Sara McAulay

Pine Row Issue No. 4 Winter 2021 - Featured Poet

Letter to the child in the tree:

Keeper of secrets, student of squirrels, how

the acorns they hide in your mother’s tulip bed

become the eyes of dragons—

Kiddo, no seed you thumb however deep

into the earth will watch you grow, follow you

down steep stone steps onto the sand—

No limb to hold you now. No teacher versed

in seaweed scrawls to help decipher all the stars

and messages washing toward your bare feet

from worlds away—and how you saw it clear

for just a moment: Earth, a shallow bowl resting

in a deeper bowl, rocking in one cupped hand.

Interview with Sara McAulay

by Pine Row Editorial Board

How did you get started as a poet?

I was a fiction writer for years, and then for years wasn't a writer at all. However, the 2016 presidential election acted as a kind of defibrillator: I was shocked, terrified, furious and wide awake. I hadn't written anything in so long I honestly didn't know what to do -- so I started setting a timer every morning when I got up. I found a list of prompts, and I'd sit and rant for 15 minutes. After awhile it occurred to me that some of the rants looked sort of like poems. And I thought, hmm. Never did anything like this before. Let's see what happens.

Do you show your work in progress to anyone?

I've taken a number of workshops since 2017. And I have a small group of friends who are derisive in a helpful way.

Who are three influential living poets?

Throw a dart! Seriously, this is hard because there are so many, but I'd like to honor 2 poets who have been present in my life for probably 45 years. I've checked, and as of this moment both are still with us: David Wagoner and Judy Grahn. The third, much younger, much less well known, Essy Stone. The language in her What It Done to Us (Lost Horse Press 2017) stood my hair right up.

How did you first get published?

I come from a long line of storytellers, and as soon as I could write, I started writing. When I was 12, I wrote a little piece about a foxhunt (I grew up in Virginia), and my mother sent it to a horse magazine. It was published and I was paid $25. Heady stuff!

I'm not a product of an MFA program. I did take some fiction workshops; instructors suggested I send stories here or there, some were published, I was approached by an agent, who sold my first novel to Knopf.

Favorite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

"The Academy may lie, but literature tries to tell the truth." ~ Dorothy Allison

What would you say is your most interesting writing habit?

I don't think any of my writing habits are remotely interesting,

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Several books on my bedside table. Top of the pile, James McBride's The Good Lord Bird.

At various time, Sara McAulay has been a professional horse trainer, a university professor, a writer and an editor. She is the author of three novels and numerous works of short fiction. She received NEA and New Jersey State Foundation Fellowships for prose. She is the founding editor of the online journal Tattoo Highway. After many years of not writing, she was galvanized by the 2016 election and its aftermath (ongoing). She is now at work on another novel, and has also turned her hand to poetry and flash.