kinds of books and art but I also think there needs to be a reason why you are sharing your work with others outside of your own vanity. It’s okay if some of it is vanity. We all are a little vain and self-absorbed but that can’t be the driving reason to write or publish your book.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Mmmmm I can. I will say as far as poetry goes I would expect my next book to really center love and relationships. I’m not sure a poetry book is the next book you’ll see from me though. I definitely have some other kinds of books percolating in my head.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I can say with complete certainty I have never been prouder of something I have created. I firmly believe A Life Cycle does not belong to me and never has. I have been so stressed trying to get it out into the world because I didn’t want to let it down. I know the potential it has and all the stress, anxiety, and fears will always be worth it in order to bring it to life.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Yourself (Print)

A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Yourself (Ebook)

www.nicoleasherah.com

Instagram: @nicole_asherah

Tik Tok: @nicoleasherah

Twitter: @nasherahart

Pinterest: @nicole_asherah

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