Trista : If you could begin this interview, what question would you ask yourself?
Ari : You talk a lot about sharks on social media and your fans often call you “Mama Shark,” what’s the meaning behind that?
It’s both weirdly serious and silly to me. I love sharks. My room is a strange little shark shrine, but I’m pretty into it. A reader once mentioned my anonymous internet squad would be better fitting as a “Shark Squad” and it kind of just stuck. On the serious note, there’s something I find inspiring about sharks. It’s probably the poet in me, but I’m drawn to things that get mislabeled. It’s this whole idea of something monstrous — the man-killer in horror films terrorizing beaches. It’s not true. It’s this animal just doing what it does — eating, swimming, reproducing. So I always tell my readers to go out and be sharks. Not in a vicious sense, just go out and do what you’re meant to do.
Trista : Who are a few of your favorite poets?
Ari : I carry around a pocket size book of Pablo Neruda love poems because….I’m gross?? No but seriously, I do. Rudy Francisco and Terisa Siagatonu mentored me during my senior year of college, and forgive me for how melodramatic this is (says the girl who carries around love poems), they totally changed my life. Ugh, and Andrea Gibson. Andrea’s an explosion of wonderful.
Trista : Do you remember what the poem was that turned you on to poetry?
Ari : It was something of Rudy Francisco’s. I can’t remember specifically which one now. But I was so into him on YouTube. And then full on geeked when he became our coach and mentor for (UCLA’s) slam poetry team (2014). It felt so full circle. This man who was such an inspiration to me is now someone I can text and casually call him “Coach RuRu.” Still mind blowing to me.
Trista : What’s your favorite line that you’ve written?
“I cannot see you anymore and I’m looking through a telescope.
You are calling me, but the phone keeps disconnecting.
I am crying and laughing,
and our love is still spilling out.”
– This Is Where We Love
Trista : How do you deal with harsh criticism of your work? And how often would you say it occurs?
Ari : I’ve learned the best thing to do is not put too much personal stock in the negative OR the positive. Of course it feels good hearing people praise you, but that’s an easy addiction to form. But then if it’s what you base your worth on, the negative comments will eat you alive. I work on a website that attracts a lot of internet trolls. I came into it with a bit of a thicker skin for online stuff because I started posting YouTube videos when I was fourteen and I have heard EVERYTHING in the book. If someone is mean to me in real life? I’m going to go and immediately cry in a corner like the sensitive lamb I am. But online, I usually don’t let it phase me. I tend to just thank really cruel haters for contributing to the views on my piece.
Trista : Do you have any particular song(s) you like to “Shake It Off” to? (re: above question)
Ari : “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield.
Trista : Do you have any advice for budding poets hesitant to share their work online?
Ari : It’s a band-aid and you gotta rip that sucker off. Because once you’ve done it the first time, you know you can do it again. And I always tell writers (especially young ones who are more hesitant) nobody will give you a chance if you don’t first show them you’re out there.
Connect with Ari on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter @ivegottatheory, and Thought Catalog. Find her first book of poetry I Promised You I Wouldn’t Write This here!
Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.