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The Interview

Katia ariel.jpg

Katia Ariel

An Award-winning Poet & Memoirist

Rachna Singh, Editor, The Wise Owl, talks to Katia Ariel, a poet and memoirist, who is the recipient of the Eleanor Dark residential Fellowship at Varuna in 2022 and Bundanon Artists’ Residency in 2024. Her memoir, The Swift Dark Tide, was shortlisted for the Stella prize 2024. She teaches in the School of Culture and communication at the University of Mel

The Interview : Katia Ariel

Rachna Singh, Editor, The Wise Owl, talks to Katia Ariel, a poet and memoirist, who is the recipient of the Eleanor Dark residential Fellowship at Varuna in 2022 and Bundanon Artists’ Residency in 2024. Her memoir, The Swift Dark Tide, was shortlisted for the Stella prize 2024. She teaches in the School of Culture and communication at the University of Melbourne.

 

Over the past fifteen years, Katia has edited for Dorling Kindersley, Melbourne University Publishing House, Wild Dingo Press, Ventura press, Gazebo Books, Cambridge University Press, Affirm Press, Echo Books and Hardie Grant. Katia was Managing Editor with Five Islands Press from 2010 to 2019. In her work for private clients, Katia specialises in manuscript appraisal and structural editing, especially memoir, poetry and literary fiction.

 

Thank you Katia for taking time out to talk with The Wise Owl.

 

RS: Our readers would be curious to know what inspired you to write ‘Swift Dark Tide’, a memoir about the complexities of love and identity within the context of your own experiences?

 

KA: I found the intensity of my personal experience – falling in love with a woman while in a very happy marriage to a man – quite hard to bear. Writing became the way through; the way I understood my situation and also a means of navigating it. In the course of writing my own story, I started to research the stories of my maternal ancestors, and this is when the loose vignettes I was sketching became a book.

 

RS: The title of your memoir, The Swift Dark Tide, suggests a sense of tumult and uncertainty. Could you elaborate on why you chose this title and how it encapsulates the themes of your book?

 

KA: I wanted the structure of the book to resemble waves washing up on a shore, so rather than being linear (or even circular) I wanted the narrative to be episodic. This reflected the cadence of what I was living, which was both intensely enlivening and also unpredictable. Like a tide, it had a force of its own.

 

RS: Your book has been praised for its raw honesty and emotional depth. How did you approach the task of balancing honesty with respect for the privacy of those involved in your story?

 

KA: I always endeavoured put my subjects’ emotional safety first. So everything that concerned my partners or my mother (the key ‘characters’) I read to them. I could not proceed without getting their permission to expose as much as I did. I also left out a lot! So while the story is honest, I worked hard not to reveal too much.

 

RS: Your memoir has been described as a poignant exploration of love, loss, and self-discovery. You talk about how you gave yourself permission to search, fall apart and re-configure. Can you share how the process of writing impacted your own journey of understanding and acceptance?

 

KA: Writing is my great love, so giving myself permission to stand in my sexual orientation went hand in hand with becoming a writer. They were (and remain) very closely bound.

 

RS: Swift Dark Tide is about family, inheritance and queer becoming. It also alludes to the complexities of societal expectations and the pressure to conform to traditional norms. How do you hope your story will contribute to broader conversations about identity, sexuality, and the pursuit of authentic happiness?

 

KA: I am pleased to contribute to a discourse of female desire; vocalising and normalising the experience of the queer and female pleasure body is an important political gesture to me.

 

RS: Writing a memoir requires a great deal of introspection and vulnerability. What was the most challenging aspect of the writing process for you, and how did you overcome any obstacles along the way?

 

KA: There is a significant conversation with grief in the story; facing questions of my loved ones’ mortality – without looking away – was probably the most challenging.

 

RS: Your memoir beautifully captures the nuances of human relationships and the courage it takes to embrace one's true self. Can you share any advice for individuals who may be facing similar journeys of self-discovery and acceptance?

 

KA: It’s never too late.

 

RS: Swift Dark Tide has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize, a prestigious award celebrating Australian women's writing. What does this recognition mean to you personally, and what message do you hope your book sends to readers, especially those grappling with similar experiences?

 

KA: I hope that my book makes people feel seen, especially those who are seeking selfhood. This does not need to be in the realm of sexual identity – it can be any internal claiming. I hope the book comforts and emboldens them.

 

RS: You are an editor as well as a critically acclaimed writer. Was being an editor an advantage for you when you set out to write your memoir?

 

KA: Absolutely. It forced me to be economical in how I expressed myself and also to anticipate when I needed to adjust the shape of the story.

 

Thank you Katia for taking time out to talk with The Wise Owl. We wish you the very best in all your creative and literary pursuits.

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