top of page

Kristin Sanders: California Poets Part 7, Four Poems

Kristin Sanders

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Kristin Sanders

Four Poems

A Review of My Airbnb in Marbella


The host was very nice, she sent six WhatsApp messages in Spanish, two videos set to piano music, all guiding me to her hidden keys. I don’t want to criticize her place because she is a woman but I’ll admit it was a ground-floor corner studio, dark even in daylight. Still, I found it clean and cute. Every night I dressed up to make my father love me again, or at least like me a little, then walked fifteen minutes along the boardwalk in heels to the fancy resort where he and his third wife had a suite. The beach and resort resembled Orange County, a lush palm-lined landscape bracketing the artificial. But I did like tanning with my top off in the days I spent alone. My makeup and dresses were effective, I think. The list of what we didn’t discuss long: feminism, politics, god. Every night I fell asleep to the elderly woman next door watching her TV too loud. On the last night I brought back two married Belgians. We each drank one beer on the porch. I would have let them stay, especially the one who looked like everything I have been searching for, all my dreams there in one angular blonde, but I could tell neither was that kind of married man and I am not that kind of unmarried woman anymore. I was glad to have brought earplugs to protect me from the neighbor’s noise, her late-night loneliness, my own.

Image 14. In this photo, the man is the muse.


He is spread apart on the cotton bedcover like a thick fog, his features lost to us, like topography grown imperceptible from an airplane window seat. Notice how he wants to appear calm but is not. Those waves within him, anchorless. Torso, heartbeat, hurt. Notice, too, how he wears his figure so well, the lines he makes, their intersection with all of his aching. Look at the road of him, the want, the way in. And the care the artist takes with her tools.

Image 13. Then, the command.


Oh well, you have power now, you’ve eroticized your objectification. You worked hard to get here, whittled your body into a blade, put it inside the little box yourself, arched your back, gave the orders. Let no one look at you without first receiving the invitation to consume. You are no longer so angry. You feel you’ve made your life a success in its way, that you can have anything you want. You make your own decisions, perform only when and how you wish. You are never far from your devices, from an eye—retina and pupil, iris and optic nerve—or plastic and glass, silicone and aluminum. You sigh into the sensor and lens, into the man-made light. You reflect the angle of it all.

Image 4. An inheritance


When my father was a young man, he dreamt he saved his own father—then an alcoholic living on Skid Row in LA—from a burning house. How will I save my own father? You see how the man looks at me here, spread out before the fireplace, reclined on a white shag rug, flammable, on fire?


July 10th, 2024

California Poets Interview Series:

Kristin Sanders, Poet, Educator, Freelancer

interviewed by David Garyan

DG: You were born in California, got an MFA from LSU, and now you’re in Paris. It’s been a gradual move east. What prompted the move across the ocean?

KS: Yes, 40 years spent inching toward Europe! And New Orleans, where I lived off and on for 15 years, is a very European city, in many ways. What prompted the move is that, in 2017, I began working solely from my laptop and moving around as a digital nomad. For almost three years, I didn’t have an apartment, just bounced between sublets, Airbnbs, and the homes of friends and family. I stayed, for various stretches of time, in several cities in Europe, Australia, and the US. But I kept coming back to Paris, where I found not only such inspirational beauty, of course, and a fundamentally intellectual, literary society—but also an incredible community of friends, writers, and expats. Given the support of that community—I really could not have done it without them—I officially moved abroad in 2022.


DG: To what extent has the expat experience changed you and what are things you miss about the US?

KS: Gertrude Stein wrote in Paris France that the city of Paris is “exciting and peaceful.” I find that to be true. It’s incredibly peaceful, calm, civilized—the population polite, the young people giving up their seats on the metro for older folks—and I feel safe, especially knowing that there are fewer guns than in the US and fewer mental health problems. I’m grateful to live here, to exhale here, to learn from the French or European people I’ve befriended, and all of this has expanded my sense of self and my sense of what a country can look like. In the US, I’m afraid of gun violence, I’m afraid of crowds of my fellow Americans, and I’m afraid of how anti-intellectual the population is. It feels to me, in America, as if we live while holding our breath—tense, waiting for the next disaster, scared—and of course that has an impact on one’s mental and physical health, and one’s art. So, yes, I’m grateful for my expat experience, for my life in France, how it has forced me to grow, and for the flexibility I’ve created in my own life. I have an abundance of freedom.

Still, I deeply miss my friends and family in the US. I also miss understanding all of what is being said! I’m still learning French, and the experience of learning a new language, starting at the level of a toddler, is humbling and challenging.


DG: Has the environment changed the topics you write about, or perhaps even the way you write, or has the essential voice remained the same?

KS: What and how I write hasn’t changed much, but then again I’ve only been here for two and a half years, and I’ve only been learning French for that long, as well. I’ve always written primarily about desire, sexuality, womanhood, relationships, love—and those topics are very present in Paris. I find French culture to be romantic and realistic. The French don’t shy away from talking about, or enjoying, one’s sensuality and sexuality. For example, it’s a country where women are still seen as sexy and desirable as they age, more than American women are afforded. And the city itself feels soft, easy, with a focus always on pleasure. For these reasons, the environment seems ideal for my writing and my voice.


DG: Paris is a great city to be a digital nomad, but even more so it’s a great city to be a poet. How does the work culture and creative scene differ from what you’ve experienced stateside?

KS: About the work culture here, I can’t say—I write and work almost entirely from home. But, yes, Paris is indeed a great city to be a poet! There are two Anglophone poetry readings each week: Spoken Word Paris Mondays at Au Chat Noir (although they’ve temporarily moved to La Cave Café), and Paris Lit Up Thursdays at Culture Rapide. You’ll find a warm, inclusive community at both. Then you have the Double Change reading series, Jennifer K. Dick’s Ivy Writers poetry reading series, my dear friend Carrie Chappell’s Mnemosynes poetry reading series, and of course plenty of events at bookstores and universities. It’s a rich literary landscape. But it’s not so different from where I came from, New Orleans, which has always had numerous reading series and a wildly supportive community. And I assume this is the case in most major American cities. I’m always so grateful for the poetry world, which connects us all, across cities and continents.


DG: You’ve written The Science of Women Getting Rich: A Feminist Revision, a reworking of Wallace D. Wattles’s 1910 book, The Science of Getting Rich, where everything male is replaced with its female equivalent. Have you noted any differences in terms of how people view money in the US as opposed to Europe?

KS: I was inspired by Vanessa Place’s Boycott, where she took iconic feminist texts and replaced all the female pronouns with male. When I did the reverse for my experimental feminist e-book project, I felt the results could embolden women freelancers, like me, to raise their rates. It’s important to talk about money and what people charge for their services, even if the conversation can be a little taboo (and certainly it is in France), because if you find out someone asks for more money than what you’ve been asking for the same service or product, it expands your belief in what is possible. I think this is the case no matter where you live. However, the way people view money does seem different in France, and I don’t yet have a very nuanced understanding of things. I’m on the outside, looking in.


DG: Apart from writing and working you’ve also taught English and creative writing across parts of the US. In addition, you teach online classes at the University of Arizona. Imagine being offered a tenure track position at an American college at this stage of your career. Would it seem attractive to you or are you now after something else completely?

KS: I’d entertain the idea, depending on where the university was located! And I have to say, some of my favorite people I met as professors, colleagues, or students of mine at various universities: like the poets Laura Mullen and Andrew Ketcham. But in general, I’ve been leaving academia for the last eight years, and only have a toe dipped in it right now. I prefer to focus on freelance copywriting and editing. Academia is pretty bleak these days—specifically, the pay for adjuncts and the few full-time positions—and it isn’t likely to improve. The problem is the same here in France, according to my academic friends. Freelancing or doing any other kind of day job, in my experience, is a better way to make a living and be a writer at the same time. I would not encourage anyone to go into higher education.


DG: The work you’ve featured in California Poets Part 7 includes a series of poems based on blank images. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the book, the writing process, and when you plan to submit it to publishers?

KS: Yes, thank you for publishing those poems! They’re from a manuscript I’d been calling The Book of No Images, which is an expansion of my 2015 chapbook, This is a map of their watching me, that was published as a finalist in a chapbook contest held by the now-defunct BOAAT Press. I’ve been sending out this expanded manuscript for about a year now, and it has been a finalist or semi-finalist in three places. So I’m optimistic about it! But I’ve been bothered by the title, which, though accurate (the prose poems in the book are conceptualized as captions to “missing” images, symbolized by a blank box), isn’t sexy enough for someone whose first book is titled Cuntry. So now I’m calling the manuscript Siren, Salpêtrière. It touches on the “hysterical” women of Paris’ Salpêtrière hospital in the 19th century and Jean-Martin Charcot, who photographed them; the dance between artist and muse; the mythologizing and self-objectification we women participate in for social media; and the way women have historically—and still today—performed our own objectification as a means for power and agency.


DG: If you could spend one day with a French poet in a French city of your choice and one American poet in any US city, which two would you choose?

KS: That’s so hard! But I’m imagining this as an opportunity to travel back in time. So, in France—not that she counts as a French poet, really—but Natalie Clifford Barney, an American expat in Paris during the early 1900s who wrote poems, was a lesbian who refused monogamy, and hosted a literary salon for decades, where writers like Colette, James Joyce, Paul Valéry, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Proust visited. I’d like to have drinks with her in Paris; what great stories she would have!

And in the US: I know she’s more of diarist and fiction writer, but she did write poems, too, so: Anaïs Nin, in her Los Angeles years. I suppose this reveals that what I really want is to chat with the legendary ladies who have all the best gossip—and the secret to living spectacular lives.


DG: What’s your favorite bookstore in Paris?

KS: The Abbey, a used bookstore in the 5th. It’s thrilling to see what books they have and which books choose you each visit.


DG: What writers do you turn to consistently for inspiration?

KS: Marguerite Duras. Anaïs Nin. Virginie Despentes. Louise Glück. Ai. Sandra Cisneros. Nikki Giovanni.


DG: What are you reading or working on these days?

KS: I’m reading Sheila Heti’s Alphabetical Diaries and loving it. It’s so refreshingly honest and raw—and poetic! I love being able to see that another writer, who is so successful and loved, has doubted herself, has worried about money, has worried about finding love. It epitomizes that James Baldwin quote, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” It’s just her old journals alphabetized by sentence, with chapters organized by letter, but it has this incredibly powerful effect—as does all of the best art, always.


Author Bio:

A native Californian, Kristin Sanders is the author of Cuntry (Trembling Pillow Press), a finalist for the National Poetry Series, and two chapbooks: Orthorexia (Dancing Girl Press), and This is a map of their watching me (BOAAT Press), a finalist in the BOAAT Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been recently included in Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press) and anthologies Alcatraz (Gazebo Books) and Dancing About Architecture (MadHat Press). Her fiction, essays, and reviews have been published in Hobart, Longreads, Lit Hub, Columbia Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, Bitch Magazine, The Guardian, HTMLGIANT, and the Weird Sister Anthology (Feminist Press). She holds an MFA in poetry from Louisiana State University and currently teaches online at the University of Arizona.


bottom of page