Oyster River Pages: Who are the writers who have made you who you are?
Catori Sarmiento: The writers who influenced me the most have been Ruth Schwartz and Amina Cain. During my undergraduate years, Ms. Schwartz was a guest teacher for a poetry course wherein we wrote our own poems and she critiqued them. The best advice she gave me was to “feel deeply” when writing. Similarly, Ms. Cain was one of my writing teachers while I studied for my graduate degree. Not only was she a patient and perceptive teacher, she was also a wonderful mentor who gave me the hard critiques I needed in order to elevate my writing.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
CS: To understand other people’s perspectives. Being able to think of the world from someone else’s point of view not only makes me a better writer, but also a more compassionate person.
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
CS: Some time earlier this year, I watched the documentary series “Rise” by Viceland which
highlights the lives of people in Indigenous communities.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word?
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created? (line, image, story, etc.)
CS: So far, it would be from Lamentations for Our Cruel Hearts that reads “In visceral play/ we absorb each other’s tongues/unable to stop.”
Those particular lines went through several iterations before they felt right.
ORP: What do you want to read/see more of in the world?
CS: I would like to read more surreal and experimental writing. I think this is somewhat missing from mainstream literature.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
CS: By encouraging individuals to find their creativity.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
CS: My Grandfather had a cabin near the Stillaguamish river in Arlington, Wa. In the summer, my family would travel there to celebrate his birthday. Being present in the wilderness sparked much of my early creativity. I recall days of wandering amongst the forest and playing in the river, imagining fantastic stories.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
CS: Remnant Distance
After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Catori Sarmiento’s world travels have often inspired
her unique writing style. When not exploring the many cracks and crags in Japan, Catori
Sarmiento spends her time writing poetry and prose. As an author, her works have appeared in
numerous literary publications. Find her poetry here.