For this installment in a series of interviews with contemporary poets, contributing editor Peter Mishler corresponded with Sara Deniz Akant. Akant is a Turkish-American poet, educator, and performer. She is the author of Hyperphantasia (Rescue Press 2022, NYT Best Books 2022), Babette (Rescue Press 2015, winner of the Black Box prize), Parades (Omnidawn 2014, winner of the chapbook prize), and Latronic Strag (Persistent Editions 2014). She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a PhD in English from the CUNY Grad Center. She teaches poetry as Professor of the Practice at Tufts University and co-curates the Kan Yama Kan reading series in Brooklyn. PM: What is the strangest thing you know to be true about the art of poetry? SDA: At the moment? The way it runs on the fuel or fumes of friendship, relationships, the listener on the other line, what Sartre called the hell of other people. This, despite the old romantic idea that writing is a lonely act. I always want the door more tightly closed, the music turned down, the space furthest away from light or sound. But I've also realized I only need this distance to feel closer to whatever it is I am trying to shut out. So the point of the poem is to connect to that sense of dread or exposure. And somehow this paradox works. It makes me more myself than less. PM: What did you feel more drawn to when working on Hyperphantasia : reflecting on and understanding past events or exploring how the past affects a present state of being? SDA: Hyperphantasia has more of “the present” caught on tape than anything else I've written. During the pandemic, I started writing a poem a day with one friend, and then another, so I was generating lots of immediate, angsty, journalistic poems. Although my poems are always performative, those ended up being especially so. First, I had a specific reader in the Google doc, someone I knew well and trusted with experiments done haphazardly. I was also lucky enough to have a space to regularly read my […]
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