Talking to the poet Arielle Estoria is like basking in a seamless volume of poetry. At the end of our interview, I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to get it back as a listener. Your words are profound yet accessible. Everything she’s published, from her poetry collections to her inspirational Instagram feed, is accessible first thing in the morning.
No wonder we had our photo session at sunrise. I couldn’t help but notice how the colors of the sky and sea reflected the beauty of Estoria and her effortless words. I noticed her ease of conversation and she explained, “My brain reacts in a poetic way. This is how I process everything that I experience. I hope my answer will find people. I’m not just speaking for you to hear. I am intentionally trying to create words that will help you experience what I am saying so that it ties in with a part of yourself. I want to offer something that people can take with them to sit and dive in – something that is beyond me. “She reminds me of her motto:
“Words not for the ears, but for the soul.”
Estoria has shared her poetic thoughts on multiple platforms, from the spoken word to themed keynote discussions, annual conferences and a variety of workshops. You’ll find that she’s splashed over social impact campaigns where her word continues to expand. However, what struck me the most after meeting her off-screen was her ability to turn words into energy. The spaces of silence between their feelings were full of hope, joy and wonder. And that’s something rare.
To enjoy Estoria’s brilliance, read below, and to hear my interview with her, check out the Woke Beauty Podcast.
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Out of gratitude…
After thanking Estoria for sitting down to chat with me, I admit that I never feel like the words “thank you” are enough. We need a better expression in the English language to express gratitude. I know Estoria’s way with words and I joke that she probably has one. On the contrary, she tells me that sometimes there are no words.
She says, “I recently heard this podcast and they were talking about the art of bowing and the humility and gentleness of it. I think it’s more like just bowing to this moment or person to show respect and gratitude. If any,
Gratitude is more of an act than a word. “
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About the importance of home …
Estoria was born in the Bay Area. She has a poem that says, “Covered and a red bridge to remind you of welcome signs.” When she thinks of home, she envisions her family, misty skies, raw beauty, and a melting pot of generational diversity. Despite being in LA for 10 years, she still can’t bring herself to change her area code. She is a “Bay Girl” for life.
As she thinks about what it means to define where you grew up, she continues:
“For many of us, no matter how much you uproot, part of you where you were first rooted remains a part of you when you change. This place will always be where you grew up. “
Estoria, the oldest of her siblings, has a very special relationship with her parents and their ancestry. The more she develops, the more she realizes how much she resembles both of them, not just in appearance but in ways. I can hear the importance of their names in her voice as she explains how they are passed down from grandmothers were. She tells me, “Each of our names represents different seasons in our parents’ lives. Arielle my ‘lioness’. It was her time to take courage and give full throttle to the service. You have always promoted the meaning of name meanings and the importance of your identity as a person. It’s not just a title, it’s an embodied experience. You taught us so much about who we were. “
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How it defined its larger purpose …
At first, Estoria just wanted to make beauty so people could feel things – it was all she knew. As she has evolved, she has really dealt with the question, “What are my life intentions?” In our conversation she told me that she had written something down (the day before) that she wanted to read:
“My goal in life is to write words, create art and cultivate spaces that change, heal and transform lives. And when I say “heal” I mean the process of returning to oneself. When I say transformation, I mean losing that which does not serve to become. And when I say change, I mean to reveal what needs to be uprooted and then healed and transformed. “
She says words have always been part of how she appeared in this world.
“The purpose is: You see a void and everything in you has the desire to fill it with something. What is it? Usually it’s not what we went to school for or what we were told we would become. It’s that innate existence and ability to fill something that we have created and fulfilled. “
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Up and down unconventional work …
Our work areas require several “hats”. We always have to switch from one role to the next. There is a stigma about freelance work and the assumption is that we are constantly striving to make a living. In a way, it’s true. There is no such thing as “punch in, punch out”. We get hit all the time. But for those of us who have fallen into a rhythm, the flow looks different.
It’s always comforting to hear from other creatives and I love what Estoria had to say when she described her journey: “I was hectic at first. I Had To Grow With no prior experience, I’ve done a lot of seemingly strange things: run a social media page for a clothing subscription company, style models off-site, and create flat lay-ups. And I had no idea that it was building me up and preparing me to represent myself. “
Estoria tells me that she never really rated the word “freelance”, but now she decides she doesn’t really like it either. She has built a system within madness that is streamlined and strategic. She has possessed the roles of “writer” and “artist” and focuses on performing those titles on purpose.
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On the quote, she turns to stressful times …
Estoria recites a quote that forced her to write her first poem. What blows me is that she tells me the quote from memory without hesitation. After expressing my respect, she says:
“Really embodying words creates a completely different appreciation for them. Being able to memorize and record such words is one way of showing gratitude to the word itself. “
After telling me the quote, she explains that her craft is not just a part of what she does, but who she is. For Estoria the quote said: This is your life.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are immeasurably light. It is our light, not our darkness, that scares us the most. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be talented, brilliant, fabulous, beautiful? Who are you actually not? You are a child of God and if you play small it does not serve this world. “- Marianne Williamson
To contextualize identity …
I address identity because it’s such a central part of my work and this column. I am fascinated by the way people see themselves and position this perspective in their environment. Estoria starts by talking about her Enneagram guy who is a 4 (just like me!). She uses the model to explain the importance of being unique. It helps her avoid fear of comparison.
“My identity has a mosaic, you know? Other people will have ideas about who you are. We have to have our point of view and have it fully, especially as blacks. We had to make a decision and declare our worthiness because most of the time the world will do anything to take that away from us. Now, more than ever, I am reclaiming my racial identity as an aspect of my identity, but you will see me for the fullness of who I am. I challenge others to see me, to see black people in my entirety. “
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When recovering from a failure …
Estoria and I talked about cheating syndrome, ruts, and low spots. She told me that when things get difficult, she does her best to keep things simple. Just falling asleep can help support the blues. It makes a good point that we tend to complicate mindfulness. You don’t need a lot. She will go so far as to challenge herself not to reach for the candle, meditation pillow, or music.
Sometimes you just have to let yourself be “be”.
She also has a unique attitude towards failure. In fact, she found a way to take it out of her language.
“The whole process of failure begins with reformulation. First, what is a failure? The moment you said “failure” I heard “pivot”. It’s “that didn’t work.” What else could work? Especially in the creative world, we would be buried if we were just sitting in every failure. Reformulating words is really important. Are you wondering what kind of word is that? And why do we give it so much strength? “
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About the book that changed her life …
“Untamed came at the most punctual time of my life when I needed to remember my voice and trust in it. The book has not been activated and no permit has been issued. Glennon Doyle tells us everything she did and what happened, and then she gives us a pass to decide what it is for us – it was just so life-giving. I cried. I escape. It was just that whole experience. We don’t have to be in a cage just because it’s comfortable. That was my book last year, but I’ll talk about it for years. “
On advice, she would give her younger self …
Before we parted, I asked Estoria what advice she would give 10 years ago when she was 20 and preparing to graduate from college. On the verge of a brand new decade, she said she was leaving a little cliffhanger for the younger Estoria. With a big nostalgic smile on her face, she said:
“You have no idea … in the best possible way … you have no idea.”