- Kate Asche began writing poetry at eight years old
- She attended Cal Poly and graduated with a B.A. in English
- Asche won the Academy of American Poetry Contest in 2003
- She graduated UC Davis with a Masters in Poetry Writing
On a shelf next to Kate Asche’s desk lies volumes of old journals filled with poems detailing the inner workings of her eight-year-old mind. Asche blows the dust off of one to read an example of one. While not one to reflect much on past work, the journals remind her of how far she has come in her writing.
Kate Asche graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in English in 2004. Her time as an undergraduate was spent in the creative writing program where she won many contests including the Academy of American Poets Contest. Since then, Asche has built up a writing community around herself as a workshop leader in the Sacramento area.
Asche’s poetry has come along way since she was eight years old. Her older poems functioned more as a life chronicle. Asche described the content as “kid stuff” and then “junior high crush stuff”.
She came across a book in high school that would change her poetry writing style forever. The book was filled with visual prompts and definitions of poetry techniques.
“That book marked when I started to become interested in poetry truly as an art form and something that could move beyond just a record of personal experience and be something of meaning to another person,” she said.
Asche continued her love of poetry at Cal Poly. She graduated with a degree in English in 2004. The year before that, she won the Academy of American Poets Contest with a poem she drafted in professor James Cushing’s English 388 class.
“Kidnapping Olympus”, her winning poem, was drafted using the “found word” poem technique. The poet makes use of nonsense words to focus more on the sound and rhythm of the poem.
“That was the first prompt that made me think of language as a raw material,” she said. “The way the prompt functions is that it disengages your rational mind in a way that you can’t control what the words are going to do because you don’t know what the words mean.”
Professor Kevin Clark also taught Asche and recognized her talent almost immediately.
“Kate had talent from the beginning. She had a very good frame of reference from which she could draw from,” Clark said. “She needed help in just polishing the rhythm of some of the language. The underlying conflict which all poetry needs was already there.”
Throughout her years at Cal Poly, Asche won several different poetry contests. Although each one was unique they all had four things in common:
1. The deadline forces the poet to finish the poem or abandon it.
2. Winning helps your confidence and can be added as an achievement in your biography.
3. Many prizes include a cash prize, even if it is only $50.
4. Even if you don’t win, you won’t die. Your skin gets a little thicker and you want it a little more.
Asche went on the complete her master’s in poetry writing at University of California, Davis. She expanded her knowledge by reading many diverse poems and learned about the sub-traditions within the larger literary movements.
“Of course, I wanted to write like every poem that I fell in love with,” Asche said. “I found my own voice sort of shattering actually and by the time I left the program at Davis I kind of didn’t know anymore what my voice was.”
Losing her style then has made her voice all the stronger in the present day.
“I am very articulate now about the styles I like to write in and the poetry that moves me the most,” she said. “I wouldn’t have that without that feeling of dismemberment initially that I came out of with the graduate program.”
Her style of poetry went through a metamorphosis and her writing process was no exception.
In 2009, Asche discovered the Amherst Writers and Artists method of generative writing. The method revolves around a group of poets drafting poems from one prompt.
“There is a very real creative energy share that happens,” she said. “There is something that happens when more than one creative mind comes together in a space to do creative work.”
Asche finds that her work quality and content is different when she writes in that environment.
“I find I write great stuff when someone brings in a prompt and it something unexpected and I can throw my imagination at it, it bounces off and it takes me to places I am not expecting,” she said.
Asche’s drafts come out stronger, more surprising and needing less revision.
Asche teaches five workshops year round in Sacramento and has yet to repeat a topic. Her strong resulting poems have compelled Asche to use the method in her own workshops.
“It makes me a better writer. It’s a super selfish answer, but I am so inspired by what the people come to my table write. I am jealous,” she said. “I love when I feel so connected to something that someone else wrote that I wish I had written it myself.”
Asche builds communities of writers through her workshops to work through the aches pains of writing.
“At the end of the day it is me and the page. You have to duke it out together,” she said. “It can be a very isolating endeavor. Any type of writing whether its creative, journalistic, or technical. It is you and the words and you have to figure it out.”
Asche can be inspired by images, feelings, happenings in her own life.
“I am sometimes inspired to write a poem. And more often, I wish to write even though I am not inspired,” she said.
Poems that come to visit Asche often have very similar messages or images.
“No matter what I try, there are certain themes, certain concerns that have always haunted my work and continue to,” she said.
Asche’s common themes:
- challenges of intimacy and desire
- the power and necessity of unexpected/inexplicable beauty
The language that Asche uses to describe her poems is very detached, while being passionate at the same time.
While from an outsider’s perspective Asche seems to have fully immersed herself in the world of creative writing, she has to work another unrelated job at UC Davis to make this happen.
Being realistic about finances is a necessary evil, taking time away from Asche’s dedicated creative writing time.
“I came to a place this year where I understood I had to totally change my life if I wanted to be productive in my writing,” she said. “I used to kind of wait for the perfect day to really concentrate. It kept not happening. Now I get up early and I write before work.”
One of those early morning poems that she is currently drafting is about drought, arsen, and the Doppler effect. Asche’s poetry abounds with such unexpected connections.
No matter what poetry Asche is writing, the community she has built through workshops around herself continues to support her.
One of her writing mentors in Sacramento, Jan Haag, affirmed the value of Asche as a teacher and poet.
“She is great to work with in a writing group because she always has encouraging things to say that are not at all false,” Haag said. “They are truly things that are working in people’s writing. She is one of our great writing cheerleaders.”
That cheerleading attitude circles back to Asche.
“Kate Asche is a poet to watch,” Haag said. “In 20 years her name will be well known certainly as a poet but also has a prose writer in the West.”