Amazing Asians in the Arts: Calista Ogburn
Calista Ogburn is a Korean and Vietnamese American writer based in Maryland. She is a college student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and has studied at International high schools overseas, which has given her a global perspective. She reaches her readers by sharing her feelings and experiences through poetry. She has published two books on Amazon and has been featured in HopeWorks, Turnaround, and much more. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Calista an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Calista Ogburn
Heritage: Korean-Vietnamese American
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam/ Maryland, USA (don’t have a set hometown – see below for why!)
Current City: Maryland, USA
Current Project: “this is it” poetry book
What are some of your favorite credits/projects? “this is it” poetry book
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I am a Third Culture Kid! I moved every 3 years between Vietnam, Korea, and Maryland. I don't really call one place my "home." It was exhausting but beautiful simultaneously. I got to see so much and experience a rollercoaster of life. I learned the beauty of being uncomfortable and being able to adapt to new environments.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
I believe in the beauty of confidence! For years, I was afraid to share my poetry outside of the circle of my family and friends but I learned the importance of being confident in my own work. Therefore, whatever you put your mind to - embrace it. Learning to not be ashamed of your goals or your cultural identity is so important. Not only does it increase your overall mindset but it creates a space in your head to be proud of what you've accomplished or who you are.
How did you get your start?
I moved from Vietnam to South Korea my Sophomore year of high school. I started writing poetry to express the struggles I was going through at the time. Ever since, poetry has been my best friend and lets me write every single thought or experience I've had. Poetry can never leave me and it's supportive of me despite wherever I am and who I am.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Writer's block always seems to interrupt me in my life. It comes when it pleases and leaves when it is ready. It's frustrating but encourages me to break out of it when needed. I've recently learned how to push myself to write even when I don't want to. To me it feels like riding a bike. When I was younger, I would ride my bike for months and then suddenly never want to ride it anymore. Almost felt like I had forgotten how to. Doubted myself, got scared, and didn't want to go near the bike. One day, however, I pick up the bike and start to ride. I even ask myself why I doubted myself in the first place. How come I never rode the bike? Why did I stop again?
That bike riding situation is similar to a writer's block. I'll doubt myself and ask why do I even write poetry? Am I even that good? How did I write so many poems in the past? And then one day -- I am writing for hours and hours about my tree in the front yard.
Writing poetry can be confusing and a challenge -- but it is so beautiful to go on that journey from start to finish.
What is your process for writing?
In particular, for the book "this is it," I wrote poems for about a month and a half. It was exhausting. I wanted to write as many poems as I could and publish the book before the possibility of the hate crimes not being relevant anymore (sad, but true). I wrote 4 poems a week and It was difficult to put myself through all of those emotions again (fear, anger, anxiety). It was draining. But I knew I had to write. Writing was extremely therapeutic for me - it became more than just poetry. It was my best friend. Every time I wrote a poem, I felt as if I was talking for hours on a call with a best friend. It was comforting.
What do you love most about what you do?
The random moments of inspiration that come to me! I could be at a supermarket, having a conversation with a friend, etc. Those moments come to me in flashes -- I see words pop up in my head and I have to immediately write them down. The best part is going back into my notes and seeing a flood of ideas. Writing poetry is more than just an art -- it is where I transcend myself into the words. I am fully immersed into the poem and it's an experience.
an asian poem is the first thing you run to during a pandemic
if these words were to fill the void
of the lost blood
and frightened children,
this poem are the souls of those who
were too scared to speak up
“go back to where you came from” cuts our throats
leaves us in an alley
where does the flashlight guide
if we no longer want to go home
the world consumed us
and threw us up on the ground
with our bodies limp,
our souls soared into the sky
and begged for the hands of others
yet, we were left there,
To find out more about Calista, please visit her at: