Interview with Sara Sutterlin


Sara Sutterlin is a poet working out of Montreal. Her newest collection of poems, Baveuse, is available to buy from Electric Cereal. She is also the author of I Wanted to Be the Knife, (Metatron, 2015).


Anna Kreienberg: One aspect of your poetry I really enjoy is the other kinds of media that come out of it/work so well with it. I loved the trailer for I Wanted To Be The Knife, and the Natalie Neal film ft. Soko I Still Chose to Stay was really beautiful. Not to mention Mercedes Morin‘s gorgeous textile work. I was wondering if you thought different kinds of media affected your own work, and how?


Sara Sutterlin: Different media definitely affects my work, I just finished writing poems based off Molly Matalon’s photography for a project. I found it both challenging and incredibly inspiring to write based off photography. Certain colours and colour schemes inspire me to write too. Scenes from movies and TV shows, notably Sex and the City, ha.


AK: Sex and the City! I love it


SS: I could talk about Sex and the City forever, how bad it was, how good it was, but I’m stopping myself here. Ha.


AK: I had the privilege of reading Baveuse and really loved your poems in French. Do you find there’s a big difference between writing in French versus writing in English?


SS: I don’t know that there’s a difference between the two in terms of writing, like the act of it is the same in every language. Which is very poetic in itself. But, yeah no the only real difference I can think of is I’m more private about my work in French, I’m more sensitive about it.


AK: Where did the title Baveuse come from (other than that it’s a really, really cool word)? Did you ever have any other titles in mind for this collection?


SS: Baveuse is a word that’s been used to describe me before and each time I’m delighted to hear it. It’s both insulting and flattering. Other titles I considered before realizing they were taken or didn’t fit…“A History of Snakes,” a song by this band Boyracer. Tender Object was another one.


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AK: What has your experience been in a poetry world that’s still pretty much dominated by men? Have you ever had a negative experience at a reading or a weird reaction to your work?


SS: Like most women, I’ve h​ad too many bad experiences with men. To even recall a particular one is difficult, it tends to just all blend together, at least in my case. I don’t really work with men. I don’t read men, I’m not affected by their work at all. They simply do not exist to me, literary-wise, anyway, and it’s easier that way. I’ve had men approach me about my work and that’s always very surprising because I’ve never felt there was anything in there (in my work) for them, but it’s not a Bad surprise.  I guess at this point I just don’t really care what men are writing, putting out and what they think of me. I could have put together a gentler, more eloquent response to this question, but, fuck it.


AK: That’s a perfect response, thank you for it. Reading your work, especially some of the stuff about sex, I sometimes think about the quote that Chris Kraus wrote for Eileen Myles’s Cool for You (which I lifted from some Maggie Nelson interview) “Like [Kathy] Acker, Myles values the most intimate and ‘shameful’ details of her life not for what they tell her about herself but for what they tell us about the culture.” When you’re talking about sex, which really seems like talking about intimacy, are you thinking about how the work falls into different cultural landscapes like maybe the Internet, the hands of women or non-binary people? The hands of people you know?


SS: This is an excellent question. That’s why it’s difficult to answer. I do think about it, how and where it falls, what it says, how much of it is still very much cis, straight girl shit. It is. I know it is, and because it is in that specific pocket, I guess, I not only think about where it falls, but worry about who it excludes. Still, I can’t write what I don’t know and so I hope that intimacy: a genderless, a sexless moment is broad enough to bridge it all together.

I could never not write about sex, my sex, other people’s sex, it’s relation to death, it’s power. Acker and Myles were telling us about their culture, it’s not ours, not exactly. Ours is more violent. I was watching porn the other night and I could not stop thinking that men need violence to cum, that belongs to them. Like, the line between sex and violence has always been blurred but now it’s almost symbiotic, one. That’s cultural. That’s bigger than me. Of course I need to write about that.


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AK: Thank you so much for that answer. Speaking of Acker and Myles, are you reading anything good right now? Do you have any favorite writers?


SS: I’m reading Chris Kraus’s Summer of Hate right now and I love it, I want to write a thriller now, seriously. I have a lot of favorites; Kimberly Alidio, Bunny Rogers, Aurelia Guo, Stacey Teague, obviously Kathy Acker and Eileen Myles, they are the big return of 2015 right? Lauren Cook, Die Ashley, so many. so many.


AK: I saw on your blog the other day a new project & journal you’re working on called Leste. Would you maybe describe what that’s like, editing as opposed to writing, and maybe speak to some of the other projects you’ve edited/curated? Is it enjoyable for you? Do you think it affects your writing in any way, reading and arranging other people’s work?


SS: I’ve done a lot of submission-based zines and shit, so I’m very familiar with the editing process and I’m generally comfortable with it. It has its enjoyable moment, but I find finishing the project, seeing it in its final form and knowing it’s Done is the enjoyable part. I like creating things and then walking away from them.


AK: I just wanted to ask one more question. How has blogging your poems, and sorts of snippets from your life and thoughts affected your work (if at all)? It’s been really cool to follow you and your poems online and to have that kind of access to writing as a reader, and I’m sort of wondering how you see it as the writer.


SS: It doesn’t really affect my work, it’s more of a compulsive thing I do. I’ve been putting personal writing on the internet since 2003ish, first on Livejournal, then on various blogs, Tumblr, etc. It feels good to do it, like somehow there is a Home, outlet, whatever for anything you need there to be. I think that’s the magic~ of the internet, you know? And perhaps more specifically, the magic of the internet for women.


AK: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It was super great to email. I really appreciate it, and I think your work is so damn good.


SS: This was fun and thank you for doing this with me!


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