Stony Brook Southampton’s Writers Speak Wednesdays series continues on February 14 with queer, Jewish poet Sam Sax. He will be reading some of his edgy, award-winning poetry, which explores topics like the body’s response to pleasure and pain, queer identity and the shifting parameters of mental health.
Sax’s day job is as the poetry editor of the BOAAT Journal, and when he’s not reviewing other people’s poems, he’s writing his own. His first book Madness, which links medical psychology’s exploitative past to his own mental health diagnoses, won The National Poetry Series in 2016, and his upcoming follow-up Bury It, expected to release this fall with pre-sales starting in April, already won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.
He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony and Lambda Literary. He is also currently teaching a writing class at the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association.
Sax uses his poetry to make sense of the world around him, taking huge emotional concepts, such as grief or loss, and masterfully distilling them with insightful prose and haunting imagery. Taking inspiration from pioneering queer writers like Allen Ginsberg, Sax writes about homosexuality explicitly and unapologetically, exploring the disconnect between the way the body and mind react to feelings of desire and disgust, love and sex.
His queer identity is at the forefront of Sax’s writing, because to him, living any other way “feels dishonest.” Rather than identify as one specific sexuality, he prefers to label himself as “queer,” as that term has a way of “challenging the binary ideas of gay and straight, male and female… and forcing people to think about their own identities.”
When doing a poetry reading, Sax’s goal is for every audience member to “leave somehow different,” but he enjoys not knowing how individuals will react. Different lines resonate with different people, and he’s often surprised with the strange lines people tell him meant the most to them. With the amount of passion and talent he pours into his poems, it’s difficult to imagine anyone leaving a reading the same way they went in.
Writers Speak Wednesdays are always free and open to the public. The evenings take place in the Radio Lounge on the second floor of Stony Brook Southampton’s Chancellors Hall located at 239 Montauk Highway, Southampton. They begin with a brief reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by readings from 7 to 8 p.m.
Following Sax, other writers and programs scheduled for the spring Writers Speak Wednesdays series include: Judith Newman on February 21; Lee Clay Johnson on March 7; Jericho Brown on March 21; Daniel Alercón and Debora Kuan on April 18; and Melissa Febos and Alex Gilvarry on April 25. On May 2, the evening will be devoted to readings by students currently enrolled in Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program.
For more information about this event, call 631-632-5030 or visit stonybrook.edu.
For a taste of Sax’s amazing poetry, check out the video below. More videos can be found on his website samsax.com.