EYE BELIEVE IN YOU: Interview with poet & Occulum founder, Arielle Tipa

by Vanessa Maki

"..what makes religion different from a cult? What makes people want to submit to a literary journal? Think about it. It’s being a part of something and seeing yourself immortalized or the promise of eternal life." -Arielle Tipa

First I’d like to say congrats on the continued success with Occulum. What made you want to start your own lit journal? What has your editorial process been like?

Thank you! The journal really began as a side-project after I started easing my way back into writing again. I was also struggling with unemployment then, so editing and running the journal really kept me occupied in a very positive way. As far as my editorial process, it’s gotten a lot more meticulous with every issue. Since the submission influx has become so overwhelming with amazing work, it has gotten more difficult yet exciting at the same time. I love hearing back from people who send in amazing work and seeing how happy they are, which is a huge reason why I want to work in publishing some day - I want to make dreams come true, as cheesy as that sounds.

How does it feel to be the founder/editor of a highly popular lit journal?

Kind of surreal, to say the least. All of the positive press and social media exposure is huge (thank you, Roxane Gay).

Occulum has a very mystical, occult feel— what drew you to the esoteric imagery and vibe of the press?

Well, I grew up Catholic, and like any other major religion (or cult), it involves ritual and initiation in some way, shape or form. Since starting high school, I became disenchanted with the whole herd psychology of religion and faith. Yet that’s still a subject I like to come back to and draw upon: what makes religion different from a cult? What makes people want to submit to a literary journal? Think about it. It’s being a part of something and seeing yourself immortalized or the promise of eternal life. Yeah, I’m getting really deep now. But writing is really exposing your soul and immortalizing yourself in more ways than none. Submitting your work I believe is a form of soul-exchange. Overall, I wanted to create a journal that really drew on these subjects and aesthetics.

Did you have any editing experience prior to starting the journal?

Yes. Since I studied both journalism and literature in college, I feel like I’ve gotten really good exposure within different spectrum's of the editorial process.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start a journal of their own? 

Take your time. Seriously. Ask for advice, experiment with different themes, and of course, take positive and inclusive examples from other journals.

Who is one emerging writer that you’re excited about?

Oh, I have so many in mind. Kind of unfair to pick one, in my opinion, but I absolutely adore and look up to Logan February, Emily Corwin, Miggy Angel, Ashley Miranda, Lisa Marie Basile, Rebecca Foust, Jason Harris, and of course, Angelo Colavita, my lovely publisher.

What inspires you to write poems such as “index of rarely seen flowers pt. II” ?

My poetry is heavily inspired by nature, obviously. But I tend to expand more on bodies in relation to nature, and vice versa. I’m a mess when trying to explain the inspiration behind my work, but I like to use the term “bioeroticism” because of the personal issues surrounding my relationships with bodies, trauma, and desire.

Which songs or artists have you been listening to lately? Whether for inspiration or otherwise. I gravitate the most towards songs by Imogen Heap, Moses Sumney, Patrick Wolf, Solange, Fever Ray, Chelsea Wolfe, IAMX, Billie Holiday, Susanne Sundfør, and a lot of Baroque and Classical artists. I’m very inspired by slow, intense tracks.

"My method is really just going with your gut, editing, resting, repeat."

Do you follow a specific method when you write? It’s sporadic. Something could come to my mind so quickly I’d have no idea how or why. Sometimes, I just like sit down and jot down words and verses that seem to harmonize with each other the most, then methodically easing my way into the poem itself (if that makes sense). My method is really just going with your gut, editing, resting, repeat.

What’s next for Arielle Tipa?

My first chapbook, daughter-seed, is coming out Winter 2018/19 from Empty Set Press (Hi, Angelo!), so I’m really excited about that. I’m currently working on my first full-length manuscript, which is strictly poetry, since my first chapbook contains poetry and prose. I feel like daughter-seed is very experimental in a lot of ways, since a majority of the pieces were written after I started writing creatively again after years, as opposed to my growing full-length, which is strictly poetry and more thematic, even matured. I’m very, very excited about both of them.

What have you found to be the most difficult part of piecing together your first full-length?

Not exactly the writing part of it, but thinking ahead too much. I’m always that kind of person who’s like “What if this never gets picked up? What if my poetry is too short?” - stupid things like that. I’m always thinking five steps ahead when I should just be focusing on what I’m doing this moment. My publisher said to me once “Relax. Your poems don’t expire.” And they don’t. (Thanks, Angelo).

You can connect online with Arielle via Twitter @ahhhrielle or at her website, www.arielletipa.com.

Check out Arielle's work in the July 2018 Burning.

Vanessa Maki is a writer (& other things), queer & full of black girl magic. She has work in various places like Entropy, Rising Phoenix Press, Sad Girl Review, Soft Cartel & forthcoming in Pussy Magic Press. She's founder/EIC of yell/shout/scream & rose quartz journal. She has also self-published a chapbook & micro chap. Follow her Twitter@ahumantornado & visit her site.