Featured Author: Sarah Rosenthal
Why do you write? What purpose does writing serve for you currently?
I loved to read and write from a really early age. Before I learned to write, I have vivid memories of coming up with elaborate stories in my head. As cliche as it sounds, it's been a part of me as far back as I can recall. I've gone through bouts of writer's block, but through it all, I'm always really attracted to playing with words, language, and storytelling.
How do you usually start a poem, story, etc?
It really depends. A lot of the time it starts with a phrase, a word, an image that I've been mulling over and I can't let go of it. The poetry, stories, and essays I write are usually me trying to grapple with and explore whatever that is, and see where it takes me.
Sometimes my work serves as a way to work through my own experiences or feelings in a way that makes sense to me. It's a way to move forward but also reflect on the past. As contrived as it sounds, this Wordsworth quote is the closest I've come to explaining how putting feelings and memories to words can work: "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”
How do you know when a piece is finished?
I mean, I'm not sure any of my pieces ever really are finished. I usually put my work to rest when I feel it's developed as far as it can at least for the time being. Sometimes that means returning to it in a few days, or a few weeks, a few months, a few years, what have you, and editing, or adding to it, or changing it all together. I love seeing the slow evolution of a piece over time. It can be hard, painful even, to go back to older work from when I was younger, but it's also really great to dig back in, or see how I've changed as a writer.
What writers/artists are influencing you right now?
I read The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison after seeing her speak at Brooklyn Book Festival, and I'm still reeling after finishing the book a month ago. I've really been fixated on how we experience, talk about, and share pain. Not to mention Jamison is a beautiful essay writer. I also just discovered Shirley Jackson (I'm pretty late to that party). I love how she uses language to create suspense, and how fearless she is when it comes to unsettling her readers.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I like my work to be approachable and have a narrative arc. Abstract poetry certainly has a place, but I hope people feel they can read my pieces and come away with something--an image, a story, an emotion they didn't expect.
What question do you wish I asked you?
What's for dinner tonight? Because the answer is homemade split pea soup, ciabatta bread, and apple-infused whiskey. I want to tell the world, because it's going to be delicious.