Sarah Pinder grew up on the north shore of Lake Superior, and currently lives in Toronto. She is the author of two books, Cutting Room (Coach House Books, 2012) and the Lambda Award–nominated Common Place (Coach House Books, 2017). Her work has also been included in magazines like Geist, Arc and Poetry is Dead. She is a long time zine-maker, and her work can also be found in Montreal’s Distroboto art vending machines. Her image-driven and experimental lyric work thinks critically about our current social, political, and ecological moment.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario, and was a voracious reader, but the selection at my local library was pretty limited — some 70s Canadian poetry like Leonard Cohen, a lot of Shakespeare. There was an illustrated edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and remember being blown over by “Song of Myself.” His scope and ethic of generosity — the big, wide sweep of his writing — felt really new and expansive, to me.
I started writing poetry as a teen. I made zines of my writing and photography, and hosted poetry readings at a cafe in Sault Ste. Marie, the neighbouring city to the town I grew up in. I was really devoted to writing as a routine practice and carried a notebook with me all of the time, which is something I still do! I was also really hungry for connection with other writers. Sharing zines and hosting readings were ways to be part of a larger conversation about poetry, and about the world.
I see poetry as a tool to speak in a new way about experiences that shape our lives, as well as a way to imagine the possibilities of different presents and futures. For me, the work of poetry is trying to think through ideas and be in relationship with the work of other writers and thinkers, with our communities, and with the world around us.
The excerpt from thirsty, by Dionne Brand. Her work always feels like such a precision-crafted love letter.