A Beautiful Refuge

An Interview with Briana Olivares.

I'm from Valparaiso. I grew up here, moved away and now I'm back. The town has changed significantly - it seems there is much more to do than when I was a teenager. But maybe that's just time, age and perspective. If someone were to visit Valparaiso, I'd drag them to a few favorite spots: Blackbird cafe, the Art Barn, maybe the VU Chapel, but without a doubt, we would take the drive to the Dunes. Having the lake and wetland ecosystems nearby is a beautiful refuge.

My art has many mediums, but I'll tell my zine/poetry love story. I was a freshman at Indiana University Bloomington and there was a local bookstore called Boxcar that housed zines from all over the country. I was so blown away by the idea of a per-zine. These people were basically illustrating and printing out their deepest thoughts, embarrassing moments, struggles, etc. It really inspired me. 

Fast forward a few years later (2014) when I was working on a farm with some fantastic people, and we started sharing our writing, poetry and dreams with each other. These people really encouraged my writing and helped me find a voice in poetry by introducing me to poets like Walt Whitman and Mary Oliver. When we left the farm, I decided a zine would be the perfect way to encapsulate our friendship and shared thoughts. Thus, Perennial Magick & Poetry was born.

I have a mild, baseline anxiety right now with the Coronavirus stuff happening. I'm trying to find pockets of mindfulness, art, letter writing, reaching out to friends often. My job is pretty mundane on one hand, but to be honest, I like it that way. Sometimes, it can become a meditation. Chopping wood, carrying water kind of thing. I mean, if you asked me several years ago if I was going to college to end up working in a grocery store, I'd probably laugh. But it's not a bad gig. And when it does get on my nerves, I try to remember that I'm lucky to have a job in the first place.

Inspiration is found everywhere, but it has something to do with timing. Driving out to the dunes really gets my gears turning. A piece of art that moves me. A book. A song. Friends of mine who pursue their own craft. The natural world. A headline that keeps tugging at me. Dreams. Music… right now I'm listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens. Talking Heads influenced a lot of early poetry for me. Beach Boys...their psychedelic harmony. My friend's band, Plateau Below. Neil Young. Psychadelic Cumbia from Peru. Samba. I'm all over the place.

When I’m struck with some sort of creative block, I go to what is familiar. I will pick up Wendell Berry or Mary Oliver or some book about archetypes that I've looked at a hundred times. Maybe I'll pick up my tarot deck and look through the images and pull just one card. Go on a walk and just observe and try to keep free from the pressure of turning it into anything. Look back at previous work and feel proud knowing that the time for creation will come again.

I've been tip toeing into religion so some of my creative work is focused on this idea of the sacred heart. What does that kind of compassion look like, what does it mean? I just wrapped up a chapbook called The Fox Dream poems and a lot of that era was some personal struggles for me...around money, what I was doing with my time, strained family relationships. So I'm in this open field between projects where I'm not sure what the next phase looks like. It feels like an opening.

The local scene here in Northwest Indiana keeps me grounded. Green Door Books. The Art Barn. Spaces hosting open mics. The Mythos fam, artists like Lori Jackson and Casey King. Melissa Washburn. Nick Gloom. Other local artists I've come across these past couple years. Dorothy Garden, Lora Fosberg, Andrea Peterson. Hook Pottery and Paper majorly inspires me. My friends/their band Plateau Below always hits it out of the park; both their lyrics and their outlook on life. And finally, the people who contribute to Perennial Magick blow me away. They have such unique interests and every one of them is working to better the world.They are some of my closest friends and we act as a sounding board for one another. I feel really blessed to feel part of a creative community, near and far.

There have been a few moments when I realized how powerful my creative work is, but one of them specifically was when Perennial Magick exhibited at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis for Fold, Staple, Riot! It was the first time any work of mine had been exhibited and it felt amazing to be featured with other creative zinesters. Making it into a show is kind of an "extra". I don't think good art is linked to commercial success. That's not why I make art or feel compelled to print poetry. But it did feel nice to be invited to that show. 

At the end of my days, I hope I’m remembered for being kind and embracing mystery.

My name is Briana Olivares. I'm a poet-zinester with roots in Northwest Indiana.

©Alchemy & Elegy 2020