Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing A.J Loksley about their collection of 13 poems entitled ‘Deep Down Inside Yourself: Listen To Your Voice’. Their poems have really struck me and I have used some of them during my retreats and mindfulness courses as they resonate so much. The interview took place through emails back and forth as A.J wishes to remain private and therefore didn’t want to meet face to face through Zoom which is explained throughout the questions. ‘Deep Down Inside Yourself: Listen to your voice’ is available for 99p from Amazon in the Kindle format as A.J decided to self-publish and make them affordable for as many people as they could. I have to admit that the interview went in an unexpected direction and I am grateful to A.J for being so open and honest and answering the questions in detail. Let’s meet A.J.
What made you want to publish your poems?
AJL: I nearly didn’t to be honest. Poetry has been important to me over the years, probably since I was a young child and it has been my release in the most helpful way. I wrote these poems during the start of lockdown which I thought would remain just for me like all the others and then something shifted. I started to think about others like me who could be struggling through lockdown and wanted to give them hope, either through my poems or in showing how creativity could help us in these times.
Who is the book aimed at?
AJ: Anyone who enjoys poetry really. It was important for me that the poems stand in their own right so I didn’t want to include any information about myself in an introduction or any other part so I simply published the 13 poems. There are poems which cover many aspects of life and I didn’t want to prevent readers from enjoying them if they were put off by any personal information about the poet. These poems like all poetry should be able to stand by themselves and speak for themselves.
Is this why you wanted to stay private and conduct the interview via email rather than Zoom and haven’t supplied any photos of yourself?
AJ: Yes. Privacy is very important to me and for a while I just wanted the poems to exist for all to enjoy without having my personal information linked to them that would change people’s view of them. I identify as pansexual and non-binary which I didn’t want to influence the reader’s views. There is nothing about my identity that I’m not happy or not proud of and I don’t wish to give the wrong impression in staying private so I decided to share that in interviews. It’s important for all to be happy with themselves and I write about that in the poems and the great gift of being able to hear and accept ourselves. At the end of the day, it is my business, however I was in conversation the other day with LGBTQ+ young people and I realised how the LGBTQ+ community still needs strong role models to lead their lives fully accepting of themselves so that we can set that example for others.
So, would you like me to advertise this interview and your book under the terms you have mentioned above?
AJ: Yes, they are maybe the main details aren’t they to help others and if I keep the others private then there is less conversation or questions. For me, being known as the poet isn’t necessary and I wish to live my life that way but I am proud of that and even prouder of the acceptance I have found. So yes, I’m a LGBTQ+ poet who identifies as pansexual and non-binary and am very happy in the life I’ve found and made.
I was wondering if Mindfulness or Meditation plays a part in your acceptance of your identity as many of the poems certainly make me think of Mindfulness as they remind me to take time to notice my life?
AJ: There is definitely something at play isn’t there. The stage I was at when writing the poems is no doubt reflective of me finding my way back to some sort of practice again which was prompted by lockdown and not feeling as free as I have done for years. I felt a loss of control which I really struggled with so yes, I guess I did revert back to the coping mechanisms I had when I first felt the same lack of control around my sexuality and gender identity.
I wanted to truly consider this question so it is important for the reader of this interview to know that I have come back to this question after some time as I was aware I hadn’t answered the first part of the question about whether practice, mindful or otherwise was involved in my acceptance.
Acceptance was a slow and long process for me as I didn’t necessarily have that support around me which would encourage me to be open or to even be able to investigate who I really was. That’s something we all need really isn’t it, that freedom to truly find out who we are without judgement from others or even ourselves. Looking back, techniques did help me with acceptance and becoming aware of who I was and who I wanted to be, who I wanted to love and be loved by and how I wanted to present myself and walk through this world. The techniques could be called mindfulness, meditation and even prayer or seeking for something better and wanting more for others as well as myself. Through hurting and coming close to ending my life, I knew to go forward I had to go forward truly authentically and working through pain and dealing with every part of that and myself I have gone forward and am more content with my life.
To fully accept yourself is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and through silence and hearing myself, my needs and my wants, I was fortunate to find my way. Fortunate, yes but it also took a lot of hard work and maybe that is what can be seen in the poetry. I do believe everybody regardless of their sexuality or identity can benefit from some sort of breathing practice and to be able to sit with themselves and move further and further towards acceptance of their whole selves.
Where can people get a copy of your poems?
AJ: I have self-published it as a Kindle book on Amazon for only 99p so that it is available for many people no matter what their financial situation may be. The poems may help others and if they prompt the readers to have a go at expressing themselves some way then even better.
Any other thoughts?
AJ: I would like to thank all of those who have been part of my journey to here, through my struggles and into this time of contentment and acceptance and those who will read the poems and find something in them. Alison, I don’t know if you will print this but I would like to also thank you for reaching out and also being respectful of my wishes the whole way through as that is such an important aspect of LGBTQ+ life, to be respected and accepted.