Sarah Blake is the author of three poetry collections, includingÂ Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West fromÂ Wesleyan University Press;Â Named After Death, a chapbook from Banango Editions; and most recently,Â Letâ€™s Not Live on Earth, a full length collection, also fromÂ Wesleyan.
She lives outside of Philadelphia and travels to participate in readings throughout the year. She is also the author of a forthcoming novel,Â Naamah (Riverhead Books), a reimagining of the story of the wife of Noah.
Letâ€™s Not Live on Earth is your most recent collection of poetry. Tell us about the project and how it came into being.
About a year after my son was born I started writing a lot again, but I didn’t have any ideas about what the poems could be doing together. During that time, I wrote “The Starship,” a book-length poem told in second person narration, all about leaving Earth. When it came time to put a book together, I knew I wanted “The Starship” in it. I looked through years of poems to find the ones that were in conversation with “The Starship” and that’s how the book found its shape.
Your collection includes the epic poem, â€œThe Starship,â€ in which a woman shifts her perception of existence when a spaceship suddenly casts her home in shadow. What is your process for writing longer form poetry? How do you balance the narrative arc of the poem with a sense of poetic immediacy?
The process is very similar to writing a shorter poem for me. The poem is all encompassing and it’s hard for me to do much else. I found myself writing pieces of “The Starship” on my phone at the Y and in bed. With a shorter poem, it’s ok to have one strange day like this, but with a longer poem, I have trouble sleeping and find myself constantly thinking about the poem for weeks. I’ve resisted writing longer poems since “The Starship” because of how it wrecks me.
I balance the narrative arc with poetic immediacy by building the poem out of small sections, which each get the attention of a poem. I love experimenting with the gestures language can make that feel satisfying, in just a few lines and across a book-length work.