Sarah Griffin on Death by Squirrels and the Hormones Inspired by Brilliance
I met Sarah Griffin about six months ago, on her eighth day in the Unites States. Her debut collection of poems, Follies, was published last year in Ireland, where she has performed widely. She also writes essays, most recently for The Irish Times and The Rumpus, and is the sub-editor of Bare Hands.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them … ?
I always get sort of paralyzed by embarrassment when people ask. I feel like a charlatan saying the word poet; it still tastes a bit funny in my mouth. I prefer telling people I write lots of things, rather than even saying the word “writer.” Often it’s just easier to say I’m an intern and I’m looking for a job. People tend to ask where I’m from a little quicker than they ask what I do, luckily.
What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?
I feel like such an adult lately, in that I struggle a lot with what direction my career is going to turn, and the constant flux of trying to figure out what road I want to take, and what roads are open to me; this, and being an emigrant in America, and the sort of twist that puts on my day-to-day experience of the world. I keep finding myself thinking about things I never thought about before. I struggle a lot with my cat too; does that count? I mean, I love him, but he’s obsessed with knocking stuff over. That makes for a chaotic house. As I write, he is methodically jumping at the fridge magnets and knocking them to the floor one by one.
If someone said, “I want to do what you do,” what advice would you have for them?
I always tell people that writing is no ivory tower, and that any sort of communication when delivered with creativity and passion can be powerful and beautiful. Humans are natural storytellers. Working really hard, and not letting the rocky speedbumps and dull plateaus get you down — that’s the key. My folks bestowed a driven edge on me, and a terrific work ethic. If someone wants, for whatever mad reason, to do what I do, it’s absolutely within their reach.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I consider myself predominantly sleepy, usually kind, always furious, and occasionally charismatic. Successful does not make that list. To me, success looks like being able to support myself fully through my art. The day I consider myself successful will be a morning I wake up and not be worried that I would have made a better chef than a writer. But it is the glimmer in the distance that drives me to work harder.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
My sense of humour is totally warped. This never, ever fails to make me laugh. Most perfect, surreal 10 seconds on the Internet.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
Oh Jesus. I mean, I love the wilderness. I love it. I’m not so sure it loves me. You’d probably find me six hours in to the week being aggressively nibbled to death by squirrels. I have this sort of confused Disney attitude toward animals where I’m always convinced they understand what I’m saying to them, even though they’re probably just figuring out ways to murder and eat me. I’d like to say I’d spend it flouncing around, meeting fairy godmothers and singing to birds, but realistically speaking I wouldn’t last a day. I’m too inherently city and allergic to everything that crawls for any sort of romantic vision of the wild.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I am so, so terrible at being sexy. We wouldn’t get past the opening bars of “Hey Big Spender” before I’d be awkwardly tacking my phone number to somebody’s forehead and shuffling away with me bra stuck in me sleeve.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
I don’t fall in love every day — I think I’ve only really ever done that once. However, I crush hard and stupid on so, so many people’s minds and art and voices and smiles. Every time somebody brilliant surprises me, I’m a hormonal teenager for them and just want to stick posters of them above my bed and scribble about them in a diary with pink glittery pens. You can read it off me real easy too. I am really awful at playing it cool when admiration is pouring out of every pore in my body.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
I want to know that my children are going to come into a world where they can love whoever they love. I want to know that I have complete rights over my own body, without adhering to the religious beliefs of rich, middle-aged men. I want gender studies in schools. I want a shift, a change, where some brilliant, just lightning strikes and everybody learns to respect everybody else, regardless of what differentiates them. I know that sounds idealistic, and far flung from where we are now, especially in the thick of the political debates, but I want an end to this struggle.
What are you working on right now?
Second collection of poetry, first novel, quitting smoking, swearing less.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
I’ve always been more of a night in on the town kind of person. Crack out the Nintendo 64 with four controllers, give me a bottle of gin and a rake of cigarettes, a handful of hilarious geniuses on two sofas, and I’m happy. The kind of nights that end at 10 the next morning frying bacon while still a little drunk with a sore throat from laughing, with the people you love still around you, telling stories and stories and stories. Just that.