The idea to write an entire book of poetry about periods came to Nikki Tajiri while searching for resources she could later share with her then two-year-old daughter.
To her surprise, she saw the same book her mother had given her when she was 11.
“I thought, my God, there must be more stuff out there than this, but I looked, and there really wasn’t much,” Nikki says.
The Houston-based poet and artist set about writing a book about period customs around the world, but her body of work naturally evolved into poetry.
“I would go online and see all these period memes and the negative chatter around menstruation,” she says.
“I wanted my poetry to communicate that just as we should unconditionally love and appreciate our bodies no matter the size and shape; we should love our menstruation regardless of its frequency, flow, or pain.
“When you look at your relationship with your period, it can tell you a lot about how you feel about your body, and your femininity. As a society, how we collectively view and value periods is a reflection of how we view and value women, so it’s important to raise the status of periods, and subvert the shame.”
While immersing herself in research, she came across Lara Owen’s Her Blood is Gold.
“Her book totally blew my mind,” Nikki says. “I had no idea about the spiritual underpinnings of our periods. I started learning about the actual physical science behind periods and the seasonality of cycles. “I was so excited for my next period. I was pumped.”
“That’s how I would want everyone to feel about getting their period — not dreading it but being excited about all that it represents.”
Further inspiration came after she attended a period support group set up by her friend, functional nutritionist Jenna Longoria (The Period Guru), to bring together women dealing with endometriosis and PCOS.
“These women were so courageous and had been through such struggles. After hearing their stories, it inspired me to write more poetry. It went straight to my heart,” Nikki says.
“There are so many things that your period tells you; it’s an external manifestation of what your internal organs look like. You want it to be red and vibrant because that means fresh blood is getting to your organs and uterus. I learned from Jenna that periods aren’t supposed to hurt. Her message is ‘pain-free periods are your birthright’. If they’re hurting it means there’s something out of balance.”
And what advice would she give to others to help normalise periods and starting the conversation with daughters, and the entire family?
“We need to start viewing periods as really positive and amazing, and something we’re constantly learning new things about,” Nikki says. “And maybe we can share that with our children because if we’re genuinely interested in it, that interest will naturally transfer to them.”
“Our menstrual cycles are cyclical in nature. Some women and girls feel a strong need to be alone, or a lot of rest at times in their cycle. It’s not because they are “moody” or “inconsistent”; they are merely going through a cyclical phase. When the whole family can get in touch with the idea of the ‘inner’ seasons, it can deepen relationships immensely. They know to offer more support at certain times, or to honour the need to separate and be alone.”
“With my daughter, I do want to celebrate when she gets her period if she’s open to it. It doesn’t need to be a big party or anything, but whatever she wants to do, I want to communicate to her that it’s special and cool to get her period.”
Over the coming months, we will be sharing a selection of period poems from Nikki’s book She Dreams When She Bleeds on our social channels, which we hope encourages women to reflect on their relationship and attitudes towards menstruation.