January 17, 2013

Sarah C. Harwell, poet: The Interview

I had the honor and pleasure to interview the evocative poet Sarah C. Harwell on Rare Bird Radio where you can hear that conversation.

Sarah C. Harwell is gorgeous inside and out and she writes evocative poetry that will haunt you. We discussed her work, T.S. Eliot, Kafka, Pablo Neruda and, believe it or not, Tarot cards and predicting the future. Of course, even T.S. Eliot was no stranger to the Tarot deck as The Waste Land so richly proves.

I urge you to buy Sarah's book Sit Down Traveler and be blown away as, indeed, I was.

Here is the poem she read during the interview and that appeared in The Washington Post on Sunday, May 11, 2008, in the column "Poet's Choice," introduced by Mary Karr. This poem on motherhood is brave and insightful on the gentle, inexorable burden we who have children find suddenly thrust upon us in the hope and challenge that we can protect our charges, keep them safe and love them well.

     for Hannah

The way my daughter sleeps it's as if she's talking
to the dead. Now she is one. I watch her eyes roll
backwards in her head, her senses fold

one by one, and then her breathing quiets to a beat.
Every night she fights this silent way of being
with all the whining ammunition she has.

She wins a tired story, a smothered song, the small
and willful links to life that carry her away.
Welcome to the Egyptian burial. She's gone to Hades

with her stuffed animals. When she wakes,
the sad circles disappeared, she blinks
before she knows me. I have listened

to one million breaths of her. And every night
my body seizes when she leaves to go
where I am not, and yet every night I urge her, go. 

I urge all my readers to join the Goodreads Book Club (Bless you, Sarah, for honoring me by joining) where I am interviewing OTHER artists—not as the site asserts (Rare Bird Radio owns the book club site; I am the interviewer and moderator for the book club)—I repeat: not to discuss—my just released novel Who by Fire. I talk about why I say: not to discuss my own work in my blog post entitled Who by Fire, a novel: What if no one reads it? Some day a discussion of my own work might be worthwhile but here's what keeps me going: The writing of the book was the gift. I hope what I've written in that post encourages all who work in the attempt to create art in the silence of their attics to be encouraged no matter what. The attempt to do so affirms that the search for meaning matters.

Sarah C. Harwell will make you believe, as I do, that that last statement is indeed so. This is a collection of poems worthy of reading and re-reading. Buy it!

And do let me and Sarah know what you think about the poem posted here, or anything we discussed in the interview. I want to hear you!

On Twitter after the inauguration: I saw this tweet by @jaktraks 
Is poetry dead? I think Sarah C. Harwell belies this view. What do you think?