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Sarah Salway

Guest Poetry Editor's Comments

Over lockdown I ran a poetry course called ‘Let Poetry Find You.’ Its title was based on the poem Poetry by Pablo Neruda and in particular, the first lines, And it was at that age … poetry arrived/ in search of me. 

          When did poetry come in search of YOU?

          I suspect that many of us can pinpoint that exact moment things clicked into place. As one of the course participants later commented, ‘I feel I’ve come home, I’d forgotten what I was missing,’ 

          I know what she means. It’s a good day when I read a poem that taps me on the shoulder, hands me a key and I find myself somewhere different. Admittedly not always safe, not always comfortable, but always true, a new home to explore. Because the best poems give us a little piece back of ourselves, a piece we might have forgotten we were missing. 

          I’m proud of the selection of poems I was lucky enough to pick for this edition of The Phare. From Maura High’s patient lichen, to the ungraspable moment of a beach walk in Alice Stainer’s PPS, right up to the ‘too crowded and noisy’ A Study of Three Bars in Brooklyn by Ally Chua, and not forgetting Jacqueline Donaldson’s gorgeously glittery babysitter, these poems are full of rhythm, imagery, and most of all an exploration of what humanity is and the meaning it has today.

          Some of the poets in this edition broke my heart, others made me smile, but all were generous enough to share a fresh window for us to look out from. Because yes, even the glacier attending its own funeral in Suzannah Evan’s masterful poem and Angela France’s hidden water, ‘out of earshot, talking to itself’ show us a sideways glance in the mirror. Tell all the truth but tell it slant, wrote Emily Dickinson – a phrase invisibly blazoned on the t-shirts of writing tutors everywhere but which seems to get more relevant out in the wider world too, especially as we hear more of the slant and less of the truth bit. 

          And while I find myself still giggling at the image of Wittgentstein with his armfuls of pink and yellow balloons, ‘an aeronautical/ rhubarb and custard’ conjured up by Rishi Dastidar, it’s how he ends his poem that I keep coming back to:  ‘what price your language now?’ 

          Perhaps this is why poetry – and language – carries the fire. It’s priceless. 

As well as Sarah's six books, her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including the Virago Book of Shopping, the Poetry of Sex (Penguin Books), Poetry London, the Financial Times, Psychologies magazine, and has been commissioned by BBC Radio 4. Sarah loves teaching creative writing, and is so passionate about words that in 2018, did a TEDx Talk - in praise of everyday words. She's a Hawthornden Fellow, former Canterbury Laureate, and has twice been awarded international residential Fellowships from Virginia Center for Culture and Arts in the US. Sarah has taught in Universities for many years, and as the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science for three years, supported students and staff with their academic writing. She currently runs a long-standing Reading Group in Kent.

In addition to Twitter and Instagram, you can also find Sarah on Substack and at Writer in the Garden.