Now Comes the Lightning, the debut collection by Sarah Bernstein (Pedlar Press), follows the life of Fréhel (Marguerite Boulc’h), a Parisian singer born into poverty, as she grapples with depression and addiction. Living in the Montmartre neighbourhood of Paris, her career spanned both World Wars as well as the arrival of cinema. Bernstein's poetry weaves together sensuality and tragedy as it questions celebrity and performance, and the need to maintain control over your own narrative.
After you've read the following excerpt from Now Comes the Lightning and the short interview with Sarah Bernstein, check out our Read This, Then That post featuring Now Comes the Lightning and Kiki by Amanda Earl.
ALU: Which particular poets or poetry collections have most inspired your writing (in general or for this poetry collection)?
SB: So many. I think the shape of Now Comes the Lightning was to a certain extent influenced by Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and his novel Coming Through Slaughter. I was also reading a lot of Anne Carson. More recently, poets like Maggie Nelson, Harryette Mullen, Juliana Spahr, and Laura Broadbent.
ALU: Are you inspired by a particular place, thing, or someone other than another poet?
SB: I walk a lot, which helps to dislodge and then organise ideas. Also long train rides. So movement, I guess.
ALU: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
SB: I do. I like routine. Sunday mornings are now given over to writing. I get up, make coffee, read for an hour or so and then write. I hope that next door will not be playing the BeeGees that early, but as with so many things in life, there never is any guarantee. After that I go for a walk to get my ideas in order, either to the grocery store, which is near a very interesting bingo hall, or else up the small hill by my apartment.
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