My name is Sara. I live in Portland, Oregon.
I'm a poet and a musician. I'm the sole constant member of The Dykings.
I like: non-fiction, poetry, indie rock (whatever that means), quotes by artists I admire about their creative process and their work, talking about my own creative process, public art, talking about what it means to make art as a non-straight non-male artist, trying to make great things.
“Being honest in writing […] Stephen [Elliot] has a great way of explaining it. It involves a genuine willingness to grapple with ones own uncertainties, flaws, strengths, fears, wishes. When a writer is honest he/she does not know exactly where the story will land.”
But don’t read this interview until you’ve read Wild! (Which you should read. It’s great.)
“When women write in the first person their work is often called “confessional.” And there’s an accepted template for female narratives that tends to be the only story you read in bestselling books and first-person essays in women’s magazines that goes like: “I was bad – [sordid description of bad behavior] – but then [love, my baby, my husband, AA, etc] saved me. I solved my problem. I am no longer bad.” I have nothing against redemption per se but I am really bored with that story. That story doesn’t reflect anything about what women’s or human beings’ lives are really like. I have always gravitated to books that resist the commercial impulse to make life conform to formulaic narrative conventions. This is how books are marketed, understandably, because it’s an easy story to sum up, and you can also sell it to the reader as instructive: this is how you, too, can get better and start living your best life ™! But I prefer to read books like, say, Glory Goes and Gets Some by Emily Carter, where the narrator goes to rehab, gets clean, and then the book is only half over and she still has to figure out life and it’s genuine and very complicated.”
Someone said “The Silver Jews are back” on twitter and I lost my mind a little. CONTEXT: They’re re-releasing some early songs, specifically tracks off of Dime Map of the Reef and the Arizona Record. This is a bit of a bummer for me personally as I already have/listen to those records on the…
The world needs these early recordings! How can your resist such lyrical genius as “Welcome to the house of the bats, my baby / Welcome to the house of the bats!” Silver Jews forever and ever, amen—their performance in Toronto remains of two concerts I have ever s-o-b-b-e-d at.
Edited to add: I’m really into the above write-up describing the early recordings as the work of “muppet baby versions of the David Berman, Stephen Malkmus and Bobby Nastanovich that we know today”
MUPPET BABY VERSIONS. BEST!!!
It’s not a rare early track and it doesn’t even have any words, but sometimes the only thing that keeps me from totally hating this stupid world is “Night Society.” I’m pretty much only mentioning this because I don’t have a lot of strong feelings about The Silver Jews (aside from, of course, my undying love for SM & also any band name-dropped in “His Indie World” by Mary Lou Lord).
how have I never heard this “His Indie World” song before?!
Someone said “The Silver Jews are back” on twitter and I lost my mind a little. CONTEXT: They’re re-releasing some early songs, specifically tracks off of Dime Map of the Reef and the Arizona Record. This is a bit of a bummer for me personally as I already have/listen to those records on the regular, but I am excited for people who have not yet heard these tunes to have better access to them! Because really, “Welcome to the House of the Bats.” You need that in your life.
I also think early recordings are incredibly important to listen to as an aspiring musician because it shows you that making music is a process. The developed strangeness that you have grown to love and have inspired to make you to make music — it came from seeds of strangeness. You can see that there’s actually no difference between you and the artists you’ve loved, except years of time, effort, and care. Plant your weird self garden.
“Male readership shouldn’t be the measure to which we aspire. Excellence should be the measure and if men and the establishment can’t (or won’t) recognize that excellence, we should leave the culpability with them instead of bearing it ourselves. As long as we keep considering male readership the goal, we’re not going to get anywhere. We’re going to remain trapped in the same terrible place where we measure women’s writing against an artificial, historically compromised standard.”
One day, my senior year of college, I noticed that all the artists I listened to were male. ”Well,” I said, “This is just because I am a weird [special special special] girl, and not too many girls like the music I like, and thus not enough girls make the music I like, so the ones who do make it just aren’t that good. So. Of course I only listen to male artists. It just happened that way.” Now, mind you, I had made absolutely zero effort to seek out female artists before concluding that they either didn’t exist or were mediocre. I just knew.
When I finally decided to make an effort to seek out female artists, my world exploded. I had spent years listening to dudemusic, bending over backwards to empathize with their point of view and growing to love them and trying to ignore the parts that made me feel uncomfortable. Listening to music by women was incredible because the artists clearly viewed me as a valid part of their audience. There was no need for empathy gymnastics on my part because the artists were already bending towards me. Sure, I still have to do some work to focus and grow towards them but it was not a one-way relationship.
The effort to seek out female artists, writers, musicians has ceased to be an effort on my part. It feels natural now. I also realize that women have always been making excellent things, I just didn’t know how to find them.
A friend of mine recently sent me some music by some acoustic guitar virtuoso sensitiveman and I could not engage with it. I listened to it and I thought, “I don’t know, do I really want to spend all this effort on this? To have another poor Townes van Zandt facsimile to listen to? How many more of those do I need?”
I am not trying to write off all the male artists who have had a profound impact on me, whom I continue to adore and listen to regularly. My point is I have been (without realizing it) starving for female voices and female art for most of my life, and I’m not going to apologize for prioritizing that hunger.
“I think people resent our freedom. Our choice to keep doing something they may have done badly when they were younger and were full of feeling and to keep doing something that supposedly anyone can do – making something out of something as practical and mundane as language is to brand oneself as a lifelong fool rather than merely a fool in her youth. People feel sad about what they disavowed to become who they are now. Poets are human of course and have disavowed plenty, but to stand behind this nonetheless significant or foolish act… This – to be a poet – was the biggest choice in my life, and I suffer fools gladly and have a great life. Look at this. I just wrote a book called snowflake, for god’s sake.”