Michael Sarnowski's poetry is confident and authoritative and, perhaps most importantly, engaging. We are proud to announce the inclusion of one of Michael's works in Agave Magazine's upcoming inaugural issue.
AGAVE: What experience would you like to give your readers?
MICHAEL SARNOWSKI: Well, in Ilya Kaminsky’s “Musica Humana” he writes, “Once or twice in his life, a man / is peeled like apples.” In addition to the utter beauty and truth of that statement, I think there’s an incredible amount that we can learn about ourselves if we acknowledge and try to understand those moments. Not every poem is going to be a total enlightenment, but I think every poem has the potential to be a struck match in a pitch black room.
Do you seek to understand before you write, or do you rely on the writing process itself to bring you closer to understanding?
The majority of the time, the writing process is what brings me closer to understanding my topics. With that said, if I’m writing about a personal experience I tend to allow a lot of time to pass before addressing it. This allows me to process the event and the emotion in the moment, and affords a retrospection that would be lost if I tried to write in the heat of the experience. Obviously, if the impulse and ideas are there it’s best to act on them, but I think it’s important to be mindful of how the outcome will differ based on your proximity to the content.
What themes are you most interested in examining through your writing?
I tend to think my work is propelled by the theme of inquiry. My poems are often prompted by the search for answers, but the poem itself occurs in an isolated moment during that search. Yet, regardless of subject matter, I firmly believe that every poem I write is a love poem.
How do you know when a poem is finished?
Aside from the usual steps in the editing and revision process, the poem needs to either feel as if it’s gone somewhere unexpected, that it makes you think about the topic in a new way, or causes you to ask different questions. A good reminder is the line from Robert Frost’s essay “The Figure a Poem Makes” in which he states “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” This act of discovery tends to be a litmus test to see if I’ve taken the content far enough, or if I’ve really done the topic justice.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Raymond Carver’s collected poems, All of Us. As someone who loves Carver’s fiction, it’s ruthless how that same depth of experience exists in his poetry. They’re like bouillon cubes, but instead of soup you’re left with alcoholism and failing relationships.
The inaugural issue of Agave Magazine comes out in August 2013. Subscribe here to receive Agave delivered directly to your inbox twice yearly.