The Virginia G. Piper
Center for Creative Writing

Home / Writers / sam sax
Photograph of sam sax by Hollis Rafkin
Photograph of Sam Sax by Hollis Rafkin.

sam sax

Distinguished Visiting Writer 2019

About sam sax

sam sax is a queer, Jewish, writer & educator. He is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series selected by Terrance Hayes & bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. sam has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony.

More About sam sax

sax, sam. "‘Camp Fire,’ A Poem by sam saxLit Hub, May 20, 2019.

after the fires come rain
& in the time between
one devastation & another
we delight in the normal
pleasures of a sky weeping
like an adolescent
in a multiplex parking lot—
how unusual for this place
without water to be now
drowned in it, people lift
their heads—tree farms
drinking at the gray tap.
it hasn’t rained since i moved
back & i know after this
comes the mudslides from
the ruined hillsides
& later—wild blooms
of near devastating beauty
which too will die & dry
into food for a new fire
even more terrifying than
the last—where our breathing
masks will laugh at our
efforts to respire here.
& still despite its portent
the rain this morning
is lovely. the sound of it
outside my window
does what it did as a child—
permissions us to stay in
or go out & be wetted along
with everyone who lives
here, who too exists in this
circumstance of weather,
who breathes in the wet
sidewalk. i watch the trees
drink & glisten like old
drag queens—read
an article from my father
on the hatred of jews
in europe. violence & fire
on the rise & on the horizon.
i read the article & then
read the article again
this time only for the names
of cities where statues are
cut from marble into
the shape of men so beautiful
& soft you can’t help
but fall in love. the stone
breathing & hot & when wet
almost dancing.

Arthur, Christian. "Addiction and Queerness in Poet Sam Sax’s ‘madness’The Fix, November 3, 2017.

I think making an ulterior history in response to capital H history has been an important political project to all folks left out of dominant cultural narratives. If you don’t see yourself in media or textbooks, you can get the sense that your people never existed, which isn’t the case. So for queers in particular, there’s been a debate about claiming historical queer figures before the advent of turn of the century terms like homosexual. So my initial project was to look at the DSM-I to see in what ways homosexuality was medicalized and made into a disease and how that informs our understanding of queerness today, then I was amazed to see all the other ways early misguided diagnostic practices haunt our culture today.

Sernaker, Emily. "Grief, Ritual, and Estrangement: An Interview with sam saxLos Angeles Review of Books, January 23, 2019.

I like to be transparent with the reader. Offering that kind of transparency of showing how the mind moves on paper is really interesting to me. Sometimes the writer [comes across] as this researched and indelible site of knowledge and not someone who is working through something and trying to learn — and failing on paper.

Klein, Dallas. "'bury it' by sam saxPorter House Review, April 1, 2019.

After the Q&A, sax had the group break away and find one nearby object in the room. The goal was to write about said object in extreme detail. He told everyone to “describe the shit out of it.” The room dispersed. Writers found pictures, books, trinkets, or admired clothing items of neighbors. The only audible sound for those next twenty minutes was the etching of pencils and pens on paper. The goal of this project was to make something ordinary come alive—give it a purpose—but what was intriguing about the exercise was the chance to slow down, to spend time with each word on the page.