Bebe Ashley has quickly found a soft spot in our hearts at THP HQ with her book Gold Light Shining. She’s a self-professed Harry stan and her poetry is heavily inspired by his music and the wider pop culture world. When we got our hands on the book we all swooned at how beautiful her words are. That’s why we were over the moon when we sat down on a call with Miss Bebe herself!
Gold Light Shining is heavily inspired by music from Harry Styles, One Direction, the show Skam and what it’s like to be a fan. What are some of your favorite moments since you became a fan of these creative inspirations?
There are honestly so many! This book being published is obviously right up there because I love writing but I never believed I would have a book out in the world, and for it to be these poems, which were so fun to work on, is incredibly special.
Another favorite moment is from last year when I got a travel scholarship to visit CAMP: Notes on Fashion at The Met (because Harry hosted the Met Gala and I wanted to visit the exhibition for inspiration). I was in the final room surrounded by all these incredible outfits and just amazed that this was the kind of thing I could count as a research opportunity.
That trip, I was wearing a denim jacket painted with Harry on the back. It was one of the first pieces of fan-made merch I had bought and I always seem to travel in it. Somebody noticed my jacket and they stopped me in the exhibition because they loved Harry too. We talked for a while but it was moments like that, that even in New York, on the other side of the world where I didn’t know anybody, I could still find people to connect with.
When and what motivated you to start writing poetry?
I’ve always written as far back as I can remember. I don’t know exactly how I ended up writing poetry more than other forms, I think it’s because I don’t like punctuation? But it’s something that feels so natural to me and is a rewarding way to explore what language can do.
How did Gold Light Shining become a reality?
Banshee Press, which is run by three extraordinary women (Laura, Eimear, and Claire), is an indie Irish press that I’d known of since I moved to Belfast. They put out two issues a year of a literary journal and have just started publishing books too. Some of my poems were in Issue #9 of the journal and then just before Christmas last year they asked to see the manuscript I was working on.
I remember exactly where I was when I got the email, I was in a coffee shop, and it was very dark outside and nobody had ever asked for my work before so it was such a moment of validation, even if they didn’t want to take it. I also remember what day it was exactly because it was the release day of Fine Line so I really felt like the universe was backing me.
You’re currently studying a Ph.D. that specializes in British Sign Language and actively campaign about increasing people’s access to the arts. What inspired you to research in this field and what have some of your highlights been?
I want to qualify as a British Sign Language interpreter, so really I’m doing the Ph.D. because they fund my sign language classes and it gives me more time to get ready to interpret in the future. There is a real shortage of interpreters and it’s a language that I absolutely love working in. Sometimes the Ph.D. feels like it’s a bit of a detour but I’m really enjoying combining the creative and the critical fields. Although it can be really challenging lonely work, I get to spend the next few years developing my creative practice, and having that time is so rare so I feel very lucky that I can combine the two fields.
What would you tell someone who’s struggling to navigate the ups and downs of teenage life in 2020?
There is so much pressure to have your life sorted in your teenage years. I’m not really friends with anybody from my teens anymore. My best answer to this question is by stealing somebody else’s words. I think about this quote from Rebecca Solnit a lot and it’s so true of my experience:
Later in my twenties, I made friends who have lasted, and then some more, and then that sense of being on the far edge alone became a sense of being on the borderlands between various realms so that I began to have the pleasure of bringing ideas, projects, and people from one circle to another, and the lack and loneliness were gone.
As a writer do you have any tips for any budding writers who aspire to do what you’re doing?
I think you have to find something that you enjoy writing about because the actual writing is hard but once the things are written it can be even harder! You have to send work out, get random rejection emails for things that you’ve forgotten you’d submitted to, and stay resilient through it all. You know your work best because it’s yours. Nobody else is going to understand it in the same way so try not to worry so much and absolutely don’t compare your creative journey to anybody else’s.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, has anything helped push you through it to become creative again?
I’ve definitely had writer’s block! I’ve written so many poems over the years, and this year especially with the pandemic my creative world became very small and I had to really search for things happening in the really repetitive everyday life that could trigger a poem. I love using pop culture for inspiration so I might start a new show (currently binge-watching Black Monday) listen to a new album (Show Pony by Orville Peck) or read the arts news to learn about something I’ve never even heard of before (Vantablack).
As a fan writing poetry inspired by your faves, do you have any particular highlights of their career that really inspired your writings in particular?
I don’t know if I am inspired by career highlights as much as specific details or moments. I remember watching a periscope of the final show of Harry’s last tour at around 4 am in the morning. When he performed Kiwi for a third time in a row and everybody went wild, it was so fun to be a part of it, with the other thousands of people watching this very grainy stream. I wanted to capture that feeling so I wrote about it.
I’ve also been particularly inspired by Harry’s fashion. There are so many textures and really rich details to use. The Harris Reed Amsterdam 2018 pirate prince look is incredible. The single Gucci earring he wore to the Met Gala. All the flares. My biggest regret in life is that I’ve never seen Harry Styles live in a floral Gucci suit.
Do you have plans for any other such works in the future and are there any fandoms you’re a part of that you haven’t written about yet but wish to?
The whole thing with this book is that I wrote one Harry poem and I enjoyed it so much I didn’t stop. I had planned to write more with the tour and the Harryween show supposed to happen this year but since everything got pushed back I’ve not started anything yet. I’m sure I’ll always write about Harry.
I’m trying to think about the last thing I’ve written. I watched the Schitt’s Creek cast at the Emmy’s this year and as they kept winning that room was so full of love and encouragement and I really loved the writing on that show so I decided I wanted to write a Schitt’s Creek sequence. I ended up with this strange four-part thing that hinges on when David lip-syncs (Simply) The Best to Patrick and I had a lot of fun working on that. David does have some outstanding sweaters in that show also so who knows? Give me another year and maybe it’ll be my second collection!
Is there a particular poem in Gold Light Shining that is particularly special to you and if so, are you able to tell us why?
I feel like my favorite change all the time. ‘Cinnamon Honey Butter’ is one of my favorites because it’s a Harry poem, but not obviously a Harry poem because it’s set in a night market in Jordan. In my second year of living in Belfast, I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in a week-long cultural exchange with the University of Petra. It was my first time in the Middle-East and an incredible experience.
A really transformative moment on the trip happened during a campus tour. I was wearing a Harry Styles t-shirt, the first one I had ever bought, and one of our cultural partners pointed it out and said that they loved his album too. Our day-to-day lives had seemed so different at first but in reality, we were both fangirls. I think about that trip, and that poem a lot.
Are you dying to read Bebe Ashley’s gorgeous poetry? Looking forward to getting your hands on a copy? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us at @TheHoneyPOP! You can also catch up with us on Instagram and Facebook!
You can also check out some of our other fan written coverage here.
Featured Image: Via Belfast Telegraph