Today we’re joined by Kassia. Kassia is an accomplished poet who specializes in free form and free verse poetry. They live in Florida with their husband and work as a freelance writer and editor. Kassia is a genderflux feminist and has a background in theology. They did their bachelor’s work on how Eastern Orthodox theology supports and advances ecology and environmentalism. It’s clear they’re an incredibly dedicated writer, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I write poetry, mostly free form and free verse, though in the past year I’ve gotten much more into prose poetry and ghazals, and am trying to train myself in some of the most common Western forms of poetry (sonnets, villanelles, etc.). In the last few weeks I’ve been funneling my poetic skills into composing Akathists, which are long hymns used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, comprised of thirteen odes. I’ve also been glossing some of my favorites from a collection of Akathists I have, because whoever translated them got a little carried away with the pseudo-Shakespearean language for my taste and it’s very distracting.
My big pet project, though, is a novel centered around two people in an asexual/aromantic relationship. I want to show that a relationship built purely on platonic attraction can be just as compelling and erotic (in the classical sense) as every tired and predictable YA franchise out there (not that I don’t love me some Hunger Games).
What inspires you?
That’s a hard question to answer, because my inspiration doesn’t usually come from anything external. Most of it comes from my experience of the numinous in the physical world and my interior response to it–though a small portion of my work is inspired by people close to me, and trying to articulate the experience of being asexually and aromantically, yet powerfully, in love with someone. My entire impetus for writing—from poetry to fiction to blog posts—is to translate my intense interior life into language. That’s my main inspiration: not really the outside world, but how the things I experience get internalized and translated into symbols, archetypes, and mythopoeia.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been writing since I was six or seven. It’s just always been a part of my life. When I was in middle and high school I got fixated on Charles Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde and the Decadence and had all these crazy plans involving blowing off college for being a bohemian poet in Paris. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and I went to college, and got some wonderful exposure to academia and the publishing world while pursuing a degree in religion. For a semester or two I toyed with going into theology and trying to get published in journals, but when my advisor pushed me towards academia, something didn’t feel right and I knew I had to stick with the more artistic side of my work. So I pushed back, and here I am a few years later working on a solid poetry portfolio.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
There’s a lot of cosmic, space imagery in my work. Moons, stars, black holes, galaxies, energy strings, gravity waves. Some particular constellations make repeated cameos, especially Cygnus and Orion for some reason. I didn’t really consciously make it that way, but I’ve always been fascinated by the weirder, more surreal aspects of physics, space, and how space-time behaves. It makes sense; huge structures like nebulas and black holes are excellent ways to communicate the vastness of inner, spiritual/mental space that I try to capture in my work.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Stay weird. Never stop learning. Teach yourself about subjects you’d never think you’d be interested in, no matter how arcane or mundane or strange they may seem. Don’t be afraid to be experimental, or make mistakes, or produce things that no one else understands but you. Making art is like clearing a spring choked with mud. Sometimes you have to produce utter shit before you get to the good stuff underneath.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as asexual and aromantic.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not really. I haven’t published anything yet, so we’ll see. One of my goals is to publish a collection of platonic love poems; it’d be interesting to see what reactions such a work would get.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That as an asexual person, I do not like, understand, or engage in sex, and that “asexual” is synonymous with “sex-negative”. It’s an understandable enough misconception, and I’ve never personally encountered it in a malevolent way. Even my best friend, who is bisexual, heavily involved in the LGBT community, and very understanding, thought that was the case until I cleared it up. I like sex well enough (though, I think, it’s far less important to me than the average population; the thought of a life without sex doesn’t fill me with horror), I understand why it’s important to other people, and I am sexually active (married, even!). I simply don’t experience sexual attraction, which is much different than having a negative or ignorant attitude toward sex.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
You are not broken. Your experiences are completely valid and absolutely no one gets a say in how you experience your orientation except you. Not your parents, not your boss, not your school, not the Internet, no one. Being asexual is not a curse or a reason to pitied. Always celebrate who you are, even if you have to do so fiercely, in the midst of people trying to tear you down.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Nowhere at the moment! I wish I did have somewhere to point people, but I’m very careful about publishing online—that is to say, I don’t. I am in the process of building an asexual blog, though, and will post regular links to it at my Tumblr, acequeen.
Thank you, Kassia, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.