sharing & ritual || a conversation with poet piper carafa-olson
“and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” anais nin
piper carafa-olson is a seattle based poet and co-operator of tides, an amazing new zine that provides a space for self-identified women of all ages and backgrounds to share written and visual exploration of their wild nature. tsii made is releasing a chapbook of piper's poems, ripples, a collection of poems that flow through themes of death, loss, growth, womanhood, sensuality, love, and self. I met up with piper at her mother’s home in santa monica and asked her a few questions about the project and her writing process.
G: when did you write the poems for ripples?
P: I wrote them all in the last two years. some of them I wrote before my dad died, and some of them I wrote after. most of them are after, but the ones that are more about coming into myself as a woman -- "I am the one consoling," "and, then," "playing chess," and "a night's thought" -- are from before. his death wasn't what brought me to start exploring my womanhood more, but it was a really sensational time for me, like, what and how do we feel what we feel? how do we learn to respect that. listen to that. learn from it. I’ve settled into myself a lot since; into my body, my personal relationships, myself as a woman and what that means; exploring feeling and intuition.
G: what did the writing process look like for you? did you write at a certain time of day? was it scattered or focused?
P: I write in the morning. I’ll kind of play around later in the day, but it’s usually revisiting things I wrote in the morning, adding new ideas, messing around with it a little bit. but the morning time is my writing time.
G: when did you realize that you wanted to share these poems? did you always plan on sharing them?
P: writing isn’t really new for me -- I always written notes, daily thoughts, creative ideas, but not what I would have ever called poetry. about two years ago I started writing more creatively and playing around more with these poems. but the idea that it was something I could share was very very new to me. I had no intention of sharing it initially. but the idea of sharing came about because I had told you that I was writing a lot and you said something like, "hey, why don't we share?" so maybe there was a deeper knowledge that one day I might want to share my work, but this was so new to me. I'm trying to embrace the things that are terrifying and unknown and it was one of those things. I was like, "shit, I guess I gotta say yes." to be honest, after my dad died I did have this realization that I wanted to be a YES woman. it was like, you know what, why not? why not share. keeping things to yourself, it didn't feel like there was any use for that in my life any more and the next step was just to share it. it's funny how things like that bump into the next step along the way. I don't know if I would have been able to start tides if I hadn't decided to open up with ripples. soon after I met someone who wanted to start a zine with me, and I had the willingness to say yes. it brought me so many great things -- a community, so many great women in my life.
G: there is a lot of personal growth woven into these poems. do you feel that that was a reflection on what was already taking place, or do you feel like the writing of the poems worked as a part of the growth process?
P: I've always written because I need it. I write out of necessity, I don't write from luxury or leisure. it's necessary for my growth. but I think that my answer is both, I think they aren’t mutually exclusive. there’s a processing that happens, being able to give something a name or to put words to it, I think it kind of roots it. in my process of healing, it wasn’t only through writing that I began to process death and loss and a love that’s now gone in the way I knew it, but it does help to be able to give something a name and to put words to it as best as you can. I don’t know, to say it out loud.
G: what sorts of daily rituals do you have, for writing or otherwise?
P: lately my daily rituals involve yoga or dance. there's a lot of movement in my life right now. I do have a fascination with how our bodies hold what we know, and how we can tap into that. I've been quite into the idea of the intuitive knowledge, and the non-rational, you know those old sayings like "trust your gut" and "it feels right" and playing with that through movement. dancing especially has been such a source of joy for me lately. its explorative, it's very playful and I love that.
I also have pretty strong rituals around cooking. I work in a restaurant so I can't cook all my meals because I'm at work for most people's meal times, but I like to have at least one meal a day that is home-cooked and I sit down to it and I take my time. lately going into that is learning how to grow my own food, so I'm starting a garden. I recently harvested my own batch of shiitake mushrooms that I'm going to cook with my family today.
in regards to rituals around writing, I'll go through periods of time in which I don't write. it's very cyclical. it's not like these periods last a long time, but there could be two or three weeks where I don't write. then there are periods of time like now where every morning I set aside an hour where I just write. it's not too structured, it's more of a ritual. my curtains are drawn, I have my cup of coffee, and I just sit down to write. I usually have no idea what I'm going to write, it's like going to a therapy session where you have no idea what you're going to talk about, it just sort of comes along.
G: I definitely relate about the cyclical quality of writing. sometimes I go for months without writing a song or a poem. it's almost like the menstruation of writing.
P: it's totally like the menstruation of writing. it's not that I'm devoid of feeling or inspiration, it's like those things are coming and I'm processing them and it's almost like the ovulation period.
when I think about it, daily rituals and all, I find that I am quite ritualistic. I even started what I'm calling a habit tracker, where every night I have this list of things that I go through, in a little notebook, and I ask myself things like did I spend time gardening, did I smoke a cigarette, did I get eight hours of sleep, did I pick my fingernails. it's cool to reflect on the little things, and to see how it becomes a broader question of "how was I today? did I do the things that bring me joy? how did I interact in the world today? it's like taking stock or something.
G: what does the title ripples mean to you?
P: for one, the symbol of water in my life is very strong. I’ve always been attracted to water, whether it's the ocean, bathtub, or the pool. secondly, considering that I wrote this after I lost my dad, ripples, the ripples of him and what he taught me, and patterns of loving and love and how I knew him and losing him and all of that, how death kind of rippled out, and what happened after it. no one thing is singular at all. the effect we have on each other and action and reaction and things like that, there’s this rippling quality to the movement of life, the cyclical nature of life. also my dad loved the song "ripple" by the grateful dead and he and I played a lot of music growing up –- he played guitar and I sang -– and this was one of our songs.
G: what artists are you exploring these days?
P: right now I’m reading audrey lord's sister outsider and it is amazing and completely reshaping the way that I think. she discusses the use of poetry in a woman’s life, and our sense of deep power and how we use that. how we know what we know, from a non-rational standpoint, how we learn to trust that knowledge, that you can’t name or quantify, but it feels true to you. she’s not at all discrediting rationality or anything, but she’s finding integration between the two. there’s something in my leaving school this month where I knew I needed to do it for myself. I’m seeking joy and authenticity in my life and I needed to leave the program I was in. I didn’t have an alternative or something that I was going to do instead, so that feels like shaky ground, but I knew I needed to do it.
maggie nelson also, one of my favorite writers. anais nin is always an influence.
G: what else are you excited about right now?
P: I’m excited about tides. another thing I’m really excited about is that this is the first season in my entire life where I’m attempting to produce the food that I eat, which is a really exciting and fulfilling idea to me. also just playing in the yard and on a daily basis having my hands dirty and watching life grow is really exciting and fun. I’m excited about the mushrooms I just harvested. I’m excited about this space that I created in my life which I don’t have a clear idea yet as to how I’m going to fill it and just that idea that I’ve kind of opened up space in my life that I think I’m going to fill in ways that are deeply satisfying and fulfilling for me, and really trusting myself in that process. I’d like to be singing more often, that brings me immense amounts of joy. I’m not a songwriter, and I don’t play other instruments, but singing is just a way of using my body that is really exciting and I have no idea, I have no things on the line right now but that’s exciting, knowing that I want to do that again. I’m excited about the fact that it’s spring and I’m going to cut all of my hair off really soon I’m really excited about doing that.
G: WHAT really!
yeah! like at least shoulder length. I’ve done the long hair thing now and I want to shed some weight. I think I’ve used my hair to make me feel like a woman. I’m not doing it quite yet, because I’m still nervous, but in the next few months.
G: I was talking recently with someone about how long hair carries all the different pain and growth and experiences of the years that it's been with you.
P: that’s what my friend told me too. she was saying that your hair holds memory, that its an extension of all you’ve been through in all those years. it's very symbolic to cut it all off. lighten the load.
G: you know I’ve been there. are you writing anything new right now?
G: is it more of your older note-taking style, or is it something you plan to share?
P: oh, definitely sharable stuff. but that is still a process for me. I write things to get them down and out and put them out there, and then I write variations. part of it is still that sacred “mine,” what I keep to myself. and that might take shape and form into something else that I do then share, and both versions might be about the same sorts of things, but there is always a version of something that I keep to myself. and then with tides, it’s more thematic because each volume has an issue/topic. right now it’s sensations, so i’ve been writing a lot about that. and it’s fun to have a theme like that because I’ll write tons and tons and tons on this theme that is important to me and then I’ll submit one thing.
G: tell me little bit about tides.
P: molly payne started it. she started it as a solo thing called wild words, and then she did one issue that was wild words. and then we were both out one friday night and we ran into each other. it was a funk concert and it was really loud so we were practically screaming into each other’s faces while we talked. I had bought a copy of wild words and was just telling her about how cool I thought it was, and she somehow knew that I was doing writing, and we got to chatting about our shared interest and our shared hope to build a community in that way, and to be create a space for women to share these parts of themselves. and she asked if I wanted to help her out and do it. we decided on a name change -- the wild words and tides “mission statement” is the same, which is about creating a space of exploration for women to share and have their voices be heard. now it’s three of us, me, molly, and kristen albrecht. we put everything together, we put out calls for submissions. because it’s new, everyone who has submitted has been included.
for our first volume we did a launch party where we talked about the themes from volume one, about fire and rituals. we more wanted to create a space for everyone to talk, to have a casual, yet intentional space to has out some important things in our lives. it was awesome because both men and women came. the intention is to have these events grow. we are planning to add music, poetry readings, and we'll always have discussions and snacks and some wine. that's a really big part of what the space that tides can take in my life and in the community is -- exploring similarities and difference and creating conversation and community.
G: thank you so much for answering some questions. I had a lot of fun talking about all of this with you.
P: I had fun too. at first I was nervous. when you're in that between place of trusting yourself, and wondering if what you've made is worth anything at all, it's hard to do an interview because it makes it so real. there's part of me, the scared kid inside, that was like, no fucking way don't do it.
G: there's a lot of vulnerability when you let someone ask you questions about something that was already made from such an open and vulnerable place.
P: yeah -- you ask yourself, what will this look like to the outside world? that's what happens with sharing. you give it up, pretty much. you say it in the way you know how to say it, but everyone takes it however they take it.
thank you for reading. you can find your copy of ripples in the shop.