Sarah Certa is a poet. Her first full-length collection was published by University of Hell Press in 2015 and her next book is due out from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2017. Find her on Twitter @AlienHere2Love and her website sarahcerta.com.
The act of acceptance has helped me more than anything else, and by that I mean simply accepting my feelings, my thoughts, my life, my desires — whatever it is that I am experiencing/thinking/feeling.
You’ve been a permanent fixture in the literary community for a while, how do you think your writing has evolved in that time?
It’s interesting to me that you say that because I don’t feel like a permanent anything, especially not in the literary community! But I take it to mean that you and/or people you know continue to read my words, even when I feel and am elsewhere, and that means something to me, so thank you. And gosh, I’m not sure how my writing has evolved. I think the poems are becoming more clear, but of course they are always a reflection of my innermost state, and so really to answer this question is to give some thought as to how I have evolved, which feels mostly beyond my ability to linguistically grasp. I still don’t know how to use stanza breaks, so that hasn’t changed. The form is still very much the same though I think the imagery is getting tighter, the lines sprawling a bit less than before. I’m talking less and feeling more in them. I’m also not very often depressed anymore, so the poems are originating out of different emotional centers. That is probably the biggest change. The poems I’m writing now are mostly celebratory explorations of the self/cosmos/love, whereas many times before they were desperate life lines I was throwing myself, and that desperation and despair no doubt shone through. I used to be very obsessed with all the terrible things happening in the world and those things would find their ways into my poems in very stark and brutal images, because they reflected how I felt inside. But I don’t feel that way anymore and so my poems are no longer so heartbreaking. I think my third full-length will be the most hopeful of anything I’ve written.
You tweet often about your experiences as a spiritual counselor. How did you come to find that passion? How do you feel it intersects with your writing?
I came across it by seeming accident. I’m not actually even sure how. When I was 16 I became very interested in psychology and for a long time thought that my eventual career would be as a clinical psychologist with a focus on abnormal psych. Of course I took lots of detours on the way, switching majors and then winding up in poetry school, and then last year as I was preparing for the PhD in psych application I was just overcome with a strong intuition that it was not for me. I took the GRE, did all the prep work, but on the day of the deadline I couldn’t get myself to submit my materials. I didn’t know what I would do next but I just knew it couldn’t be the traditional western mental health route, even though psychological wellness was always and still is my passion. At this same time I was also going through many personal experiences that deepened my own relationship with the spiritual world, and I was studying a lot of quantum physics and energy work, and things just sort of started falling into place. I recognized my own innate abilities to read people’s energies and…. it just sort of started happening. And I realized it is the wellness I am truly passionate about — the Order, not the dis-order. I’ve always been drawn to psychological dis-order because of the Divine Order I must have intuitively known was inherent within it. And so I seek to hold spaces in which people can come into themselves with unconditional love and compassion. And my writing very obviously reflects this. My poems are the space I hold for myself in which I can come into myself with unconditional love and compassion.
You have a book slotted from Civil Coping Mechanisms for 2017. How do you feel this book will differ from your other published works?
Well the book is called Civil Coping Mechanisms and was organized specifically for the press in response to Michael’s call for a book of the same title as the press, which is something I’ve never done before. If CCM hadn’t picked it up then it would have morphed into another manuscript. It also includes several lyric prose pieces that I broke up to span multiple pages, which is very different, and all the pieces within it are pretty tightly linked, playing off of each other and moving through the arc of a single narrative. It’s definitely more personal, reading a bit more like a collection of diary notes with poems interspersed throughout, though of course by the time it’s published I probably won’t feel that way. It’s difficult to feel personally connected to something I began in the middle of 2015. By the time most people read it I will be living another life entirely. I mean, I already am. Already that book is not me. It happens as soon as I finish a poem. I am the poem for the time I am writing the poem but when I am no longer writing the poem then I no longer am the poem either. But I’m excited about this book because much of the work in it reflects the beginning of my newfound honesty with myself and with love, which has been a divine healing power.
Which writers and artists have you been following most lately?
The contemporary writer Adyashanti as well as the text of the Tao Te Ching. The Tao is true poetry to me.
Your writing is incredibly vulnerable, dealing heavily with your own experiences with trauma and mental health. Would you consider writing a main coping mechanism of yours?
Acceptance. The act of acceptance has helped me more than anything else, and by that I mean simply accepting my feelings, my thoughts, my life, my desires — whatever it is that I am experiencing/thinking/feeling, I’ve gotten into the habit of saying “It’s okay, Sarah, it’s okay that you have this feeling. It’s okay that you think this.” And doing so gives me enough breathing room to be able to go deeper into the moment with myself, to explore why I might be feeling or thinking a certain way, to see myself from an objective and compassionate perspective, that I am a human who wants to love and be loved just like everyone else. And acceptance requires honesty with ourselves, and honesty requires stillness from the rest of the world. So often we think we are thinking our own thoughts when really we are thinking someone else’s. You have to have some peace & quiet to remember what you sound like, who you are. And whoever that is — it’s okay. Acceptance.
What’s a piece of advice that has always stuck with you?
I’m honestly drawing a blank except I feel like quoting Shakespeare “to thine own self be true”….
A thought you’ve been having lately?
Lately I have fewer and fewer thoughts. I feel myself continuing to be stretched open, emptied, entirely void of all I’ve ever known, and yet — I’m closer to home than ever.