Alumni Poet Spotlight: Ashley Inguanta ’09 ’11MFA

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April is National Poetry Month! National Poetry Month was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this annual celebration.

Throughout the month of April, we will be spotlighting a few of our UCF alumni poets! Meet Ashley Inguanta ’09 ’11MFA :

Tell us a little about yourself!

Maybe a good place to begin is here: I am pretty shy! Or rather, I have become pretty shy over the years. I’m not new to interviews, but this one feels like it’s my first interview. Thank you so much for highlighting my poetry. It means a lot to me.

I am primarily a nature poet, but I wasn’t always. I used to write mainly about the people I’ve loved, and I still do that, but I hold hands with nature along the way (we are also a part of nature), and I hold hands with God, who is forever forgiving, encouraging, loving.

In December of 2020, I launched my first “teaching” book, Poet, There’s a Spark within You: A guide to feeling your inner light and creating embodied nature poetry. I place “teaching” in quotation marks because I like to think of myself as a student who shares what she’s learned. There are many ways we can be teachers.

In June of 2020, I released a chapbook of simple nature poetry, or as one kind writer put it, a gratitude prayer. This book is called The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 12. I had strong spiritual questions, and I went to poetry to find answers, to explore, to comfort myself, to seek.

What do you love the most about writing poetry?

I love that, for me, poetry is a feelings-based practice. It’s a place where I can explore unconditioned qualities of the heart—compassion, goodwill, joy, equanimity—and help myself heal through feeling. In turn, I hope to help others do the same.

What’s your writing process? What inspires your writing?

Right now, I am writing with a group of women on Zoom, which is helping me generate new poetry and lyrical essays. I enjoy writing on paper, even if I am bonding with others online. My writing process relies a lot on paying attention to the heart, using yogic and Buddhist techniques, as well as the teachings of Jesus, to help my art emerge.

What was a class or club at UCF that helped you grow as a writer?

I’ll never forget when I couldn’t meet the page count for my Master’s thesis, which was a hybrid collection of primarily fiction, but the book did include poetry and nonfictional elements.

I am a pretty brief writer—not a minimalist, but I tend to write smaller pieces—and I just couldn’t write something genuine to meet the page count. I was trying too hard. My thesis director, Susan Hubbard, told me to write anything I wanted, and not to worry.

Her advice helped me release so much tension within myself, and I wrote “Just A Bunch of Muse Girls Hanging Out in the Desert,” a poem that was long enough to complete my thesis. When that tension inside of me released, the poem could come out.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Even though Virginia Woolf is technically a fiction writer, her words touch like poetry to me. I also adore Mary Oliver, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, Adrienne Rich, Jewel Kilcher, Thomas Merton, Francesca Lia Block, and a lovely poet named Joan Heney, who I became friends with this year.

What else?! What are you currently working on right now?

I decided to continue my guidebook, Poet, There’s a Spark Within You, through a Substack newsletter, which has the same title. I love supporting others as they deepen their spirituality, their connection to the unconditioned qualities of the heart.

In this newsletter, as well as in the guidebook, one way we do this is by developing a healthy connection to nature, a partnership with nature.

Where can we find your work?

I have a lyrical essay, which to me can be a type of poem, forthcoming in Saw Palm on April 2nd. This piece is about the poet who wrote Florida’s body.

I recently published a more traditional poem with Autofocus Lit, and it’s about loneliness during Covid times.

Atticus Review published another one of my lyrical essay/poetry hybrid pieces, “A Map of Sheltered Darkness,” which is about pain and healing.

If you are interested in taking home my new books, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field, and Poet, There’s A Spark Within You: A guide to feeling your inner light and creating embodied nature poetry, they are available worldwide. Go to my website,, to learn how to buy them.

You can also follow me on Instagram (@ashleyinguanta). I post poems there often.

Watch a video of Ashley Inguanta reading her poetry at the Timucua Arts White House in 2018.

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UCF Alumni Book Club

You can find more alumni author poets on the UCF Alumni Book Club website and browse listings for over 75 alumni authors. If you’ve published a book, let us know!

Once a semester, the book club selects a book written by an alumni author to read and discuss. Learn more about the book club and how to join!

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