The Beat: Jenny Sadre-Orafai

Jenny Sadre-Orafai is a poet and essayist and the author of Dear Outsiders and three other poetry collectionsHer poetry has appeared in Puerto del SolCream City ReviewNinth Letter, and The Cortland Review. Her prose has appeared in The RumpusFourteen Hills, and The Los Angeles Review. She co-founded and co-edits Josephine Quarterly and teaches creative writing at Kennesaw State University.


Read "Occupation Interview," "Tragedy Lesson," and "Souvenirs for Locals"

Jenny Sadre-Orafai's website

Three Poems at $

"I Become More Animal When I'm Grieving: A Conversation with Jenny Sadre-Orafi" at The Rumpus

Video: "Hard Hat Reading: Jenny Sadre-Orafai" at Poets House

Video: "Jenny Sadre-Orafai reads at the SAFTA Reading Series"

"In Their Own Words: Jenny Sadre-Orafai on 'Queen of Cups'" at Poetry Society of America

Josephine Quarterly

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Alan May:

Welcome to The Beat, Knox County Public Library’s poetry podcast. Today we’ll hear Jenny Sadre-Orafai read three poems from her book Dear Outsiders, which was published in March of this year. The poems are "Occupation Interview," "Tragedy Lesson," and "Souvenirs for Locals."

Jenny Sadre-Orafai:

"Occupation Interview"

A quiz at school interviews us, tells us who we’ll be when we grow up.

We both get astronaut. And when we go so far out in the water, we’re

sure that one day a real and willing astronaut will land in our arms

and teach us gravity and floating. We catch ourselves with our chins

in the air, the water choppy and lapped against our necks, looking out

for a wilted parachute to land on the crest of our waves. And then we

play the game where the ocean is our dress, and we slip anchors on

our feet while we watch the lifeguards wheel out their wooden stands

where they lord over.

"Tragedy Lesson"

Describe drown. We don’t say it too loud when it happens. It’s not for

the hotel people, people who pay for symmetrical shells. They walk

out so far that they can’t tell which place is theirs on the way back.

We’re sure there’s nothing that could keep them away anyway. Not

the burns. Not even if we told all the jellies to wait outside their do

not disturb doors. We know them by the color of their towels. Orange

is the fanciest resort. Blue is the motel without water views. They line

their balconies with them—flags to countries they’ll never belong to.

The body is rescued and buried because it didn’t swim at 45 degrees to

shore. There aren’t long talks over dinners. We’re so sorry and that’s


"Souvenirs for Locals"

dirty clothes in a laundry bag the size of a sitting ten-year-old / orange

sunglasses with GUARD on the arms / braided nylon flip flops / keys

to electric cars / keys to houses on mountains / keys to fireproof safes

/ steel credit cards / a stuffed brown horse with a saddle stitched onto

its body / a warped passport with no stamps / a bag of cash / a remote /

two red plastic shovels / a yellow gold chain / an army survival manual

Alan May:

You just heard Jenny Sadre-Orafai read her poems "Occupation Interview," "Tragedy Lesson," and "Souvenirs for Locals." She was kind enough to record these poems for us at her home in Atlanta, Georgia. Jenny Sadre-Orafai is a poet and essayist. Her poems have appeared in Puerto del Sol, Cream City Review, Ninth Letter, and The Cortland Review. Her prose has appeared in The Rumpus, Fourteen Hills, and The Los Angeles Review. She co-founded and co-edits Josephine Quarterly and teaches creative writing at Kennesaw State University. She's published four books of poetry.

You can find Dear Outsiders by Jenny Sadre-Orafai in our online catalog. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for The Beat.

About the Podcast

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About your hosts

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Melissa Brenneman

Melissa listens to hours of podcasts on most days. She started the habit with the intention of taking long walks, but podcasts proved to be more addicting than exercise. She records, edits and mixes podcasts for the library.
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Alan May

Alan May works as a librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama. In his spare time, he reads and writes poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, The Idaho Review, DIAGRAM, and others. He has published three books of poetry.