Inky Interview Special: Gerard Sarnat, a California-based Poet and Social Activist

Can you tell us about yourself?

Thank you for the invitation, Deborah. I’m a 72-year-old California-based poet and social activist, and have worked as a physician, Stanford professor, and healthcare CEO in the past.

What is it you love about poetry?

For me writing poetry is an elevated, cleansing, meditative experience.

Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your poems Bronx Rails & Poet Pourri?

Bronx Rails was inspired by the Red Wheelbarrow fast-food joint in the surreal, often dysphoric TV show Mr. Robot, riffing off fellow doc-poet William Carlos Williams.


solicited or not, fsociety is tracking you this Christmas.
Blur between whore art and slush pile poetry/fiction requires a transvestite prophet’s high priest magical robes.
Dark army dares Costanza Paoli to open Evil Corp’s attachment.
Or on second thought, fuck that, trust white rose below.

The Red Wheelbarrow
ORIGINALLY XXII from Spring and All (1923)

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

A century later, these words of William Carlos Williams, New Jersey family doctor
& poet, nurture fsociety’s Mr. Robot with Coney Island anarchic hackers’ barbeque.
Scrapping high school-ers say, ‘What fur? Let’s meet at the bike racks at 3.’

Poet Pourri originated as a nod to recently deceased poet John Ashbery: his unpredictability has always been a welcome challenge to a physician trained to write linearly and logically.


i) Nitroglycerin Terminology

“What I am trying to get at is a general, all-purpose experience —
like those stretch socks that fit all sizes,” John Ashbery

climate crisis
denier —
clicks & brick
blows up chest

iI) lonelyhearted misanthrope

neon planet DNA howl, lab
sow or cease cow passages
north, hungry chimera still
point streetcake patchwork,
paperlined mothy penniless
press wolf’s words w/out jam

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

Deeply loving family whose private satisfactions allow me publicly to go out tilting at windmills, for instance, setting up and staffing under-resourced homeless clinics, fighting for Middle East peace as a member of the International Board of the New Israel Fund.

Have you ever been on a literary pilgrimage?

Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Sort of namesake Sarnath in India where at The Deer Park, The Buddha gave his first sermon on The Dharma. Scores of times being in the presence of iconic older Jewish brothers: Leonard Cohen, may he rest in peace.

My wife and I were at Oldchella in 2016 to be in the presence of Bob Dylan. A photo and short article of us was published in the New York Times

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

For the vast preponderance of Homo sapiens lineage, we have been undomestivate wild animals foraging in Hobbesian “nasty, brutish and short” ways just to stay alive. Humans, particularly testosteroned XY males, are slowly learning how to be civilized, how to live together..

What are you reading at the moment?

Under-appreciated Bill Knott’s poetry collection I Am Flying Into Myself and Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s, The Red-Haired Woman.

Who inspires you and why?

Barack Obama, Thich Nhat Hanh, my youngest daughter (who’s recently started a family), among many others.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

Although I’m particularly drawn to Burning Man’s sense of community and openmindedness and adventure — my middle son and I have been there together many times — other edgier aspects are not for me. The Ecstasy Tent At Burning Man is wonderful.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

For the last week, this new member of the Orphans’ Club has grieving the loss of my 102 year-old mother.

Personally, my wife of nearly a half century and I are pretty much on the circuit travelling among our three kids and four grandkids. Next stop: the room we stay in Los Angeles above our oldest’s garage.

Poetically, I’m beginning to envision publishing my fifth collection which ventures deeply into visual and concrete poetry.

Gerard’s Website

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