By Keaton Gaughan
In anticipation of her up-coming campus reading, I sat down with poet and esteemed UP alum, Sarah Bokich, to learn a bit more about her, her newest chapbook, and life after UP. You can peruse our exchange below. Come hear Sarah read from her newest publication on Thursday, February 8th at 7:30pm in the Campus Bookstore. Hope to see you all there.
KG: Can you tell me a little bit about your recent collection of poems, The Rocking Chair at the End of the World?
SB: While a few of these poems were from an earlier period, the majority I wrote between 2012-2016. I had a lot going on during those years—I experienced a major loss, got married, and gave birth to my daughter. These experiences drastically changed my worldview and I wrote to process it all.
KG: Which works of literature have been particularly formative or moving for you as a poet? In a similar vein, was there a particular source from which you derived your inspiration for this chapbook?
SB: My favorite poet of all time is Philip Levine, who had such a genius for characterizing the subjects of his poems. I also like his use of plain language, with sudden brilliant and memorable lines interspersed. For this particular collection, I also drew a lot on Silvia Plath who so deeply experienced the complexities of motherhood.
KG: Prior to contacting you, I was reading some of the pieces you’ve had published in various publications. I really enjoyed the two-part series, “What Will Happen to the Men.” Both pieces are important and powerful, I was curious to know if there was an event perhaps (or a life full of events, possibly) that acted as the catalyst for such a series?
SB: There is a lot more anger and intensity in the poems I’ve written recently. Some of it comes from getting older and feeling more comfortable with expressing myself and pushing back against a male-dominated culture and workplace, and some of it is in reaction to our current political climate, where an anti-woman sentiment is so prevalent.
KG: Additionally, one of the poems that you graciously allowed us to preview from The Rocking Chair at the End of the World, titled “Trading the Animals” was really interesting. Tell me about writing that piece, your process and specific inspiration if there was any.
SB: This poem was based on a story I heard on NPR. A reporter did a piece about zoos and how they can’t buy and sell animals—they have to trade them. The trade of puffins for a Komodo dragon is a real thing from that story. I ended up taking on the persona of the zookeeper to write the poem.
KG: Being a successful UP graduate, is there any advice you can impart on the creatively inclined or potential future poets at UP?
SB: It is totally possible to integrate creative endeavors into your life after graduation! Poetry isn’t my profession—I’ve been in the tech industry for nearly a decade— but writing is a consistent part of my life that has afforded me some incredible experiences and friendships. Whether you take a workshop, read at a local open mic, or submit to one of our wonderful regional publications, there are a myriad of ways to participate in Portland’s rich literary community. I co-host an open mic at the Attic Institute on Hawthorne the first Friday of every month and would love to see some UP writers there!
Be sure to catch Sarah Bokich this Thursday, February 8th at 7:30pm in the Campus Bookstore.