Q&A with Sarah Pearce

A square photograph of Sarah Pearce is set against an illustrated banner of blues, purples, and orange-pinks, with wiggly lines. In the bottom corners are illustrated green foliage, with collaged and illustrated dancing and posing human figures. Sarah has her hair up, and wears a brown jumper with a thin striped detail. Her eyes are closed mid smile. Her hands are raised and touching. Her backdrop is out of focus, in neon purple and blue. ‘an interview with Sarah Pearce’ is written across the top of the banner.

Dr SARAH PEARCE is a poet and researcher from Tarndanya/Adelaide. Her work appears in Aeternum, Outskirts, Meniscus, writing from below, TEXT, The Suburban Review, and various anthologies. She has held residencies at Adelaide City Library, FELTspace gallery, and Gunyah, and performed at Blenheim and Adelaide Fringe Festivals. Her writing concerns female embodiment, the Gothic, queer narrative(s), and mental health.

Our Associate Editor L.B Hazelthorn talks to Sarah about her poem, ‘into the woods’, published in #26: REVEL

Your poem in #26: REVEL, ‘into the woods’, evokes an atmosphere of ritual ecstasy, involving both danger and visceral pleasure. How do you summon and safeguard these complex delights in your daily life?

I can be quite a cautious person, so it’s good for me to sometimes do wild shit. The more organised and ‘safe’ I am in daily life, the more I need a release at some point. Life is way more enjoyable when you reach outside your comfort zones and normal boundaries—there’s a lot of joy to be found in those places.

You have a particular interest in Gothic literature, particularly women’s expressions and explorations. What first drew you to studying these themes, and how do they find their way into your creative writing?

Studying 19th century women’s literature in undergrad introduced me to Gothic themes, and I was fascinated by how architecture and the supernatural could symbolise women’s interior worlds. Then I did a whole PhD on the suffering female body in the works of Emily and Charlotte Brontë, which had Gothic theory at its core, as well as the ways that the Gothic and realism play with and against each other, and dissolve into one another. I think the Gothic does find its way into my writing, possibly unintentionally, but because the world and my brain are inescapably Gothic…

Apart from your poetry and academic writing, you also work extensively as an editor. How does the experience of structuring and disciplining language impact the way you direct your inspirations? Do you ever find yourself writing as an editor, with the final shape in mind, or do your processes keep the creation and refinement phases distinct?

I’m generally someone who writes first, in a fairly undisciplined kind of way, then edits later. Most of the time, I find it difficult to write with a final form or shape in mind—when I try to do that, the writing is lifeless. But, professional editing has helped me be increasingly savage with my work—brutal editing has honed and improved my work (and even the initial writing stage) over years, one word at a time.