Interview with Poet, Lotus

My life has truly been riddled with adversity, but not much personal cultural diversity. What I mean to say, my parents ensured that I experienced a myriad of cultures via travel exposure -- taking my carcass all over this wide world. Never taking for granted how others live in their unique worlds and always respecting their traditions. I'm from a singular Arab background. When I sit and look, I find intertwined ethnicities to be truly, a wonderfully profound thing.  When I read Ilona Gaspar aka @bluelotus.kamikazeheart or Lotus's interview I wanted to sit and cry, I can't believe all that she has endured throughout the course of her life -- and yet remains kind and steeped in realism. The melange of assorted genetics is such an eclectic mix -- to be a human witness to differences and genuinely appreciate them. Now without further ado, happy reading!

RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?

IG: I have. Though I still try to write every day, sometimes it just doesn't flow or feel right. It can also be affected by my bipolar and lack of focus. When a serious block comes up, I often just continue to write or attempt to. Just anything; lists, phrases, ideas, things I see, feelings. Or I read or listen to music so I can gather inspiration from those sources. Eventually, something emerges. Eventually, the words return.

RMMW: We all have to contend with our inner critic, how do you deal with yours?

IG: Not well, I'm afraid. My bipolar can lead to long stalemates with myself about whether a piece is an accurate expression of how I feel or who I am in that moment. I started on IG as a visual diary for myself. I never really expected others to read. When I write, I want to personally connect to it. For me. I want to feel and "see" the imagery as I write.
Sometimes something I'm working on doesn't really feel like it came from me, which can be frustrating. When that happens, I shelf it and come back another day with fresh eyes. I find that helps.

RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?

IG: I really probably should. My process, like my mind, is quite disorganized. I often just write without agenda or outline or purpose. I will stop on the side of the road or put a chore aside when struck by an idea. I've lost hours playing with a phrase I have stuck in my head. Often, it is an image or song that sparks a feeling or mood. In good moments, it is an avalanche of imagery and emotion and I just allow myself to go along for the ride.

RMMW: What themes do you enjoy exploring through your work?

IG: I honestly am not sure. I began writing again as a way to purge and confront my past, which can be far from enjoyable. I allow myself to get very uncomfortable and as honest as possible. I still write about anything.

I used to write short stories, as well as poetry and song lyrics for my dad when I was young. And I grew up with a huge library of fairy tales and mythology from around the world. I even minored in fairy tales, mythology and storytelling for my undergrad. I loved the teaching aspect of those type of stories. I think now maybe I am writing to uncover the mysteries of what I am meant to be.
After the ex husband left and my subsequent healing/recovery from the breakdown that ensued. I began writing again after almost 20 years. I often feel it was a part of me that resurfaced like a life raft. It was what saved me from going under.

I examine my inner world a great deal. Concepts I never felt I grasped fully, while drowning in the life I was told I was supposed to live. Mostly about love, in all its forms; Love and loss, romantic, familial, platonic, self, passions, devotional, spiritual. A chance to learn or relearn who I am, what I like, what I want, hope, and wish.
When he left, I didn't know who I was by myself or what my future held. I was frightened of everything. I had forgotten and hidden most of me from him and everyone, including myself.
I spent over 20 years of my life with him. I was not alive, sleepwalking through an existence, which could've been anyone's existence. When I "woke up", I realized I had buried me, like some internal time capsule.

I had always been open, honest to a fault, and unfiltered. It actually came as a surprise when I realized I was horribly lost and still a stranger to myself in the aftermath. My old boss used to call me the onion. The ex called me the roller-coaster. Despite being "who I was" all that time, I was still a mystery. Here I am now, still digging, trying to find my truths, my joys, who I truly want to be, and my whys.

RMMW: I've always relished the word Kamikaze, as I feel it is riddled with immense power and risk taking.  How does this specific word make you feel?

IG: I love the word, too, which was why I made it part of my IG handle. When I chose it, it just resonated. It appealed to my Japanese side.
It translates into "divine wind", after the hurricane winds that helped save Japan from the Mongolian ships under Kublia Khan. The pilots of WWII were then named as such. The very word implies faith and divine intervention.

My handle was almost to be "blue lotus, kamikaze moon". The lotus being an Asian symbol of resilience, continual rebirth, and transformation. The kamikaze, a symbol of courage and trust in the unknown. Moon, because I am a selenophile.

The word, kamikaze, fills me with mixed emotions, though. Fearlessness, sadness, pride, as well as an odd sense of freedom and power. I ended up choosing "kamikaze heart", because that is what hearts in love are, Kamikaze. Especially, my heart in my story. Going all in, diving headfirst, even if it's been destroyed before, even if it is terrified in the falling; it is still willing to go down with the ship, so to speak. Bravely, despite the risks. With devout loyalty. Blindly faithful.

Kamikaze pilots were very misunderstood, by the outside world, though. They were driven by a sense of loyalty to country and honor, but many really had second thoughts or were unsure, even while preparing to fly to their potential deaths.

They flew planes that were on their last legs and that the Japanese military were okay with sacrificing. Most were only repaired just enough to get airborne and barely complete their missions. Most did not succeed. The handbooks they were given are filled with propaganda to keep them from backing out. Though the pilots were revered, many were very scared and confused young men.  Many not sure if they really wanted to fly off to their deaths and set their fates in stone. Something to which I can profoundly relate.

RMMW: Where do you think writings of an erotic nature fit into our modern world?

IG: I think, like anything considered taboo or personal in nature, erotica is an important part of self discovery. To bring sexuality and desires into the light and examine them, is a very honest and raw part of being human. It is the core of our primal and instinctual self. Like any other genre it allows us to climb into worlds in which we may not normally reside or have otherwise experienced.
There are subsections of erotic writing. From general "smut" and "hard core" to romantic, subtle and ethereal. We all want to believe as sexual creatures that we are capable of both, I believe. But if you look, statistically, very few people know even the basics of sex and sensuality or will ever explore their fantasies in reality. Most who take issue with erotica of any kind are fighting a ridiculous battle of what they believe is "moral" or "ethical" within themselves.

I think erotica is a wonderful vehicle to opening up dialogue, both internal and external, so we can explore how we love, trust, and feel. Many get too hung up on the physical aspects of "sex". However, sex is ultimately about connecting to another person. It's about intimacy. It's about affection and belonging. I think this is why many parts of the so-called fetish world are very misunderstood. Erotic writing can help, though some may hinder, many people's exploration of their hidden desires.
Books, like 50 shades (note: I have never read the books or seen the movies, though I did manage to read a paragraph of one book and was appalled at the quality of her writing) mislead the average erotica novice into believing that light bondage or outright rape and abuse make them sexual bad asses. It can be a recipe for disaster.

Many I know in the "fetish" and BDSM communities find much of the mainstreaming and "erotica light" that is coming out, as potentially harmful. It should be understood that "fetish" life is a lifestyle. Not a whim or just some experimenting. Nor should it be dangerous or about abuse and control. Within the community, abuse is not condoned.

Ideally, it is the submissive that holds the power. Because they only submit to a Dom who has earned their trust and love. They always have the right to say "no" to anything that makes them uncomfortable or crosses personal boundaries. These are often and can be beautiful, balanced, and safe relationships that involve mutual trust, love, acceptance, compassion, caring, loyalty, as well as pleasure. Hopefully, the average sexually frustrated vanilla out there will take time to properly learn the difference and see these writings as a way to safely exploring what is right for them.

RMMW: At what age did you start writing? What was the catalyst?

IG: I began writing at 6. Mostly, poetry, lyrics, and short stories to entertain myself. My parents read to me, pretty much from the time I was in utero, to which I blame my mother for my love of mysteries, folklore, and science fiction. I began reading around age 3. So, words were friends early on. I lived in my head and in books a lot of the time.

After a 20-year hibernation, of sorts, that began in my early 20s, writing returned to me about 5 years ago. Mostly through journaling. Then I stumbled onto the IG poetry community, where I began to create and express again for the first time in decades. For that I will always be grateful to IG's writing community.

RMMW:  Do you feel social media hinders or helps writers?

IG: A little of both.

At its best, it can help expose some otherwise never before seen talents to the masses. Offer frustrated writers an outlet or platform. Allow people to network and collaborate across great distance. I think if viewed properly and utilized appropriately it can serve great purpose. What purpose it presents will be different for everyone.

At its worst, it can be very petty and shallow. It reminds me that this world can be just a big popularity contest. Often talent, skill, or message doesn't even matter. Good writers with small accounts get buried in the algorithms or are overlooked because they aren't easily quotable or don't interact very much. And people who can barely spell or be coherent end up becoming the "yasssss" and "100" philosophers of this generation.

RMMW: There's been a lot of plagiarism occurring lately with popular modern poets, what do you think about that?

IG: This is a fraught topic for many.

As a writer, my work is very personal and sacred to me, as I am sure it is to all of those that write. I fully understand the hurt in having something that has your heart and soul in it stolen from you. This may be hard for someone who is not creatively inclined to comprehend, but all artists and writers should understand that it is such a heartbreak.

I do not feel in this day and age of search engines, that anything should be plagiarized by anyone. Look it up...seriously, that is all someone has to do. For any reasonable artist, to not create with care and diligence or do a little research, it is irresponsible. It is hurtful and callous to steal in this manner, just because you failed to search a few sentences.  It is also arrogant to think that anything written has not been written before.

When I used to participate in the challenges within the IG community, I always thought many were ridiculous. 1, 5, 9, 20 word "poems" with prompts. Should that even be considered poetry? You would see the same "poem" written by 30 different people. It is almost as if the community is setting people up for problems. It creates conformity, little room to be original, and "copying".
It is all supposed to be in good fun, which I understand, but the participants should take caution. It's technically not plagiarizing or paraphrasing. There just happen to be only so many options when given those types of restrictions. I had a 6-word challenge once with the prompt "I dare you". Basically, that's just a mad libs fill in the blank. I feel there is a greater community and societal issue that coddles and encourages plagiarizing; the masses could care less. They see words. They relate. They put it on their page to create an image of themselves. At that point, who initially wrote it means very little to them.

Public forums, like social media, are not academia. Anyone not within the writing or creative community doesn't even think twice about the original author or who to credit. Then, add in dishonest writers and artists within the community who also don't care. And now, they like the words or image. They post it. And it is now in the ether, to be screenshot by anyone. To be posted and claimed by anyone. Because by the time the original author is informed about it or if it is ever even discovered, it has been passed across millions of screens. How do you rectify that situation? Plagiarism is more a sad commentary on the state of the writing community at large, in my opinion. It shows a lack of respect and common decency. It devalues the creative efforts of the original artist. It showcases, that as a global society, we fail to be courteous or honest. And for all the squawking about being individuals and being unique, many have to steal their individuality from someone else.

RMMW: I have to admit the subject of culture fascinates me, does your diverse background ever bleed into your work?

IG: I do not particularly aim for it to happen. However, my paradigm is colored by my upbringing and ethnic mix. I imagine I can not help it. I think anyone who writes, though, is influenced by how they grew up in the world.

I was born in America. Raised in its birthplace, no less. I went to a private Quaker school in the suburbs where most of the students came from well to do families from the suburbs. However, I lived in the city and my parents were middle class. Most of the students were Jewish, so I had a lot of exposure to Judaism, as well as Quakerism there.

My parents were both public school teachers. My mother taught world cultures. My father taught music. I was baptized, because my father's Jewish violin mentor told my mother I should be. And the only church that would baptize a child with a Jewish godfather, catholic father, and Presbyterian godmother and mother, was the Unitarian church. But I wasn't really raised with any structured or specific religion.

My mother was technically third generation Japanese on her mother's side but born in Japan at her Iisei (first generation) father's request. She was 2 when she came to the states. Her father had passed, and my grandmother was summoned back by the US government because of rising tensions between the US and Japan. They were interned in the camps shortly after their return. She grew up poor, the daughter of sharecroppers and amongst war mentality racism in the south before they landed in a farming community in Southern New Jersey.

My father escaped Hungary when the Russians invaded. He was a rebel tank rider at 14 and had to flee on his own. After 3 years in a refugee camp in Italy, he immigrated to the US. This was back when they recruited people to come here. He didn't speak any English, just Hungarian and Italian. Also, being Romany (Gypsy), going back was not really an option.

My mother was essentially the city's go to for visiting diplomats, dignitaries, and professors. I was exposed to people from all over the world from an early age. Different foods, ideas, beliefs and traditions were just a part of everyday life for me. I am keenly aware, though, that those things were not a part of the average American child's experience. Growing up this way had benefits and pitfalls. Both good and bad defining my vision of what it was to be me.

I was the only kid in school to bring in rice cakes with homemade Japanese pickles inside for lunch. My American History teacher asked me to explain the internment to the class, because none of the history books included that part of WWII. I had kids and adults call me chink, spic, or various other incorrect derogatory terms over the years. To which, I learned, very young, to tell them that if they couldn't use the proper slurs for me, they were too stupid to hurt my feelings or make me scared of them. But mostly, I became very accustomed to being asked possibly the most annoying and rude question, "what are you?".

I learned I was half Gypsy at 15, from my Japanese mother, because my dad, and the Romani in general, rarely disclosed their race for fear of persecution. And discovered there were only 2 books in the public library on Romany people in the entire Philadelphia library system. One, so rare, it was behind glass and the other, terribly hateful and full of stereotypes. In seventh grade, a friend called my mom to walk her through making sushi for me for my 14th birthday, but used Uncle Ben's minute rice, because that's the only rice they sold at the grocery stores in the 80s. It was bad, but I know she was trying to do something thoughtful, so I ate it anyway. Hell, I was the only kid that ate or had ever eaten sushi in my school, period. Because there wouldn't be a sushi place on every corner for another decade or more.

Genetically and culturally, you'd be hard pressed to find another me in the 8 billion out there. I was always different, so I had to learn to embrace it. I couldn't hide it and I never really fit in. All I could ever be was myself. I would imagine that all of that comes out somehow in my writing.

RMMW: Unfortunately, plagiarism has become rampant in our world, what words of encouragement do you have for writers have been plagiarised to better guard their words?

IG: Document, date, sign and copyright, if you can. All pieces should have a signature in a place where it cannot be removed or cut off easily, if posting on social media.
Also, don't forget to check yourself, too. Research all pieces, especially short ones, because they are the easiest to paraphrase by mistake. Don't leave yourself open to scrutiny. And stay true to yourself. Continue to grow your personal skills and style. Make sure it is your voice coming through, so that it is always easy to identify.

RMMW: What is your writing wheelhouse?

IG: Since I've only just returned to writing a few years ago, I'm not sure, yet. I started with micro-poetry, moved into erotica, now long form. I write about love, desire, and my personal healing. I used to write short stories about all kinds of things. I enjoy reading fantasy and crime fiction, and have thought of trying my hand at both one day. I will just have to see where the words take me.

RMMW: How did it make you feel when Rupi Kaur was voted Poet of the decade? I know there was a backlash -- was curious as to your opinion.

IG: I honestly live a hermitess lifestyle. I, actually, did not know until you told me.
I hold no real ill will towards the "big name micro-poets" out there, because it was through them that I found my way on to this platform. I wasn't really surprised or angered, though. However, I do believe there are many others out there who are far more deserving.

I do think it speaks more to the poetry community, publishers, masses, and mainstream readers at large, though. The general public is so desperate to express basic emotions and thoughts, but lack the skills. The quote in my bio from Anais Nin holds true in this sense.

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say". ~Anais Nin
The average person out there does not know how to honestly express. To feel. To understand. And as a society, we dwell in surface communication. But we deeply desire to be known, to be understood, to be loved, to be seen, to be unique, to matter, on any level. We are unable to accept that many of us will never find those things or be those things. And that that is okay.

The writing community does not exist without its readers, however. It becomes our responsibility to think forward and express the unexpressed. To challenge ourselves to grow. To grab people by their collars and shake them. To put aside the need to have mass appeal and, instead, appeal to ourselves and hope that what is true and genuine shines through.

I do believe we need to accept the limitations of the general collective readership, though.
We should ask ourselves, do we let the elite powers that be, control and keep this as a placating popularity contest? Does it even really matter? As writers and individuals, what do we really care about?  If Rupi or Atticus or anyone else, create an audience from regular people who might have never glanced at poetry, ever, does that help the community at large? Can we use those now open doors to showcase free and individual expression? With the hundreds of thousands of writers on IG, how do we raise the voices of the ones we believe are better representations of us as a community? And who do we choose? And who does the choosing? It's all ultimately subjective, isn't it?
If we collectively are so bothered by those who the media and general populous has christened to represent the face of poetry, how do we change that? Who decides? How do we decide who gets the proper exposure and who will be embraced? Is it even possible for lesser known poets to not be considered sell outs by the community. If they rise, by writing quick edible reads to get noticed? Especially, in a world that is being fattened up on fast food poetry and skinny teas?
There goes my roller-coaster mind, again.

RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?

IG: This question always gets me. I am so horrible about deciding on any one thing and sometimes want them, all or none. I was in love with Wonder Woman as a kid. I kissed my Lynda Carter poster every day. Read all the comics, watched the show. Dressed as her for Halloween. Something about the lasso of truth appeals to me most, well... and the invisible jet. I have a terrible dislike for dishonesty. But truly the worst are the ways we are dishonest with ourselves. I'd say I would like my superpower to be the ability to make people face their truths, but that feels more like a curse, for them and myself.

As a Libra, justice is something I can get behind. But truly what is justice? My sense of justice may not be someone else's. I'd like a superpower that would help me rescue animals away from stupid and abusive people. Maybe to fly? Or speak to plants and animals? Or maybe to make sociopathic people feel what their victims experience. Like an instant Karma deal. Forced empathy? Would that even be a superpower? Sorry, I may have to come back on this one.

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