Sarah Maclay – “Next Big Thing” Interview

The tres magnifique poets Maureen Alsop and Mariano Zaro have both tagged me to join this chain of literary interviews—sort of like a chain letter, but better.  You can read Maureen’s interview at  and Zaro’s is here: for the Black Room is my newest release (U of Tampa, 2011), but I thought it might be fun to talk about the new work that’s held my focus for the last few years—some of the individual poems are making their way into the world, most recently in spots like The Offending Adam and Superstition Review and FIELD and Zocalo Public Square and The Laurel Review, but it’s not yet out in the world as a book.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of the book?

“She”—it’s a collaboration with my poet pal Holaday Mason. We don’t collaborate on the individual poems, but it’s like each is a chaser for the other’s voice. Or, perhaps, a harmonizer, one who likes strange chords. Depends on the juxtaposition of the moment.

Where did the idea come from, for the book?

For a few years, I’d been exploring braided readings (with pals like Louise Mathias and Brendan Constantine and Mariano)—we’d spin off from one poem to the next via some shared image, no matter the themes or tones, so this made for some exciting jumps.  Then it finally really sunk in, after I’d been teaching an intro to poetry class, that Coleridge and Wordsworth had collaborated on their duo (not in writing the individual poems, but in making the book together) while living near one another, and so I thought, well why not two femme poets in 21st century Venice, CA?  And why not do a braided writing? So I presented this to my friend and next-door neighbor/poetry compadre, Holaday, and maybe a day later she presented me with the first poem.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

It’s such a wild question, wild fantasy. Let’s start here: the actors that David Lynch, the director, would choose.

And then you’d need about 25 or 30 crows, and they’d have to travel between LA and Seattle. And we might need a second unit for the New York sequence.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of this book?

My facetious tag line: middle-aged broads in stereo. But that’s not the tone, not the diction—it’s more lyric, more harrowing, more voluptuous, more delicate and stark, full of leaps and association . . . and a sort of weird sense of humor and irony, both.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Losses of all kinds. And delight in this experiment.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Started: late December, 2007. First draft pulled together: Summer, 2011. Then we let it settle for a few months, added and subtracted and revised and felt we had something solid by summer, 2012. And now we’re going through a deeper, more thoroughgoing revision phase. Very exciting.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A) While orchestrating, I could barely handle the material for more than about half an hour without having to lie down. It felt like it was going to combust. There’s something that happens, with/between the two voices, that is more intense—I want to say “more radioactive”—than with just one. There’s a longer half-life.

B) One of our friends is convinced that “She” is actually one character with two voices. So of course then I think the character would also have two heads. But I see it more as a shared qasida in two voices, not in the sense of 100 lines of mono-rhyme, which it isn’t, but in the sense that it’s a journey begun in a precarious moment, told in alternating currents of tone and time and individual experience, that winds up spiraling out and placing each of “the speakers” in a different relationship to community and to self. Along the way, identity is in freefall—sometimes deliciously so, sometimes not.

Next Up: I’m tagging Gail Wronsky, James Cushing, Nikola Madzirov, Lynne Thompson and Dina Hardy.