Sara Sutterlin writes from an inner darkness; she embraces her own badness and finds comfort in that of others. Like her friend Noah, “I love him because he is openly Bad, like me”. Through writing she opens herself up and pours her deepest thoughts and rawest feelings onto paper; or a word document; or iPhone notes. Her poems explore moments, unpicking topics of sexuality, feminism, romance, intimacy, loneliness, love, beauty and the self. They have the potential to cut you, speak to you, touch you, unravel you, comfort you; written by a woman for women, Sara’s poems are for ‘All of us’ who…
“chew on straws
and lie about jaw pain
wish for painless death,
all the girls I know
On Instagram she calls this ‘the darkest one’.
Sara lives in Montreal, Quebec, and has had quite a year: almost 12 months ago her book I Wanted To Be The Knife was published by Metatron; swiftly after, Electric Cereal published her second collection of poems, Baveuse, in which the above poetry is printed. This month, Sara has published a new project, LESTE, a magazine of interviews with women talking about all things sex, intimate and art. The women – interviewees and contributors – are those we know through the screen: Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram. They are the women we feel connected to, without ever meeting. Friends through the digital world.
Sara is also one of these women. I had a chat with her about womanhood, poems and the creation of LESTE magazine.
How did writing become your art?
I guess by being really bad at everything else. But I can’t write if I know I’m trying to talk to anyone but myself. It feels dishonest. I’ve had a diary since I was six and was an overly emotional and dramatic child. So, it seemed inevitable.
Having the confidence to translate the personal into the public can be difficult. How did you overcome this?
I never had to overcome it and I’m very grateful for that. I have no real sense of shame, I feel like everything should be said. Women being public is women writing themselves and liberating others at the same time. That’s important.
Day-to-day, what is your creative process and inspiration?
I like to look out for words that sound nice. I take a lot of iPhone notes. I remember the texture of food. I allow myself to be upset about things. I’m definitely inspired by the writing of others, especially Bernadette Mayer, Aurelia Guo and Nelly Arcan.
You dedicated Baveuse to “all women who wear their darkness proudly and speak it, too”. How did you come to understand and accept yours?
I think once I realised it was a very innate and natural part of me, I embraced it. It became easier to feel connected to it and to work with it, not against it.
Congratulations on the first issue of Leste. Why did you decide to create a magazine? In particular, after publishing two books?
I have always loved magazines. I still have so many old copies of different magazines in my stuff. Plus, I’d made a lot of zines before, including collaborative zines with other women. So, it just seemed like a natural progression. I wanted to make something with the same sort of feel, warm and collaborative, but with a more polished look.
It publishes interviews with women, was it always clear in your mind that this was what you wanted to cover?
The first issue is a way more open concept; it has poetry, essays and interviews. After I put together issue one I decided that, in the future, I wanted to only publish interviews. I’m a little bit obsessed with interviews and I love the idea of publishing conversations between women.
Because perspective is expansive, has no limits.
What have you learned from the work of and collaborating with other female creatives?
That my experience, that all experiences are valid and true. I think I’ve learned to think about pain in a different way. I’ve learned to notice emotional labor in my day-to-day more often. Those are important awakenings. There’s something really enjoyable and comforting about women being candid with each other. I love good interviews where there’s a real sense of intimacy between the people talking. I wanted to talk about the ugly parts of sex, as well as the good ones, and the painful ones.
Many of Leste’s contributors have a strong digital identity, and yet you have brought their work and voices into a physical print-based medium. Was the bridging of digital and IRL something you considered, and why?
It’s not something I considered, but I think it’s interesting that you bring that up. I guess in a way, yeah. It’s important to me to say, give a print space for things that maybe only exist online, like a sexy selfie you took for yourself or for someone else. To be able to work with these women, who I consider friends – online friends – is also incredible. Some of us might never meet but we made this thing, and you can hold it and read it. There’s something really intimate and sincere about that.
Tell us about the journey of creating the magazine, getting people involved and defining the core message.
I think it seemed really easy, for me, because I’d done it before with zines and shit. I came up with the idea on a whim and kind of just went for it. I just jumped into it, emailing people, getting stuff together. To be honest, I never really saw it being anything big, but as it came together I felt more and more excited and proud about the project.
Can you tell us something that’s currently in the works for issue 2?
I have a list of people I’d like to work with. I want to do visual interviews with artists and photographers. It’s all still in the earliest stages of coming together.
What about your own writing. Any plans?
Yes, I’m working on my second full length poetry collection. I’m taking my time with it.
You can buy the first issue of Leste here.
Words by Mollie Pyne.