ELIXHER caught up with Shawn Smith from Her Saturn Returns, “an outlet to explore the rupture of self-realization in the transition to our 30th year through poetry, the written word, our stories.”
ELIXHER: What is “Her Saturn Returns”?
SHAWN: “Her Saturn Returns” is an anthology I’m putting together. It’s about sex, death and other people’s money. It’s a collection of writing from lesbians of color who are approaching their Saturn’s return. The topic is sex, death and other people’s money because my Saturn is currently returning in Scorpio, which means that I will experience challenges in those parts of my life and I’m excited. [Laughs.] I’m excited to begin my journey. So to sort of revve myself up for the collection, I’m also interviewing women who are approaching their Saturn’s return or who have been in their Saturn’s return, just to tell their stories, explain what that was like for them, how they’ve transformed. I have the most amazing conversations with people who have experienced life in ways that they didn’t know they could have and they really taught me a lot about their process, how they were a hot mess and then they grew up and realized, it’s okay, I’m a hot mess! [Laughs.] And stopped stressing out about it. So that’s really the lesson learned. Saturn, you experience it when you are turning thirty. It happens to you between 27 and 30. Then it happens again 27 years after that. So it’s where Saturn was in your horoscope when you were born, if you’re into astrology, that’s what it’s all about.
ELIXHER: What inspired you to create HerSaturnReturns.com?
SHAWN: I wanted to give people a heads up that the book is coming. Initially it was going to be a blog of poetry because that is what the book is going to be. I wanted people to be engaged in it and I wanted to include community in the blog and so it felt natural for me to profile the writers because they weren’t really going to commit to posting blogs on a weekly basis. I wanted to profile them and say hey, this is who they are. And I felt the way to do that was through an interview, but it felt really in-group and exclusionary to just interview us. I already know them and I also selfishly wanting to meet new people and learn from other people’s stories, I said well I’ll post one interview from the writer and one interview from a random person. That was to move toward the timeline of the book release.
ELIXHER: Do you have a set date for that?
SHAWN: I did. [Laughs.] I did. It’s essentially done. There’s just logistical stuff that needs to happen now. I’ve never done this before so I have no idea how long it’s going to take. And I know that if I give myself a date, I’ll get it done by that date but I also just started a new job. And the time that I put aside to work on the book, I’m working on the blog now, so I have to really consider that process. But sometime at the end of April is really the date that I had set. I’m on schedule because I knew spring would be slower moving that the winter. I also brought on a co-editor because I realized that I needed someone to help me with my deadlines and also bounce ideas off of and take it an extra pressure off of me and add some pressure onto to me in different ways. And she’s doing really great with that. She’s very organized. She’s a great poet. I met her at a creative writing group at the Audre Lorde Project like two years ago.
ELIXHER: What inspired you to create the anthology?
SHAWN: I think that being a part a of the Tongues Afire creative writing group at the Audre Lorde Project led by Erica Doyle and founded by Naomi Jackson. Naomi asked me to help take over the administration of Tongues Afire because she wanted to go to med school. So I administered it in 2008 and in doing that I was able to help with the process of soliciting for women. I realized, oh my god, there were 12 slots and so many women were interested in being a part of this group. We had to turn so many people away. That’s when I realized what the demand was for a space for women to write together and to share their writing. And I’ve been a part of the team at Rivers of Honey for four years. I remember when Rivers had like two people show up, you know? Now it’s like, the first show that I produced, the line went around Second Avenue and we had to turn one hundred people away and that was a watershed moment because there was sort of this assumption that oh, I won’t get in. It’s going to be too crowded. And we don’t do as much advertising anymore because we have such limited space and there’s such a demand. There’s a real huge demand for a space for women of color, especially queer women of color to perform, to express their voices, to share with the community, to pay homage to the ancestors, to be a part of a community space and to be beautiful together. Just being a part of these small groups helped me to see that okay, the only answer now is to create more outlets and just continue to do the work and give people the opportunity to do the work. Really I was interested in putting my own poetry into a book just to get it out of the way—I had all these poems that I was collecting. I’m incapable of doing things solitary. I have to do it with other people who want to be a part of this. I didn’t put out a call. I just asked people that I knew. And then I realized that I should have put out a call. [Laughs.]
ELIXHER: That’ll be the next volume.
SHAWN: Yes, exactly. It’ll be When Saturn Returns in Libra. [Laughs.] Or when Saturn returns in whatever’s after Scorpio.
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