Poet and essayist Sarah Heady writes on human geography, American history, and the built environment. She is the author of Niagara Transnational (Fourteen Hills, 2013), winner of the 2013 Michael Rubin Book Award in poetry. Her manuscript “Corduroy Road” was a finalist for the 2013 Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Prize. Sarah is a founding member of the New Philadelphia Poets, a writing and performance collective whose work was featured at the Philly Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Kelly Writers House. In 2013 she was a writer-in-residence at Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska. A native of New York’s Hudson Valley, Sarah currently makes her home in San Francisco.
What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?
Grass-is-greener distractibility and discontented grasping, i.e. the feeling that at any given moment I’m not putting my efforts toward the most important/rewarding/healthy/fun/otherwise-appropriate task.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
I’m not in the habit of self-medicating with YouTube, but recently I was blown away by the music video for Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know.” It’s quite possibly the most Eighties thing I’ve ever seen, and the song makes me obscenely happy. It’s also exactly as old as I am.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
My grandma Marilynn used to let me and my brother eat Honey Bunches of Oats with International Delight Irish Cream coffee creamer in place of milk. She was a phlebotomist and she ran a daycare for children of IBMers in Poughkeepsie, NY. I’m also distantly related to a mediocre poet of the 1920s Greenwich Village boho scene named Charles Norman, who wrote a bunch of sentimental, hard-rhymed, metered verse about the sea.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
So boring: veterinarian. Can I use the word “admire” as in “want to bone”? Then my answer would be Devon Sawa as Casper the Friendly Ghost. I wanted to be Christina Ricci in the scene where they’re floating above the dance floor. That was the sexiest thing I could imagine.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
Fearful and incompetent fire-building; never running out of supplies; sore as hell from acute overpacking.
What is your fondest memory?
This is not my real answer, but I submit the following: one time in college I lay on some grass and approximately fifteen (living) Golden Retriever puppies were poured out of a wheelbarrow and onto my body.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Female U.S. president (check?); global marriage equality; reinstatement of an affordable and widespread passenger rail system.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
I will use this question as a way to bring up the following disturbing fact: I just noticed that Microsoft Word autosuggests the phrase “Take care” when you type the word “take.”
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
Rent, duh. Oh yeah, and I would insert two weeks of snowfall annually. I recently had a dream in which I was walking down Nob Hill in the snow and it was totally heartbreaking (in the best way). And oh my god, I just realized this — the sledding possibilities!
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
Lately I’m going for old-fashioned, hurts-so-good longing mixed with twitching pathology.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
At the risk of sounding preachy and cheesy (but isn’t that what this question is for?): Nobody can do what I do. You should do what you do.