Grace Notes: A Conversation
with Robyn Sarah
Excerpted from Literary Magazine Review,
Volume 25, Nos. 1 & 2,
Anniversary Issue - just published
Note: A shortened version of our conversation appeared in Nimrod, International Issue, 2005. Literary Magazine Review has published the full version, updated. Excerpt from Q/A follows:
Born in New York City to Canadian parents, Robyn Sarah grew up in Montreal, studying at the Conservatoire de Musique du Quebec and at McGill University. She has published primarily in Canada, though work of hers has appeared in Hudson Review, Poetry Chicago, New England Review and others. I first met Robyn and came to know her poetry when we read together on the same program at the Art Bar in Toronto. I have always tended to carry on imaginary conversations with writers whose work excites me. What follows is a very brief excerpt from a substantial interview, a "real" conversation conducted by email, covering many different aspects of the writing life. For more, please see the latest Literary Magazine Review (LMR), referenced above.
Whatever else this blog is about... it's about imagination, healing, poetry, how one scribbler reads and converses with another, and, also, grace... and the connection between grace and imagination... and what it's like, speaking for myself, to have no imagination, no grace, zilch... and coming back... fucking line by line... anyway, excerpt of a conversation:
ROBT: As you understand it, Robyn, what is Imagination? Peter Ackroyd in his biography, Blake, suggests the poet's inspiration and visionary experiences were part of a special fate, a natural gift, perhaps inherited, and that for Blake, Imagination was primary, a near sacred element in his life and his work. As a poet, what do you understand by that word, Imagination?
ROBYN: It's a scary word for me, imagination. I don't think I have very much imagination, the real world is always more than enough for me. When I was in my teens my piano teacher once made a remark, "Actually we learn by imagination, not by experience", which I wrote down and brooded on for years, but I'm still not sure what he meant by it or what it means. Recently I came across a conversation I recorded in an old journal, a remark someone made at a party: "Imagination is knowing what to do next." I hang on to these snippets hoping to understand them one day... For me, inspiration takes two possible forms. Sometimes words come into my head—fragmentary phrases that I like the sound of—I call them “tinder words” because they’re like fire-starter for poems. Or sometimes it’s a sudden feeling I get, that the thing I’m looking at is infused with mysterious significance--that it is both itself and more than itself. It's like the world jumps into a different kind of focus. I can't make it happen, I don't have control over it, but I try to arrange my life to keep myself open to it. Is this "imagination"? Whatever it is, I know that when it's not there, I can't write poetry. And I don't even try.