Poetry and Soundscapes Join Hands in Local Poet’s Newest Project

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How to Unexist cover art: “Swimming No. 3” by Lynn Azali. Image courtesy of Sarah Thursday.

What happens when the cutting words of Long Beach poet Sarah Thursday meets the evocative instrumentation of local duo BobKat?

How to Unexist is no easy listen. Drawing from intensely personal reflections, the 24-minute album is a raw, articulate journey through Thursday’s psyche amid pain, heartbreak, self-acceptance and cognizance. Her cutting delivery doesn’t pander or add flair; the poet’s voice is truthful and clear. Juxtaposed with BobKat’s ambient soundscapes—largely improvisational layers of rhythmic acoustic guitar riffs, fiery violin melodies as well as some horn, bass synths and mandolin—her words sink with impact.

“Before I understood what poetry could be, I dreamt of writing songs,” Thursday said. “So the concept of adding music to my poetry is living that dream. I think the music brings another level of emotion and intensity to the narrative of my poems.”

This collaboration, which will be released January 30, is the latest from Thursday, a self-described “music-obsessed Long Beach poetry advocate” who in 2013 founded Cadence Collective, a community-based blog showcasing the works of emerging local poets. In 2014, she founded Sadie Girl Press, which has published a number of anthologies, chapbooks, art books as well as her own full-length collection called All the Tiny Anchors. With fellow poet G. Murray Thomas, she also hosts Second Mondays Poetry Party at Fox Coffeehouse.

How to Unexist follows nearly a year after her first music-poetry collaboration with Bobby and Karlee Cuff of BobKat, also known as The Poet’s Band. The couple plays all around L.A. County as part of a full band called Grievous Angels.

cid 6021F6BA-B987-4FCA-B45A-674546200AEDhomeThursday said the album (produced by Bobby Cuff) was recorded over two sessions, where she would “pre-read” a piece for BobKat, who improvised the musical accompaniment on the spot. It also features saxophonist Maurice “Mo” Cooper on several tracks. The result creates the musical equivalent of the emotions and energy induced by Thursday’s poignant words.

The journey through her 12 poems begins at a steady pace, with title piece “How to Unexist.” By track 5, “Girl in Flight,” dark ominous synths coupled with soaring string melodies color a dissonant backdrop as Thursday reads, “I am unwinged, gravity locked in oceans—not sky / teeth for crushing chains / eyes fire-fed / to burn through hurricanes.” In this confessional, she writes of envying the girls with “light-filled wings” and their breezy love while reflecting on her own: “My love is anchor / my love is whale song / my love is sandpaper grit galaxies inside pearl volcanoes under mountain.”

In this gritty style, the collection walks the listener through the stages of the mind following heartbreak: bitterness, nostalgia, depression, clarity and strength.

“The poems as a collection do tell a story, but honestly, I drew from multiple muses,” Thursday said. “[…] We get caught up in letting someone else draw and erase our value, but really, that’s all distortion. We exist in spite of anyone’s acknowledgments. I’ve been on both ends of that. All I can do is draw my own honest image, however unpretty.”

How to Unexist will be released as a chapbook and CD on Jan. 30 at Fox Coffeehouse as part of a dual release event with local poet Larry Duncan’s new chapbook, Drunk on Ophelia. It will also be available on SadieGirlPress.com. For more information, visit the Facebook event page, here.

Above, left: Sarah Thursday, founder of Sadie Girl Press and Cadence Collective. Photo by Mick Victor, courtesy of Sarah Thursday.

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