Poet Interview: Anna Lete
I’m so excited to introduce this hilarious, amazing, sweet friend of mine. She is one of the first Filipino poet’s I met through Instagram and became friends with while living here in PH. She is so smart, honest, raw, and incredibly talented…also insanely modest so I know she’s shaking her head at me hard core while reading this. Anyways, I’m so happy to do this interview with her so, here we go!
ReBecca: Did you always want to write?
Anna: Yes and no.
When I was a kid I really wanted to be in the army. I wanted to get into the Air Force. When my mom heard about it she was like, “NO!”
I had no idea what course to take in college. And I was really bad at math. So I took Media Production and convinced myself I wanted to be a director when I graduated. During this time though, I kept writing scripts and stories. And I don’t remember how it happened but Kat (@iridescenceofbeing) recruited me for the school paper and would bug me to write.
I guess I only realized that I wanted to write when I was out of college and writing scripts for my job that I was like, “Yeah, I wanna do this for the rest of my life.”
ReBecca: Wow! I never knew you wanted to go into the Air Force! I think it’s great that writing kind of found you!
R: How long have you been writing?
A: Since I was a kid.
R: What inspires you?
A: I don’t really believe in inspiration ‘cause it’s fleeting. It’s like if you wake up and a cup of coffee inspires you then good. But what if you wake up one day and don’t have that inspiring cup of coffee…What’s gonna push you to write? I believe in doing it day in and day out whether or not I’m inspired.
(Although. . My friends. My family. My three nieces and one nephew. My boyfriend. My cat. The Shits.)
R: Yes! I agree!
R: What are your fave topics to write about? Why?
A: Mental health. Pain. Loss. Grief. These are not really my favorite topics to write about but I always find myself drawn to these topics because I go through them every day.
Hope. I write about hope a lot and I find myself leaving little trails of hope in my work for myself…For others…Mainly because I need to remind myself that there’s a way out of this darkness.
R: How do you feel about your part about ending the stigma around mental illness in the Philippines?
A: I never really thought that I had a part in ending the stigma. When I started @annaxmania I just did it for me as some sort of journal about what I was going through.
It only really became real for me this year, when I was invited to do spoken word for an event about mental health and I was introduced as an advocate.
So my part in all of this? Hmm… Still to share hope through words and to let others know that we’re alone together.
R: I totally get what you mean. It’s crazy how we don’t mean to be a part of something but we’re led there. I think, for sure, you are a huge advocate and are helping end the stigma in more ways than you probably realize!
R: What would you say to other Filipino writers/artists who live with mental illness but are hesitant to speak out especially since the Philippines isn’t as open minded as other countries?
A: I’d like to think that the Philippines is actually becoming more open to the discussion about mental health. Heck, we were actually able to pass the Mental Health Law… Thanks to groups like Silakbo Ph, Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines and Youth for Mental Health Coalition Inc (there are more but these are the ones I’ve been following).
To those living with mental illness, speak out when you’re ready and we’ll be here to listen to your stories, to your cries in pain, to your shouts for change. There’s a whole community ready to welcome you with open arms.
R: Yes! The Philippines is definitely on their way to becoming more open and aware when it comes to discussions about mental health which is amazing! I adore what you have written here. Truly. I’m sure there are some people who really need to hear that.
R: What does your creative process look like?
A: It depends.
Magnetic Poetry: For the magnetic poetry, I first choose which set to use. Once I know what set, I have to sit down at a white table, dump the magnets on the table, and then some words just jump at me and then I create the poem…with Netflix playing in the background.
Blackout Poetry: For blackout poetry, I just skim the page and look for phrases or words that speak to me and then I build on those.
Prosetry: I usually do my prosetry late at night in spot at our patio at home. Usually, I’ll be drinking coffee (yeah at night!) and smoking.
R: Coffee always!!! Ha!
R: Laptop pen paper phone?
A: Magnets. Old books and a black marker. Phone.
R: Why magnets? What got you started with magnet poetry?
A: I think I was scrolling on Facebook when I saw @poetrymagnetsph. It was Christmas 2016. And I got some for myself and some for my friends. To be honest, I wanted a set because it looked cool.
By 2017, I was making little quotes with the magnets and Kat was already bugging me to share them on Instagram.
R: Kat is really such an amazing friend and cheerleader for you! I love that you have that kind of friendship.
R: What was the inspiration for blackout poetry project?
A: I was really broke a week before Valentine’s 2019. And I had just gotten into a relationship and was like, “WTF am I gonna give this guy?!” I found the cheapest book in the sale pile of National Book Store, bought cheap markers, and then just started making blackout poems.
R: Ha! What an amazing and funny story! I love it! You never know when you will discover new things and through what experiences..
R: What would you say is your most interesting quirk?
A: How do I explain this. I count the syllables when I do prosetry and make sure the sentences have a rhythm when read aloud. It might be because I have OCD too or ‘cause I’m just weird like that.
R: Writing a book? Tell us about it.
– Yellow by Penguin NYC
– Joyful Light by OMF
– Poetry and Praise Planner by OMF
– Please Forgive A Lifetime Of Yourself
– The Burden of Life
I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever write a legit book. But I’m pretty sure I’ll have more zines in the future.
R: Wow! You’re busy!! I love it! Though, I really do hope that you will write a book that is all yours one day!
R: How have your personal experiences shaped your poetry?
A: There are some writers who write and say that what they’ve written is just a figment of their imagination…Something that they were inspired to write but has nothing to do with them.
So let’s just say that everything I’ve ever written I’ve gone through and experienced. So when you read my words you’re basically reading who I am.
Does that make sense?!
R: That totally makes sense! I think mine is a mixture of a little of both. Most pieces are me and some are just..something else.
R: What does writing bring to you?
A: Writing keeps me busy. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me sane. It keeps me from killing myself. It keeps me here.
R: I feel you.
R: What are some of your passions outside writing/poetry?
A: Collecting art. I can’t draw or paint! So I just spend all my money collecting art. My favorite artist is @enondebelen and if I could buy all her work I would. I also have to stop myself from getting all of @luialcazaren’s works.
R: Speaking of collecting art… I loved seeing you at Art Mart in BGC, Taguig! You’ll be participating again right? When?
A: Nov 29-30
R: Would you recommend joining Art Mart to other Filipino artists and writers as a way to get their work seen more and also sell some?
A: Yes! Art Mart is amazing. You get to sell your art, but more than that you get to meet so many other artists in the community. And the support and encouragement they provide is always just overwhelming.
R: Where can people buy your art?
A: Art Mart. Or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
R: Any tips for new writers?
A: Be real. Do it raw. Speak your truth.
R: What do you think about the insta community?
A: It’s crazy!
R: Haha! It definitely can be!
R: How did you get started on Instagram?
A: Kat forced me to!
I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2016 and that was a really rough time. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know what to tell my friends. I didn’t know who to talk to. But I knew I had to find a way to express what I was going through and that was when Kat was like, “Write about it! Open an Instagram account!” So I did.
R: I’m so happy that you did! Your account, although made for yourself, has made so many people feel less alone and that’s so amazing!
R: Do you believe in writer’s block?
R: Favorite book?
A: A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
R: Favorite author?
A: Cynthia Voigt
R: A book that made you cry?
R: What is your mission?
A: To remind people that we are… Alone. Together.
Thank you so much Anna! I am so happy that we got to do this and I hope we can sit down for a coffee together soon! If you guys want to see more from Anna, you can find her on Instagram, here, here, and curating here. If you are Filipino or happen to just live in the Philippines, you can also find her at Art Mart in Taguig, BGC soon! Make sure you stop by because there are so many beautiful things to check out!