Inevitable What: An Interview Between Sarah Lyn Rogers & Sirin Thada
Sarah Lyn Rogers, author of Inevitable What, and collaborative artist Sirin Thada talk about their inspirations outside of and within each other's work.
Sarah Lyn Rogers: Aside from crafting killer paintings and drawings, what else do you like to make or do?
Sirin Thada: I like to make mountains out of molehills. Just kidding of course, but I really do love mountains -- hiking, rock climbing when I can... Being outdoors and in awe of nature is an excellent way to keep things in perspective. All the petty little things, all the worries, just melt away -- particularly when you're hanging onto the face of a beautiful cliff, 200 feet above a canopy of trees, with sunny blue skies above and all around you.
Aside from writing poetry, what else do you like to make or do?
SLR: If I had limitless, guilt-free leisure time, I would spend it all on writing (this is not cheating because I write non-poetry, too), reading, painting and drawing, writing songs, hanging out in museums, taking leisurely hikes in shady places, and seeing my friends perform their respective arts. These are all things that I do, some much more sporadically than others. (The pinnacle of my guilt-free leisure time was when I was a freshman in high school and would spend my freer-than-usual afternoons painting fairies and chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger. Oh, bygone days!) I also like scrolling through Tumblr, which is how I discovered your work.
What does your workspace look like?
ST: There's a big old drafting table... On it, mason jars filled with brushes, old cigar boxes filled with paint tubes, random vintage tins of colored pencils. My MacBook Pro. Little glass jars filled with seashells, shark teeth fossils, sea glass, baby pinecones and other little souvenirs from outdoor adventures. Old glass perfume and medicine bottles. My desk lamp has a white ceramic base, and I painted thick black stripes on the white lampshade. Hanging on the wall facing where I sit, there are empty vintage picture frames, that I painted over in red, bright yellow, turquoise blue... A small Buddha hanging. I love being surrounded visually by sentimental souvenirs, punctuated with bright modern colors and accents. What does your workspace look like?
SLR: Here's the deal: I don't usually work this way. When I was in Bhutan, my husband and I had a few pieces of furniture that someone kind had donated to us, and my "desk" was really just a wide table where I kept my laptop, notebooks, crystals and candles, and pencils and pens. This was awesome because I love spreading shit around when I'm working on a project, and hate when I run out of surface. (I have used the floor before for this reason.) Back home in my "real life" now, though, everything is in transition for me and I don't have a space like this that's just mine. My workspace is just whichever notebook I'm nursing at the time (which lives in my bag and/or on my nightstand), and my laptop. Now that I have a dog, I find that walking around the block is its own kind of workspace, the way that being in the shower is one, too.
What kinds of objects and concepts have been the biggest influence on your style?
ST: I am drawn to old vintage objects -- rotary phones, old signage, glass bottles... But I'm also drawn to fresh, modern, minimal design. And bright colors. Stylistically, I'm always trying combine this love for the old with the new, of being messy and handmade, but also clean and stark at the same time. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi really resonates with me, an aesthetic that celebrates the imperfect and impermanent. What kinds of objects and concepts have been the biggest influence on your style?
SLR: In terms of writers whose work I admire and whose styles are hopefully somewhere in my style's DNA, I've got Francesca Lia Block, David Sedaris, Daniel Handler, Erin Belieu, Bob Hicok, Matthew Zapruder, Leigh Stein, Marianne Moore, and good ol' Shakespeare. Maybe some Plath, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I'm very attracted to the sonnet—or even just iambic pentameter—as a constraint. I also like free verse that still emphasizes soundplay, and poking fun at the human experience (something that, in non-poetry, Sedaris and Handler do, too). I love how Block breathes life into all of her work by focusing on exquisite, often kitschy, details. With Moore, she was a master of restraint and it was through reading her that I learned how biting saying less could be.
How did you decide which of my poems to illustrate, and how did you zero in on the particular image that resonated with you?
ST: It was so hard to narrow down the choices! But a few of your beautifully crafted phrases really stood out. In "Tacit," that line, "the lint wrapped around our intent" -- just brilliant. The whole poem perfectly captures the mood of how difficult it can be to find the right words, for people to understand what you mean. Immediately I envisioned a pair of lips, frozen mid-sentence. The bright orange gloves and dishes in the sink in "Drowning Out a Puja With Norah Jones" -- I loved how these immediately recognizable everyday objects emerged from a less familiar landscape of monks blowing horns, of ancient rituals, etc. I could go on and on. In short, I honestly just let your words guide me!
Would you be willing to share a memory, a real-life moment, that became one of the poems in your collection?
SLR: I think a lot about how different people can perceive the same concept/interaction/experience so differently, and that each person has their own version of the truth that the people around them will never have access to. Poetry can be a window into the truth of someone's thoughts and feelings, but I also like to remind myself that what's "true" in a poem might only be true from one angle, or at one moment. One of the poems in my collection, "The Somnambulist," has a lot going on in it, and it includes a climactic moment that reads like a betrayal: two wine-stained glasses discovered by the speaker. This moment was based on something in my real life that turned out to be completely benign, but the poem doesn't follow through to the moment of clarity and relief. The "truth" of the poem isn't factual, but the emotional response it (hopefully) invokes was true for a moment.
If you could cast a spell and instantly be or have anything you want, what would you do?
ST: If I could cast a spell, of course I would wish to have the ability to cast more spells. But then again, wishes like that where you're trying to be all clever never seem to end very well... So, if that wouldn't work out, I would cast a spell to be able to explore the furthest depths of outer space.
Pick an item near you right now. Would you be willing to craft a super short poem about that object, right now?
Empress crowned with stars
teach me embodiedness.
Were I a tower of lights,
I'd be top-heavy, skull
blazing violet and indigo—
or a balloon, light weight
at the end of my tether
urging me toward (but not
touching) the Earth. Empress
with knees wide, possessed
of equanimity, teach me
not to shrink, how to swell
like a pomegranate, each
aril a jewel within such
rosy flesh. I want to run
as they say with the wolves
but it's been so long, I forgot
how to feel my feet.
(It's a Tarot card: The Empress)
Sarah Lyn Rogers is a writer and editor who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and who lived in Bhutan from 2015 - 2016. There, she met Buddhist monks and royalty, studied novel-writing and the Tarot, and dove into some books on paganism and witchcraft. Publishing a poetry collection is her greatest magic trick to date. When she's not writing, Sarah is the Fiction Editor for The Rumpus. For doodles, musings, and more of her work, visit sarahlynrogers.com.
Sirin Thada is an artist and illustrator based in Manhattan. For more information, visit her website at http://sirinthadastudio.com, or follow her on social media @sirinthada.