A Conversation with Perugia’s Intern

Sarah Waring is completing a summer internship at Perugia Press, sponsored by the Praxis Program at Smith College. This is the fourth summer Perugia has been able to offer this internship, as a partnership between Perugia and Smith College. Jean Blakeman, Perugia Press board member, conducted an interview with Sarah about her experience as a Perugia intern and as a poet.

Sarah Waring in London on her semester abroad

Q: How did you first encounter Perugia Press?

A: I am not totally sure when I first encountered Perugia! The press has been so entwined with the Smith College Poetry Center during my time at Smith. I’ve seen Perugia books set out in the Poetry Center, met Becky Olander, Perugia’s director, at local poetry events, and spoken to former Perugia interns. However it happened, I was certainly aware of Perugia Press before this summer, when Matt Donovan, director of the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center, notified students about an opportunity with Perugia. I sent in my application immediately, and the rest is history!

QWhat have you been involved with so far at the press?

A: Along with my fellow intern, Eleanor Walsh, I’ve been writing prompts based on Perugia books, creating social media content, and working on a reading guide and promotional materials for Perugia’s new book. I am looking forward to reading manuscript submissions for this year’s contest.

Q: What are some things that stay with you from the books you’ve been working with?

A: One thing I’ve learned this summer is that working for a poetry press is conducive to writing poetry! I get a lot of personal inspiration from working with Perugia books. Many of the Perugia books I’ve read incorporate themes of memory, history, and ancestry. These themes, and the idea of searching for a connection to one’s ancestors and their place in history, have stuck with me throughout my time at Perugia.

QOther than being Perugia’s intern, tell us a bit about yourself.

A: I’m a rising senior at Smith College with an English major, Jewish Studies minor, and Poetry Concentration. I love poetry, obviously, and other forms of literature — the weirder the better. I also love crocheting, long walks, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m from New York, where my parents live with our dog, Emma Watson. After graduation, I’m interested in a job in the publishing industry.

Sarah’s dog, Emma Watson

Q: Do you have a favorite poet? Or a favorite poet of the moment?

A: Since her visit to Smith, I’ve been a fan of Leila Chatti’s poetry, and I was lucky enough to have her as a professor this past year. Another current favorite (and recent visitor at Smith) is Kiki Petrosino. Lastly — a couple of months ago I read Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, an absolutely gorgeous novel in verse, which has stayed with me since.

QPerugia’s work centers on highlighting the work of women writers. Do you see a connection between the mission of the press and that of Smith College, where you are a student? 

A: Absolutely. For me, going to Smith means that I’m in a place where the voices of women are valued and prioritized, in a world where these kinds of experiences are rare. Coming to Perugia Press feels like the publishing equivalent of that — in an industry that underrepresents women and other marginalized people, Perugia is dedicated to creating a space in which these people and their work are given the respect and care they deserve.

Q: How do you see poetry fitting into your life as you move forward?

A: In the immediate future, I’ll be writing a chapbook for my Poetry Concentration capstone. As for post-graduation…I had a writing teacher years ago who always said “we write because we have to.” That’s how poetry feels for me. No matter where I go, what I do, or how many times I experience writer’s block, I’ll always see poetry in everything, and I’ll still feel the urge to create it. In my dreams, this urge results in a collection or two!

Editor’s note: It’s been such a pleasure to work with Sarah Waring this summera great match was made between Smith, Sarah, and Perugia Press! Thanks to Jean Blakeman for conducting this interview, to Smith for funding the internship through Praxis, to Matt Donovan for sending Sarah our way, and to Sarah for your creative, thorough, and intelligent work this summer.