Let’s not do this. How much meat are on these bones?

I … don’t understand?


Where do you go from here? What’s next? Is this book thing as big a deal as you thought it would be?

Well, yes, it’s a very big deal to me, it’s everything I’ve worked for since I was a teen, for three decades, it’s . . .


Yeah yeah yeah. And now that it’s happened and it’s out there, is there an adrenaline dump? Is there a let-down afterward?

Of course, but. . .


Since this was basically your whole adult life in the making?


Also, do you feel that the new global culture of quarantine and self-isolation is going to threaten your identity of being an isolated and awkward person?

Of course. It’s a threat to every poet’s identity. Imagine being the sad bastard and now suddenly everybody’s a sad bastard.


Are we going to have a flood of isolation poetry?

Oh, no. Being grumpy and morose will become so passé. Hallmark-card-worthy, saccharine light verse will experience a glorious revolution.

… In all seriousness, there’s so much to be angry about, particularly now. So much disregard for human life. But there will be a reckoning. And the arts will reflect it, if not start it. So many of my teachers in literature and the arts have taught me that.


When you go in public, and you’re wearing a mask, have you noticed that you can’t smile at people because it just looks like you’re staring them down?

Yes. It doesn’t help that I bought a mask that says, “Ew, David” where the mouth should be. I love Schitt’s Creek, but not everyone gets the reference.


If you walk into a pizza place to grab a couple slices, what are you coming out with?

I like pretending my fast food isn’t going to kill me. Vegetable toppings. Some meat. Nothing “white” – it should all feature tomato sauce.


How do you like your eggs?

Over-medium. Messy yolks. Definitely fried.


Metric or “American”?

Neither. I’m no good with weights and measures of any kind, really.


Your book circles around themes of identity, motherhood, time and existence. Because we’re all quarantined and self-isolating during the pandemic, *and* you’re now working from home *and* trying to homeschool three children, is your book more relevant now?

Because it was rooted so squarely and written in the years *before* the pandemic, I feared it would be less relevant. But all of those themes are very present now, every day, because my identity, *everyone’s* identity, has shifted yet again with the threat of coronavirus and the economy’s precariousness.


And how does that affect the balance you were already no good at?

Everything feels gruesomely cartoonish and exaggerated, like a Terry Gilliam movie. Or, on better days, like an episode of the Muppets. There is no balance. My psyche feels stretched thin, like Katherine Helmond’s face in Brazil. (I had to look up the actress’s name – she was Mona on Who’s the Boss.) That’s basically the image I’m carrying around in my head all day, every day.


You never answered the question. What’s next?

I need to survive, psychologically, this academic year – mine, and my children’s. And then, in a perfect world, I would look forward to collaborating with Meredith Starr on a book of linked cyanotypes and poems. And I would finish writing and editing my new manuscript, The Familiar, which is a book of fabulist poems exploring female mid-life crisis. But this isn’t a perfect world, so I’ll probably just spend the next few months hunkering down and waiting for a descending cloud of murder hornets.


Wednesday night, 8 o’clock, what are you drinking?

Well, Tantrum Tuesdays can only be rectified by bourbon, so that means Wednesdays are more of a wine or beer day – assuage the hangover, go easy after the hard stuff. Start anew.


Thursday night, 8 o’clock, have you gotten any smarter?

God, no. Definitely not.

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SARAH KAIN GUTOWSKI is the author of Fabulous Beast (Texas Review Press), runner-up for the 2018 X.J. Kennedy Prize and a 2019 Foreword INDIES Finalist, and Fabulous Beast: The Sow, a chapbook (Hyacinth Girl Press). She has attended the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Sicily, Western Michigan University’s Prague Summer Program, and the Southampton Writers Conference Script Development Lab. She holds an MFA in poetry from New York University and a BA in English and Mass Communications from James Madison University. Her writing has been published in various print and online journals, including The Threepenny Review, So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Gettysburg Review, Verse Daily, and The Southern Review. As a professor of English at Suffolk County Community College, she has co-chaired the annual SCCC Creative Writing Festival for over a decade. She lives on the south shore of Long Island with her husband and their circus of children and dogs.

One response to “Sarah Kain Gutowski: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Kristen says:

    Yes, it is a big deal!!!

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