Sarah Ann Winn won our 2nd Annual Flash Poetry Contest with her poem “Sargasso Sea,” got published, and pocketed $20. You want twenty whole dollars too, and the dubious honor of publication in Bop Dead City? You’ve got less than a week to submit your best story or poem about the first time you…well, anything.
Describe your work in 25 words or less.
I think my poems are all a variety of being carried away with an idea, usually in the direction of “what could be.”
Tell me about your poem “Sargasso Sea.”
“Sargasso Sea” is the result of a prompt I was given in a class that required us to write 79 poems in a semester. This prompt gave the title, and suggested it be a certain number of lines. (I’ve since forgotten the full constraint.) I’d been doing a lot of reading about the plant life in the ocean, and that one struck me as full of mythic potential. I wanted to write a poem that used the ocean references in a fresh way, hoping for a sort of image echo between the massive drift of weeds and a field of grazing horses on a cloudless day.
Is this your first time winning a writing contest? How does it feel?
The same day I won this contest, I received notice that I’d won the Virginia Downs Poetry contest, and I’d never won a writing contest before. I was awarded the Completion Fellowship at George Mason for my final year there, but an individual work being recognized feels much more affirming!
What or who inspires you to write?
I’ve always loved to write, and have a daily routine to keep the inspiration close at hand. I also read widely, and when I start to struggle for inspiration, I grab my camera and go for a drive. Something about the somewhat mindless activity of driving combined with the search for something to frame pulls the poems a little closer. I find a lot of inspiration in conversations with my husband, who watches a lot of news stories. He always has something strange to share that gets me scribbling.
What authors have influenced you as a writer?
Elizabeth Bishop, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Federico Garcia Lorca, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Rebecca Solnit, Natalie Goldberg, E.B. White, Mark Doty – the list is enormous. I have always loved to read, and as a children’s librarian, I return to the ones I loved growing up, so they continue to shape my writing now. Of course the authors who have had the most direct hand in shaping me as a writer are my teachers. Their encouragement and guidance have shaped my poems and my poetics, particularly Jennifer Atkinson, Eric Pankey and Judyth Hill.
Do you have a blog/website?
I do! I post writing prompts and photos about once a month at bluebirdwords.com.
Where can we read you next?
My poem “The Horsehead Nebula” is in the current issue of Stirring. I have a particular fondness for this one, because it was written right after “Sargasso Sea,” and uses the form of a beautiful in-law (which requires every word in the poem to come from the letters in the title). I also have upcoming poems in [d]ecember and the Massachusetts Review.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on poems which I hope will become my second book. They’re inspired by my love of children’s literature, especially stories I read as a child. My manuscript, entitled “Variable Stars” is submitted all around the web, and I have high hopes that it’ll get picked up.
Any advice for other writers?
Don’t take rejection personally, and read as much as you can! Also, if you don’t already have one, find a group online or offline who will be with you in your submission highs and lows. I’m part of a great group on Facebook, who cheer me on, and boo and hiss at Tuesday (rejection day).
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you for the opportunity, and I’m happy to have had the thrill of my first contest winner with Bop Dead City!