Interview with Miriam Sagan at The Unprecedented Review

Excellent new e-zine–The Unprecedented Review.

I’m the featured poet for August, with an interview. I’ve copied a few questions here–check out the mag for all of it and more!

Question: What was the biggest challenge for you when you began publishing?

Insecurity, I guess. I was published young and frequently by the small press world, which has remained my home. But then I’d hate what I wrote, and would suddenly see its flaws once it was in print. And then I’d get an attack of shame and fear over how exposed I was. I once told my father he couldn’t read a book I’d written—I think it was DIRTY LAUNDRY: 100 Days in a Zen Monastery (La Alameda Press, re-issue New World Library) which was a joint diary kept by me and my first husband Robert Winson. It was pretty raw stuff. I told my dad—“I need privacy” and he retorted “You have a kind of odd way of showing that!” which was funny and true. It remains a problem to this day.
Rejection is an obvious challenge. I didn’t like it when I was starting out—I still don’t. But I got used to it. The self-loathing is harder—it still remains. I’ve learned to sit with a book when it comes out and have some emotional space before it goes public and the promotion begins.

Question: What advice would you give other poets trying to break into publishing?

You just have to persevere. Send out, send out, send out. Don’t get sidetracked by rejection—it doesn’t have much meaning. There are so many great magazines out there—and very lively e-zines. Try new magazines, but do read so you get a sense of the editors’ taste.
Also, build your community. Create it if you have to—start an open mic, a magazine, a writing group, a reading series, a blog. Promote yourself but with your friends and fellows—it is much easier and more fun.
And write a better poem. I recently was serving as interim Poetry Editor for The Santa Fe Poetry Review. I read 3000 poems. The majority were generic. Poetry is not a neat tidy art. Aim high, fail beautifully.
A fine poem will always get published if you send it out enough.

Question: If you could only write one more poem in your life, what would you write it about?

A perfect haiku that awakens the reader to the nature of the world and the nature of the self. It’s a great question, but I have to tell myself—dream on! It may not be possible.

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