Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Interview with Poet Sarah Sarai
Interview with poet Sarah Sarai by Susan Tepper
Susan Tepper: Before I opened to the poems in your new book Geographies of Soul and Tafetta I was wondering how this intriguing title would interface with the text. After reading a few poems all became clear. This friendly, deep, chatty book celebrates the feminine mystique.
Your poem ‘Miracle Fiber’ begins this way:
“It’s the weirdest thing, / to be in love with a woman. / Nothing else matters. / Even that crappy hate scorn is / rickrack on a little black dress. / …
Sarah Sarai: Thank you for “friendly,” “deep,” and “chatty.” Obviously I can’t claim to be deep, but the friendly in me is genuine, and I like hearing it is a poetic carry over. Feminine mystique? We could talk all day about your take versus my take versus Betty Friedan’s take on the “feminine mystique.” Meh—let’s not. I am pro-women, a feminist, a dyke, and I feel an intrinsic feminine, girly, even, spirit in me, hoorah—and a bunch of other gendered and ungendered spirits. This is something of a battle cry poem. Not that I’m on the front lines in New York City but I am on the front lines of my own self-dislike, fighting enemies I internally re/create. “Scorn” IS a “crappy hate.” You can quote me. Get a grip, hating dude. Some of us who are queer have known the cognitive dissonance of loving women, or men, as the case may be. Am I being preachy? “God is whatever makes us better.” I’ll let the poem speak.
ST: Interesting answer. As for the Feminine Mystique, I have my own take on it which has nothing whatsoever to do with feminism, or feminist politics. It’s more of a poetic concept, for me, honoring the beauty of our female bodies and traditions, no matter which gender we choose to love.
In your poem ‘But Then Again’ you also bring up God:
“… You suspect God’s an / anarchist and admit you / like belief which transforms / you into an arcangel, a / nimbus, the celebrating / Sun. /…”
Will you talk some about this poem?
S.S. If anyone wants to read ‘But Then Again’ which was published in Ascent here is the direct link. God? She’s a pretty common character in literature. No reaching deep into classical references there. I had a “moment” late one morning at the Center (LGBT) on 13th Street, in one of their spacious, high-ceilinged rooms with many large windows. The sun poured in through the glass and found me, and I was unable to differentiate between the very real corporeal Sarah Sarai and a self who was a character in a painting by a Renaissance artist, maybe Raphael, of a woman, holy or not, in a nimbus – those luminous clouds engulfing the saints in art. I inwardly narrated the moment, as when Annie Hall steps out of her body to narrate sex. So I felt anointed and was aware I was no more, no less than Sarah Sarai feeling anointed, or being anointed, or imagining myself in a painting at the Met. It stuck with me, that quick and glorious flash-bulb moment. I used it in a poem.
ST: The Annie Hall moment! I’ve personally never had one so I’m slightly jealous of you! Your poem ‘Love Letter’ is particularly emotive and poignant. The line that summed up that poem for me was: … / “Excited? … / I thought you loved me.” /
SS: I know where love lives – in the lost-and-found cartons in the storeroom of KGB, the bar on East 4th in Manhattan’s East Village. The owner is scrupulous about holding onto whatever is abandoned or misplaced. He loves reuniting owner of the lost with the lost item. Happened to me – he searched through three cartons until he found my hat which had been missing for three months.
ST: Three cartons, three months.
SS: There is love in the cartons, the owner, the hat, me, that entire KGB Bar. My poem ‘Love Letter’ looks at the experience of transactional love: give-and-takes other than gestures of bodies. Love seems like a sham when it is misplaced and certainly when it disappoints, when it doesn’t read its lines as we’d hoped it would. But it is not a sham. It’s a tenacious reality. Love is the cockroach of the emotions. It will outlive hate. It will. Love will outlive hate.
ST: “Love will outlive hate.” I need to cling to that line, Sarah.