A Cup of Coffee with Sarah Herrin
Written by Rebecca Rijsdijk and Sarah Herrin
Sarah Herrin (she/her) is a bisexual poet who writes about the transcendent beauty of nature and the delicious contradictions of love. Raised in the Deep South, she followed the yellow brick road to the Pacific Northwest. She earned a BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she studied Sequential Art and Creative Writing in Southern France. She is a gemologist, runner, cat-mom, and Bowie-lover.
Can you tell us a little bit about you?
I’m a poet based in Colorado. I was born and raised in the Deep South, and went to art school in Savannah, Georgia, where I studied Sequential Art and Creative Writing. So far, I’ve self-published one full-length collection One Thousand Questions (And No Good Answers), in 2018, and one 30 poem chapbook with Papeachu press in October 2019 called The Oceanography Of Her. My last book I Can Make A Love Poem Out Of Anyone came out as a digital zine this year.
When did you realize you were a poet, and how did that happen?
I’ve always been a storyteller, writing stories since I was little, and went to art school with the aim of being a comic artist. I wrote mostly fiction then, was really into zombies and superheroes, but then I went on a study abroad in France, in 2011. It was my first time out of the country, and I was experiencing some really intense emotions around personal independence, love, and heartbreak. Suddenly my real life was more interesting than fantasy, and I had so much to say. I began to use poetry as a way to tell short stories and fell in love with the art form.
How did writing your first book go? Do you have any tips for authors that are thinking about printing a book?
Writing my first book was a difficult experience because of all the emotions it forced me to relive. And because it was 100 poems, it was overwhelming at times. I took what I learned from art school and broke it down into 3 acts – beginning, middle, end – and tried to make it make sense in the storytelling arc.
Why did you want to write a book?
I felt I needed to purge these poems, from 2011-2015 before I could begin my next project. I wanted to take the reader on a journey, from heartbreak to healing. And mostly, I wanted to complete a project so that I would have something to show to a publisher, like a portfolio. Poetry is my passion, but I also look at it as my career.
Do your subjects read your poetry?
My poems are mostly about ex-lovers and very rarely, my husband. [deep breath] Ha! My ex read an early manuscript of my first book and gave it a good review, so that was gratifying. My husband has become a strong supporter of my work, but he’s not really a poetry guy, so he doesn’t read my work often. But he does come to my readings.
Publishing your work is a vulnerable process, how do you deal with that?
It’s very vulnerable. There are a lot of poems that I never expected to read aloud. I’m starting to rethink the writing process because of it, not to censor myself, but crafting it better – I hope. As far as people reading my poems, it’s what I’ve always wanted. Ex-lovers, husband, dear friends, this is all for you. We should all be more vulnerable.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I want to be supportive and say Sure, the world needs all kinds of writers. Being a writer, like an artist, makes you observant. But for me, I can’t write if I can’t feel. It’s all about that bolt of lightning, the sudden appearance of the muse, imploring me to dance barefoot in the rain with her.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I’m a Sagittarius, I don’t cry much. [queen emoji] But actually, reading your [Rebecca Rijsdijk’s] book, The Lady From Across The Sea, on the plane back from New York after we met, made me tear up a bit. It’s so damn relatable to what I’ve been going through for years. I like to think our work is sisters.
What makes a good story in your opinion?
A good story makes the reader feel something. That’s it. Makes them say, yeah, I’m not alone after all. Or makes them look at themselves or their lives in a new light. A good story lights a fire.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me, I’m almost constantly writing new poems. They just flow steadily, like a river, even if they’re just fragments or rough drafts. But when I do a monthly challenge, like Inktober, where I’m forcing myself to post a new piece every day, I get burned out and have to take a break. I hate that. I like to keep momentum.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the biggest mistake aspiring writers make, and one I made in the beginning, was not reading. I wrote my first book without ever reading any poetry. Embarrassing. After that, I made it a point to get as many famous poets from the library as I could, study books on writing poetry, buy books from modern poets. There is so much to learn about form, language, pacing… Reading Instagram poetry is good, but it’s not the same as reading a real book. And I’ve started taking writing classes again, too.
Anything else you would like to spit out?
The online community has saved me. Before I joined IG, I knew maybe three poets, and no one read my work. But we have to remember that IG is a tool, it’s not the main platform for our work. We can use it to meet poets in real life, make real friends, publish real work. We need each other. Poetry is having a powerful movement right now. I’m very grateful for everything that poetry has brought into my life.