Break the Period Stigma: Interview with Nikki Tajiri
1. What are the three words you say most describe you and why?
Sensitive - I can easily tell and relate to how other people are feeling. I’m that person who cries at the slightest sad scene in every movie.
Enthusiastic - I have a notoriously loud laugh, and when I get into something I’m interested in, I really get into it. Some of my friends in university used to make fun of me for overusing the phrase, “I’m so excited!”
Good-natured - I generally have a warmth and patience to my personality. It doesn’t mean that I’m always happy and calm and never angry, but my default mode is fairly steady and warm.
2. I love your work you're doing, breaking the stigmas attached to menstrual cycles! What promoted this passion within you? What's the story behind the story?
I was going through a time of unraveling in my life. I was questioning every assumption I held as true, and finding many of my beliefs did not stand up to scrutiny. I was also exploring my feminine side, my spiritual side, and different aspects of my creativity.
One day, I was thinking about how girls were getting their periods younger and younger, and then it hit me that my two-year-old daughter might get her period in just a matter of years. I lazily searched for books on periods, and I was shocked to see the same book (with the same cover and everything) that I had read as an 11-year old come up in my search. Surely twenty years later there should be much better, more beautiful, and more inspiring books to read on the subject! I felt compelled to create the book I was looking for. At the same time, I stumbled upon an older book called Her Blood is Gold, by Lara Owen. Reading that book floored me; I had never before considered that our periods could be a welcome, beautiful, positive experience. After reading that book, I was more excited than ever to get my next period and then I started writing shortly after that.
3. You are a artist and a poet. How have both of these expressions supported you emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
I feel like I am a much more integrated person now than I was even one year ago. The great thing about being in a creative space is that it helps me to welcome and observe emotions, and then express them and move through them instead of hanging onto them, or stuffing them down into my subconscious. I think stepping into the role of the poet and artist has softened me as a person, and I can see that is true physically as well. I don’t like to exercise as intensely as I used to, and I have more of a dialogue with my body rather than bossing it around. Being a poet and artist is also completely soothing to the soul. This whole process is very spiritual for me. I was doing a lot of meditation before I wrote the book, and my beliefs have shifted quite a lot over the last couple of years. A big part of it is simply embracing this thought that we all have feminine energies and masculine energies within us, and that we can value and use both of them at different times in our life.
4. If you could dedicate your poetry to anyone, who would it be?
My first book is dedicated to my daughter, Zoe. She is only two-and-a-half years old, but she inspires me, teaches me, and changes me every day. She is fully herself in a way that I hope to be someday.
5. Share one the favorite things you've written with us. (no more than 300 words).
Throughout the writing process I tried to learn a lot about menstruation - both the emotional aspect of it and the biological aspect of it. The biological aspect of it is incredible in and of itself. For example, did you know that we ovulate (release an egg) from alternating ovaries each month? The artwork that accompanies this poem was done after studying photographs of red blood cells.
Even if you don’t think your blood is beautiful
Can you appreciate the complexity
The symphony that is our hormones
Your whole body coded into every single cell
Can you appreciate the symmetry
Left ovary right ovary left ovary right ovary
The egg rolling down that red carpet
Can you appreciate the rhythm
The millions of blood cells falling away
Then rebuilding over again
The faithful repetition month in and month out
Even if you don’t think your blood is beautiful
Can you appreciate it all the same
6. What would you say to your 14 year old self?
You are whole and wonderful and beautiful just the way you are right now. You always have been, and you always will be. Oh, and also stop hating on your period so much!
Nikki Tajiri is a poet and artist, who creates through healing her own relationship with her femininity. She Dreams When She Bleeds: Poems About Periods is her first book.
Nikki is someone who discovered the power and beauty of her own menstruation, and calls for women everywhere to fall in love with theirs. She tells us, just like we can love our bodies regardless of our shape, we can love our menstruation regardless of its frequency, flow, or pain. Her poetry has been featured by various menstrual activists and organizations, including Planned Parenthood.
Follow Nikki on Instagram @nikkitajiri