Featured Writer Ray Onativia

Ray Onativia
Article by Larkn0298

Too often talent is hidden like the stars on a cloudy night. But fortunately the light of Ray Onativia is bright enough to break the darkness.

The heart of the city beats in the 39-year-old New York City native. His poetry is rich with emotion, imagery, and a call for social change. He shines a light on violence, depression, alcohol use, and other dark issues in a way that inspires and feeds the soul.

He has just started to break out of his shell and share his inspiring work with the world at large. Though his writing has only appeared on his blog, and he began posting in April, it is filled with poetry worthy of a read.

Ray has delved into writing short stories and essays in the past, but he has truly discovered his voice in poetry. His use of rhythm and word play is indicative of his song writer’s ear.

You can see the influence of his heroes John Lennon and Bob Dylan as he comments on the devastation of the weakening economy in “Down on the Street” and calls for equal rights in “Love Protest.” He composes with a heart that despairs knowing how much potential we hold, and how we as a society often fail to live up to it.

Ray’s writing reflects the complicated man underneath. The soul who has known too many nights at bars, loved fiercely and lost it, and finds joy in his four daughters. His words crack open his world for us – like in his poem “Sometimes” where he writes:

“sometimes, I'm the key
sometimes, I'm the lock
sometimes, I'm the door that if
the magic word's right, I open up.”

Luckily, it turns out sometimes the magic word is a simple “Please.” He graciously agreed to share his thoughts on writing and life in general. He wanted to rock the world as a kid. Now, through his poetry, he does. Enjoy his reflections, and please seek out his work.


When did you realize you needed to write?
When I was 13 years old. I started writing stories and became passionate with classic novels and poetry.

By the time I was 16 years old, I was writing poetry and writing song lyrics.

Your poetry often goes beyond the usual poetic staple of love and has a message of societal critique, even political commentary. Can you talk about why this is a focus?
Folk music is a big influence in my work. Love Protest was about the fight for gay marriage rights and that took me some time to finish. I would love to write more societal/politically driven poetry, but I don’t feel qualified to do so.

You also tackle dark issues like depression, drinking, drugs, violence. What does this focus on the dark offer you/your writing?
I write mostly about what I know about. I’ve gone through bouts of depression and drinking and violence…thankfully, I’ve stayed away from drugs and the violence has been limited to hurting myself rather than hurting others.

It offers me the opportunity to unload. Some of my pieces have been written while drinking my 12th beer and my 5th shot of Jack Daniel’s of the night. I don’t know if you could tell which ones, but often times I’ve awoken from a stupor to find a piece of rolled up paper in my pocket with a poem written on it.

What is your spiritual path (if any) and how does it affect your writing?
I don’t really have one. I struggle between peace and being a Hellraiser, really. I guess whichever route I take that gives me the best writing results is the path. I’m not sure if I’ve settled on one or the other.

What are the top moments in your writing career so far?
When I got off my butt and put my stuff out there for all to read. Before that, it was all tucked away in file cabinets in my garage and in a folder on my desktop.

I’m also happy that my readers are commenting on what they’re reading.

I’m getting the readers to think. This is huge for me.

What is your writing process?
It varies. Sometimes, inspiration hits me and I jot it down wherever I am on my blackberry.

Sometimes, I’m at work and I jot it down in a tiny memo book or my marble notebook.

If I’m home and it happens, I type it immediately on my computer. Sometimes, it just clicks right away I begin writing it on Blogspot and immediately post it.

How has your writing style changed over the years?
It’s become more full of imagery. I also used to hold back a bit, but now I feel like I have nothing to lose so my work is more honest.

What is your advice for aspiring writers trying to get their work noticed?
Social sites like Twitter and Facebook have helped me connect with other writers and have given me the inspiration to post my poetry for all to see.

I found that as I connect with others on Twitter and Facebook, I have gotten more readers and my blog has gotten more views.

I have posted on other poetry websites too and have gotten positive results from them, but I don’t do it that often.

What writers do you admire?
I love all the Beat Poets. I love Rimbaud and Dylan Thomas as well. I’m also a big Hemingway guy. I read a lot of biographies these days and I haven’t read a recent work of fiction in quite some time.

What poem or novel do you wish you’d written?
I never wish that I had written anyone else’s work. I read poems or novels and maybe wish that my mind worked the same way as the writer, but I don’t lament about it. Once it is written, it’s out there and it’s not mine beyond my emotion reaction to the piece.


You spend a lot of time on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. What has this meant for your writing?
It has made me more adventurous in what I write. My work has an audience that has grown and grown. I’m blown away that people are reading my poetry and enjoying them. I’ve had some great feedback that helps me see my poetry in a different light.

What are some of your favorite experiences you’ve had interacting with your readers?
Some of my readers have written to me and have told me that they are moved by some of my poetry. Some have said that they have experienced the same things that I have written about.

One person has told me that I have become an inspiration to him with regards to his poetry. All of this blows my mind! I am just happy that the poetry is out there and is being read.

What is something about you that people might not expect if they just know you from online tweets and Facebook updates and got to meet you in person?
I am extremely shy. I’m the guy that sits in the corner at parties just looking around at the others having fun. It’s just me. It takes me awhile to loosen up.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A baseball player/movie director/author/poet.

I wanted to rock the world. I still do, to some extent.

Who were your childhood heroes?
When I was a kid, I loved Superman, John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned that Dylan and Lennon were influential to my works and that Superman didn’t exist. My real hero in retrospect was my mom, who died at a very young age and gave up her dreams and aspirations so that I could succeed.

What one word would you use to describe yourself?
Troubled.  I have never felt comfortable in this time. I have always felt as if I belonged in the past somewhere. It is the source of my binge drinking, my depression, and some of my dark poetry.

How would you like to be remembered?
Inspirational. I can die broke and only be read by a handful of people, but if I inspired the handful, then I’ve done what I set out to accomplish.

If you could change one thing about your past what would that be?
The years I spent drunk at a bar. I got my best work out of it and met interesting people and made new friends, but I also lost my girlfriend of 19 years in the process.

If you could try any profession, other than your own, what would you like to try?
I would love to own my own club or bar.  There is something about that lifestyle that intrigues me.

If you could live in any other time, when would that be?
I would have loved to live in the 30s or 40s.  I would have been a maverick though, a definite pain in the ass.

What question do you not get asked in interviews, that you wish people would ask? And what is your answer?
What took me so long to get out there with my poetry?

The answer would be that this is the right time. My work is honest. I’m not afraid to open myself up like I was when I was younger and I’m not crushed when someone doesn’t like the stuff. It happens.

When I was younger, the goal was to satisfy EVERYONE. That’s impossible. Now the goal is to get my feelings out and hope I get an emotion out of the readers.

Connect with Ray here:
Blog: http://onativia.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rayonativia
Twitter: http://twitter.com/RayOnativia

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