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Books » Poet Hannah Sawyerr says a writer’s work should ‘make the reader feel seen’

Poet Hannah Sawyerr says a writer’s work should ‘make the reader feel seen’

Photo courtesy of Hannah Sawyerr

Hannah Sawyerr is a Sierra Leonean-American author and an MFA candidate at the New School for creative writing. In the year 2016, Sawyerr was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Baltimore. Sawyerr’s poetry has been featured on the British Broadcasting Channel and published in ROOKIE and Sesi magazines.

Sawyerr sat down with rolling out to discuss her literary career and give tips to upcoming writers.

What should readers and audiences expect from your poetry?

When I’m reading, I love when an author can articulate the feelings and emotions we experience during the moments when we feel overlooked or discounted. I strive to make my readers feel similarly. My work is also pretty vulnerable. My first manuscript is a work of fiction, but it is also largely influenced by my own real-life experiences.

If I can manage to make a reader feel seen and understood by articulating those feelings and moments that we would otherwise be unable to articulate, then I feel like I’ve done my job as a writer.

What advice can you offer an aspiring writer?

I think when people start writing and ask for advice, they’re always told to read and to read widely and that’s important, but I think it’s just as important to reread. Revisit your favorites, consider why they make you feel the way they do. What tools do your favorite writers use to enhance their own writing? How does that affect your reception of the story? What do you dislike about the work? One of my former professors once said that if I want to be a writer I need to read like one.

Read more about Sawyerr’s literary success on the next page.

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