Q&A with Sage Cohen

Sage Cohen is an award-winning poet with a BA from Brown University and an MA in creative writing from New York University. The author of the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World, Sage has published widely including
three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing. She has taught poetry at universities, hospitals and writing conferences as well as online. Sage’s blog, www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com, continues the conversation started in Writing the Life Poetic.

What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?

I learned from Christina Katz’s advice and example that you don’t have to wait for the stars to align and a lightning bolt to come down from the heavens, anointing you to be an author. You simply have to set a clear goal and work a little bit every day toward achieving that goal. Any distance is within reach when traveling one step at a time.

What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?

Yes, you CAN write poetry when you’re happy!

What’s the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?

The worst kind of mistake you can make is to fear making mistakes. Put yourself out there beyond your comfort zone, and be willing to mess up. That’s how you learn and grow. Perfection is a small, suffocating box in which art can’t survive.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?

Every morning, I walk with my dogs in a variety of beautiful parks. This has become foundational to my writing practice. I start the day breathing hard, steeped in beauty, letting words move through me.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Typical day? What’s that?! I think my favorite thing about my work life is that there’s enough flexibility for every day to take the shape that’s right for that day.

I am a self-employed marketing communications writer by day; poet, essayist and author by night and weekend. This generally translates to being at the computer day and night on most days, working on either client work or my own. With my client work, I am deadline-focused and quite structured. My approach to creative writing is more improvisational; I generally do what I feel most inspired to do first and then ride that wave wherever it takes me. Both processes feed each other.

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?

I would make poetry a craft with high market demand and significant financial rewards so that all of the magnificent poets I know could make a living doing the important work of writing poems.

In what way (if any) has your writing/publishing life changed in the past 5 years?

I’ve grown up as a writer in the past five years. Through the articulation of my platform, all of the writing that I’ve been doing my entire life gained a sense of continuity and direction. I now have a clear lens through which I understand what I’m doing as a writer, speaker and teacher. As a result, I’ve become much more efficient and economical with my writing process as well as my community service. My goals are clear, and I know when I’ve reached them.

Do you have any advice for new writers on fostering a strong author/editor relationship?

The more you regard your relationship with your editor as a collaboration, the happier you will be. To that end, hold your ideas loosely and be willing to adapt. Listen carefully. Respect the wisdom and experience of your editor. She most likely understands the complexities of the book publishing business with far more sophistication than you do. And above all, no matter what happens, be grateful!

What do you see as your biggest publishing accomplishment?

More than 20 years of perseverance and love of the written word have led to the publication of Writing the Life Poetic. My greatest accomplishment has been an incremental, not very flashy one: showing up every day and doing the work that I most care about.


Any final thoughts?

I’d love for this to be a dialogue, rather than a monologue! If you’d like to discuss living and writing a poetic life, come visit me at http://www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com/ or email me at sage@writingthelifepoetic.com.

Learn more about Sage’s book Writing the Life Poetic

Read an Excerpt from Writing the Life Poetic

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