Erin Anastasia is a twenty-four-year-old poet from New Jersey. She has over 10,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, where she publishes videos of her own and others’ poetry, conducts interviews with other poets, and hosts discussions on writing and other social issues.
Anastasia has always felt a strong connection and love for writing and dabbled in poetry during middle and high school. During her senior year of high school, she saw an uplifting documentary, titled Louder Than a Bomb.
“It follows a youth slam team to a national slam, and I was completely WOWed by it. I didn’t know that poetry could be performed with that much intensity. As someone who loved both theatre and writing, the idea of combining stage performance with poetry was really attractive to me. After watching it, I started writing poetry to be spoken rather than read. It completely changed how I went about writing,” Anastasia said.
Shortly after, in her junior year of college at Montclair State, she performed at an open mic and one of the organizers asked if she’d like to compete in a slam the following week.
“I had never done it before and was completely scared and confused about the whole thing, but the organizer kind of convinced me to do it. I tried my best and placed second, and was completely taken aback. I didn’t think I had a chance, and here I was, holding my own against other competitive poets. Ever since then, I got involved with the slam community and I now love competing,” Anastasia said.
Anastasia doesn’t focus as much on the finding of concepts to write about as she does with expanding upon them. Her writing process begins by writing down and saving lines on her phone that she finds interesting or memories she hasn’t thought of in a while. In her spare time, she goes over the list and focuses on whichever idea she feels connected to at the moment.
“Ideas just come to me when I’m in the right mindset—usually when I’m relaxed and day-dreamy. So oftentimes an idea will come late at night when I’m in bed, or during my morning subway ride commute, just when I can zone out and let my mind wander,” Anastasia said. “My best advice for writer’s block is: ‘Don’t Force It.’ If your creativity isn’t happening, don’t punish yourself for it. Writers put so much pressure on themselves to not only write, but write something great, and I think it really hinders the creative process. Just relax, live your life, go experience some new stuff, something will come to you.”
Depending on her schedule, she can write a poem per week for a month straight or conversely, go three to four months without writing. Anastasia approximates that it takes her two weeks on average to write a poem.
“I know some poets will force themselves to write maybe once a day or once a week, but I just am terrible at creating structure in my life,” Anastasia said. “If it’s a poem I’m bringing to an important slam, and I’m having a bunch of people give me suggestions for revisions, then that poem might not be in its final form for months.”
Anastasia feels that her current favourite is always whichever poem she has just written because of her excitement to share something, even if it’s not in as good of shape as she initially perceived. However, she does have some pieces on her personal favourites list.
“I like “Night Owl” because I’m really proud of the actual writing—I’ve been trying to get those ideas across in a poem for about three years now and I finally think I did it. And then probably “On Doing Laundry as a Single Girl“, just because it has a mix of realness and humor that I think it unique to my poetry, and also it’s super relatable for the average crowd,” Anastasia said.
Being a member of this community has strongly impacted her personal life by giving her the chance to meet and connect with other poets and their work.
“When you go to a slam, and especially a national-level slam, you’re just surrounded by so many immensely talented and also kind, loving people, and it’s impossible not to feel entirely grateful for it,” Anastasia said. “I’ve met so many friends and lovely people from all over the world through it! Since I live near so many poetry venues, I always have something fun to do on weeknights.”
Because Anastasia uses her platform to speak out on serious issues and communicates with her followers, she was initially concerned about how poetry would affect the professional side of her life.
“For a while I worried that potential employers would Google my name and find my work, and then not want to hire me because either A: they’d think I was too focused on my internet presence to devote myself to the job or B: they’d see my poems about mental health struggles and think that I’m not mentally fit to handle the job. But I have a job right now, and honestly, I think the fact that I talked about managing and marketing my poetry YouTube channel helped me land it!” Anastasia said.
For prospective poets, Anastasia acknowledges the fear of reading poetry in front of strangers but encourages writers to persevere.
“I don’t know if everyone knows what exposure therapy is, but basically, it’s where you expose yourself to something so many times that your brain eventually gets bored and stops freaking out about it. So do that! Write, write, write, and then perform, perform, perform, and the nerves will never completely go away, but I promise, they’ll calm the heck down,” Anastasia said.
Erin Anastasia is currently working on publishing pieces. In the meantime, readers can subscribe to her YouTube channel, or follow her on Instagram.