Sarah Bridgins, the co-founder of the Ditmas Lit reading series in Brooklyn, is creating community for emerging poets.
A graduate of the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, Sarah Bridgins (BS ’06), is the author of the Sexton Poetry Prize winning collection Death and Exes (Eyewear Books, 2022). Her work has appeared in Tin House, BuzzFeed, Bustle, and Joyland, and other publications. A co-founder of the Ditmas Lit reading series in Brooklyn, she serves as an executive assistant at the hedge fund, D.E. Shaw.
We asked her about her poetry and creative writing practice.
Tell us about your trajectory from NYU Steinhardt MCC graduate to a published poet.
I took as many creative writing classes as I could fit into my schedule as an undergraduate, both fiction and poetry. Nat Bennett, my first creative writing teacher was very encouraging and I actually wrote the first poem I ever published in his class. I also learned a lot from George Foy who taught an advanced fiction workshop that was really great. After I graduated I took some fiction workshops at the 92nd St. Y before ultimately deciding to focus on poetry. I realized that writing poems came more easily to me and I’m a big fan of following the path of least resistance. There were about five years after college when I didn’t write poems at all, but once I got back into the process I started submitting work to tiny journals and getting the occasional acceptance. My confidence built from there and I started writing and publishing more. I thought about getting an MFA at one point, but ultimately decided against it. I worked in publishing for several years before moving over to finance and was able to meet a wonderful community of writers through my job and by going to readings and literary events. I’ve also been part of a really amazing writing group for the past 12 years. Eventually I had enough poems to put a manuscript together. A lot of poetry presses have contests you can submit to for debut collections, with the prize being publication. I ended up winning the Sexton Prize from Eyewear Books along with the poet Ross White. They published my collection Death and Exes at the end of 2022 and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out.
Can you tell us about your writing process and would you share a poem?
I wish I had more of a process to be honest. I occasionally write non-fiction and I’ve found that with prose I need to be more disciplined and try to impose some sort of schedule if I want to get anything done. My process for writing poetry involves more note taking and jotting down lines and stanzas as they happen to come to me. At some point I’ll feel the urge to gather together these scraps and see what I can make out of them. The process of assembling my collection was similarly informal. I really just pulled together all of the poems I had published over a period of about eight years and realized I had enough for a book. They’re all very tonally and thematically cohesive so it worked out.
Five years ago at a party
A girl correctly guessed my age
and I have never forgiven her.
I dyed my hair
for the first time since college
when I decided to go
from dark brown to platinum,
sizzling each strand with chemicals
until it felt like I was wearing a wig.
This time, I get hot girl hair
expensive balayage painted on
by a 25 year old in mom jeans and a crop top
who I found on Instagram.
I rehearse making small talk
with her on my subway ride over
then get so intimidated
that I spend each appointment
staring at my own reflection
not saying a thing.
Sometimes I confuse
my blonde highlights for grays
picking at my part in the bathroom mirror
like an ape delousing
only realizing my mistake
once I’ve ripped one out by the root.
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