Flapper Press Poetry Café Welcomes Asia Upton, Poet of the Still
Updated: Feb 10
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features poets of all ages from across the globe. This week, we highlight the work of Asia Upton.
Asia Upton is a published writer and poet born in 1994 in Kansas City, Kansas. Her love for words has always been deeply rooted in her innate ability to express herself artistically. Asia believes everyone is an artist in their own right. She also believes that it is each person's duty to paint their own mark on the world. She was involved in her high school newspaper and yearbook, which led to her studies in Journalism at Kansas State University. Asia published works in university publications such as Royal Purple and The Collegian. Her work can also be found in Jenifer Fennell’s Keep Living journal. A Night With Me is Asia’s first poetry chapbook.
You can follow Asia on Instagram @poetic.humm.
AN: Oh Asia, I am so honored to welcome you to the Flapper Press Poetry Café. I am curious to ask how you became interested in poetry?
AU: Hi, Annie. Thank you for your invitation to visit with you in the poetry café. To answer your question, I have always loved to write down my feelings. As a child growing up, it was hard for me to sometimes express what I was feeling, thoroughly. I always loved sketching people & places that felt safe to me, making handmade books and journaling my secret crushes as well as my deepest troubles. As I grew older, in high school the saga continued as I pursued being a part of the school newspaper and yearbook. In college, I studied print journalism and started writing poetry. I discovered my place in the writing world during my college years, being exposed to histories of injustice. I realized then that self-expression was not only a safe place for me but also a requirement for me to feel like I mattered. I started writing like crazy, showing only a handful of my work to those closest to me. My best friend, who has now passed, was the first person who encouraged me to be bold enough to share my work with others.
AN: I love names, and your name certainly caught my attention. Asia is the world's largest and most diverse continent. Not only is Asia Earth's largest continent but its youngest and structurally most complicated. How did your parents select this name for you?
AU: I am one of five daughters, all with common names (Jenifer, Jasmine, Ashley, Erika) and my parents randomly chose Asia for me. There are some people in my family who will tell it differently, but my mom says it was at random! I also go by the name "Print-cess Asia," with emphasis on "Print" because I am a writer.
AN: Speaking of names, I love the title of your poetry chapbook, A Night With Me. And your cover art is super cool. If I understand correctly, this is your own creation. Please share your artistic process for this piece used for your cover art.
AU: Thank you! These art pieces are all meant to express the raw, open, plain feel of the book. I discuss some pretty deep, serious, & dark topics. I wanted each piece to be raw and rough without perfection. I love how simple they look, because they simply express a feeling. I took these images, that I drew in a sketchbook, and replicated them digitally.
AN: I think this is a very clever process. To me, while these may appear simple, they also are complex and deep. So kuddos to you. I can give an example by what I mean by this, too: The physical head in your cover art piece almost looks like a rose to me. I love art as symbol that translates as metaphor when re-imagined as a poem. Is this intentional? Am I on the right path?
AU: Yes! The book cover art can be interpreted in a few ways. It is a depiction of this woman, which can be considered to be me in the darkness, but also as me being light . . . being a seed. And in her head/hair there are dark thoughts, but something is developing. She is a flower. She is blooming. Indeed, her mind is blossoming.
AN: Just as I thought, this simplicity encompasses complexity. Asia, I didn’t publish my first book until my 70s. You have already published yours while in your 20s, so you are way ahead of me. Know that I am super impressed. Tell me about your experience with the publishing world. Share what you enjoyed and what may have been difficult to navigate, too.
AU: What I have read from your book so far is AMAZING, Annie! Congratulations to you too! With publishing my book, I had a difficult time. My book is so small. Some of my poems are so small, and yet I've never worked on something that has consumed so much of my time and thoughts! I started out with an idea a couple years before I finally published. The majority of my time was research. There is no one way to publish a book correctly, I believe. I didn't have a ton of money to put towards making the book, let alone having someone else publish for me. I decided that I would research, take notes, figure out the best ways to publish but inevitably just put something out there.
I found myself in a black hole of space while putting the pieces together. I couldn't decide if I was editing for quality or to appease a certain audience. I had trouble with following all of my editor's advice. This book could have been perfected more or maybe less. I decided to let it be exactly what it was at some point on the journey. I wrote, illustrated, and published my first book by myself. I am grateful for the experience, although I would love to do things differently with my next book.
AN: Thank you, Asia. I had forgotten that we had swapped chapbooks. I love exchanging chapbooks with published poets. I wanted to share that our owner here at Flapper Press, Elizabeth Gracen, is always developing new and fresh ideas. I bet that reading this piece will be helpful as she develops new concepts for publishing in Flapper Press. This is what I love about working with her. So thank you for sharing your story, which I imagine a lot of writers will relate to.
AU: I am happy to share my experiences, especially when they help others.
AN: Asia, what aspirations do you have for future work?
AU: It has been a while since I’ve published, and I am working on selecting my next project. There could potentially be another poetry book, but I also have interest in fiction, anthologies, and cookbooks. And I am excited about what is to come!
AN: Since you are interested in writing, cooking, and cookbooks, I wanted to share that there is an amazing writers' place in Arkansas called The Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow, and it actually has a full indoor kitchen as well as an outdoor grill designed for those interested in compiling cookbooks. And they offer not only culinary residencies, but ones for fiction, non-fiction, technical writing, and poetry. You should check it out.
AU: Thank you, Annie.
AN: While poetry activities provide wonderful places to meet interesting people, we actually didn't meet through poetry. Our connection is through Mary Beth Gentry's organization, Young Woman on the Move, a not-for-profit in Kansas City. YWOM empowers teenage girls to become confidant leaders of tomorrow. Finding out that we both wrote poems was a bonus.
I think that your professional life is both intriguing and important, so share a little bit about when you came to YWOM, detailing how writing skills make you a good fit for your job and enhance your association with Young Women on the Move.
AU: In sixth grade, I became a member of YWOM (Young Women on the Move) up until a few years into high school. This program was really a place of peace and restoration for me during my hectic teenage years. I later interned for YWOM during a summer break while in college and another time right after school. In the beginning of 2022, I started working at YWOM for the first time.
I truly value the power of healing, and I believe it is our duty to heal ourselves. When we can take time to address our issues from an introspective standpoint, we can change the world. My work at YWOM allows me to do just that, little by little.
I don't know if I told you yet, but recently I was offered a new position in the organization, Middle School Coordinator. I can share more about what I hope to accomplish in that position if you'd like, Annie.
AN: Wonderful news on your promotion. And, yes, please share more about how your writing skills are important in your job.
AU: I’ve moderated journaling sessions at YWOM, which have led to really good, reflective conversations with the students, and I have absolutely enjoyed that. Role modeling is key to the work that I do. So, it is really important that as I help empower girls to lead healthy lives, I remember to stay on my own journey of healing as well. Writing has always been a great place for me to do healing work and to inspire others. You can find remnants of the little girl I used to be, similar to the girls I now mentor, in my writing. I hope my voice, that comes through in my writing, will help tell a story for those with voices that go unheard. This is very important to me personally and to the work that I do at YWOM.
AN: Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Asia. Now it is time for me to ask you to share three of your poems and their backstories.
AU: I am delighted to be here and to share my story and my poetry with your readers. Thank you for inviting me for this interview with the Flapper Press Poetry Café.
This poem is a reflection of what struggles with mental health might look like. A house, a mind, that is rotting away from storms it can’t control.
Rain trickles at the roof
Of an empty house.
Filling the walls that
Held a home once before.
It trickles through the roof
That’s been repaired
A thousand times.
You can’t stop the rain
And its undoing.
A thousand repairs
Can’t stop it from seeing through.
It may be the ruin of the home,
The Sun don’t shine long enough
This house is melting.
These walls are drowning.
And this rain
Is destroying my home.
This is poem of heavy, deep grief. Coming from my poetry book, this poem is one that speaks of great loss and emptiness. It exposes the rough sides of healing in an honest way.
In need of forgiveness
If I don’t want to Be close.
It’s harmful To know
That I could love something...
Someone, So much.
Only to one day have to part
So forgive me,
If i cannot accept love correctly.
I am trying to find the worth in feelings.
I am trying to understand