About Sara Cahill

I am a junior Secondary Education and English major at the University of St. Francis. I've had a passion for reading and writing since I was young and I look forward to sharing my works with the world!

Micro-Review of Dandelion by Gabbie Hanna

Barnes and Noble: Dandelion by Gabbie Hanna, $15.99

Gabbie Hanna is a young face in the realm of illustrated poetry. Written in 2020, Dandelion is the second poetry book Hanna has written. Hanna tackles it all: heartbreak, mental health difficulties, and attempting to find oneself in the midst of this crazy world. Throughout her book, she recalls memories and emotions she faced in relationships with significant others and herself with accompanying doodle-like illustrations. Her book has many similarities to Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, as well as Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One. The book’s poems and letters call upon readers to reimagine their hardships but gives enough truth to show light at the end of the dark tunnel. The tone of the collection begins with her opening poem “Bloom”: “I was twenty-six old when I saw my first flower / and instead of rejoicing in its beauty / I mourned for all the years I was blind.”

Hanna doesn’t steer away from engaging in a great deal of self-reflection throughout her stories. With her readiness to share and be vulnerable with her audience, readers also have the chance to self-reflect with each poem and letter, calling upon their younger selves and experiences that shaped who they are now. She writes and draws in an inviting way; she isn’t trying to boast but tries to find ways to connect with her audience.

Although, her stylistic choices are simplistic and she doesn’t take linguistic challenges in her writing. Younger audiences may gravitate towards her writing due to her presentation of denser topics; the presentation isn’t intimidating and is inviting for all ages to read. Hanna’s attempt to bring light to struggles everyone faces in relationships, finding themselves and accepting change is notedly important. It’s a coming-of-age story that can bring a sense of safety and leave readers feeling as though they’ve been heard.

A Conversation with Naoko Fujimoto: Author of GLYPH, a New Collection of Graphic Poetry

Naoko Fujimoto was the keynote speaker for the 2021 University of St. Francis Writer’s Conference. I had the pleasure of interviewing Naoko about her recent graphic poetry collection, GLYPH, and her creative process. She was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in POETRY, Kenyon Review, Seattle Review, Quarterly West, North American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, and The Arkansas International. She is the author of Glyph:Graphic Poetry=Trans. Sensory (Tupelo Press, 2021), Where I Was Born (Willow Publishing, 2019), and four chapbooks. She is an editor at RHINO Poetry and Tupelo Quarterly.

What did you learn while creating GLYPH?

Through creating a collection for GLYPH, I learned several things.

I started creating graphic poems in 2016 while visiting an artist at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; there, I met editors at Tupelo Press for the first time.

When I started submitting my graphic poems, there were two groups of editors. Most editors were supportive, but some said “They are not poetry. Don’t submit again” in their rejection letters.

I am an editor myself, so I understand how the submission is processed. However, I am not sure that it is necessary to say a strong rejection to creators. In addition, I also understand that I do not need to receive a permission from editors who disagree with my works, neither. I sharpen my works and find my new tribes, which guide me to this current place.

Because not many people were composing visual poetry in 2016, I needed to be my own editor including how I navigate a narrative in the paper with what kinds of materials, how much text over image, and how my audience experience graphic poems. This skill overall helped and developed my editing approaches. I began to see one topic from multiple dimensions.

I share my graphic poetry journey and study guide in my website. I also collect craft essays by writers who work with visual elements for my online gallery. I hope that my audiences find inspirations and short-cut paths for their creative process. 

I watched your YouTube video “Making ‘Glyph’ by Naoko Fujimoto” and noticed that you use everything around you. Do you gravitate towards a specific type of material? What is the process of figuring out what material to use? 

I translate my own poems, which were written on a flat paper, into words and images. Through the text & image translation process, I select the best suitable materials each graphic poem.

In the St. Francis Writers’ Conference, I shared how I used my written poem, “Thursdays” (Where I Was Born, Willow Books, 2019) to create a graphic poem, “On the Black Hill” (GLYPH Graphic Poetry = Trans. Sensory, Tupelo Press, 2021).

“Thursdays” is about my grandfather’s war experience. He was not an atomic bomb victim; however, he was close to Hiroshima and helped burnt victims. He suddenly shared his experience during our peaceful dinner time. He described the smells around him then.

His story shocked me. I kept repeating his experience in my mind since the dinner, and I felt that I was haunted as a Japanese descendent. Historical choices and mistakes Japan made in the early 20th century created realities that reverberated through time, and not just for Japanese citizens.

It was my first time to realize that the trauma of World War II still affects us, long after the declaration of surrender. The aftermath of war was clearly not limited. It is deeply rooted around us, around Asia, and here between people.

Currently, we do think of hiding lights in our houses from overhead bombers. I create graphic poems in a bright dining room in America. I tell a story about World War II, but people around the world open themselves to read the poems. Even though we face difficulties every day, I am thankful for this kind of peace. And, I want that.

The orange highlighted lines remained as words, and other parts became images. Writing poems are the hardest part. It takes days or years to feel complete. However, creating graphic poems—the text & image translations—are an absolute pleasure. I feel that a part of my brain that gets underutilized often starts spinning.

I thought that “On the Black Hill” has three good examples of materials. I often use unconventional materials, such as daily objects (clothes, plastics, & organic materials) along with familiar creative approaches (paper collages, drawings, & paintings). For this graphic poem, I used paper collages with a piece of towel.

#1) Fried chicken picture (first food advertainment)

#2) Origami papers from my sister’s collection since she was six years old

#3) Poetry book cover-art of Lee Sharkey’s Walking Backwards (Tupelo Press, 2016)

Each material has meaning, which is another layer my audience can enjoy and think about. This is a part of experiencing GLYPH “Trans.” sensory.

For “On the Black Hill,” especially, I want my audiences to talk about what peace is through observations of my material choices and colors (bright red to deep black). When we are able to express our opinions and creativity, we exchange and welcome other’s opinions, which lead to better paths in the long run. We cannot just repeat wars again and again.

What are common mistakes aspiring writers make? How can you spark motivation or inspiration when you’re doubting your skills as a writer?

I wanted my first book by my thirtieth birthday, but it did not happen. I wanted to be fluent in English (meaning I could write without a proofreader), but I realized that it will be impossible. I wanted to be a poetic rock star, but I now admit I will not win that popularity contest.

That was my mindset for a long time, but it is not the right way to approach creativity.

For creative processes, it is important to have a strong sense of self, no doubt. But it is also important to create your own community that cherishes your life & writing career no matter what. And you also congratulate their achievements.

I am thankful to belong to several trusted communities, and I am not afraid to express myself as a Japanese woman whose English is clunky with occasional inappropriate humor.

The thirty seventh broken-heart is more approachable than your first broken-heart. It still hurts, but you know what you need to do about it. Because of the unknown, we struggle and fear the process.

It is not enjoyable to have one’s heart broken, but if we do not experience it, we cannot fully process and appreciate the loved and peaceful moments later on. I am in the middle of my writing journey. Let’s enjoy riding this crazy obsession.

Sara Cahill is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Literature Studies and a minor in Writing. Sara has experience writing for the student-lead newsletter at the University of St. Francis, The Encounter. She has been a part of the prototype design and implementation of Bernie’s Paw Prints, the university’s first digital eco-poetry collection, and is also a founding editor of Archway Review, USF’s up-and-coming undergraduate literary magazine. While working with the English Department as a blog and social media intern, Sara is also the VP of Community Relations for Alpha Phi, manager for the track and field team, and works as a writing tutor and St. Ambassador tour guide.

English Department Makes its Way onto Netflix

“The Chair” is a new Netflix original TV series starring the one and only Sandra Oh, Jay Duplass and Holland Taylor. The first episode began streaming on August 20th, 2021 and expands to one season of six episodes, each about thirty minutes long. Throughout the series, we follow Dr. Ji-Yoon, played by Sandra Oh, as she faces triumphs and challenges being the first woman of color as Pembroke’s chair of the English Department. 

I was immediately excited to watch this mini-series, mainly because I adore Sandra Oh and, as an English major, it felt wrong of me if I didn’t tune in. I wrapped one of my friends into watching it with me and we were able to finish the series within a few nights. During the opening scenes of the first episode, Dr. Ji-Yoon is shown sitting on a chair and while she’s setting up her new ‘Head of Department’ desk, the chair breaks from underneath her, causing her to fall to the ground. My friend and I jokingly hoped that the show would just be Dr. Ji-Yoon sitting in chairs and then them breaking spontaneously, but thankfully, the show amounts to more than just that. 

I appreciated that the series focused on a small English department and the troubles faced within: motivating students to actively participate, proposing (and sometimes struggling) to prove the meaning of an English degree, and the inequality between female and male professors, especially regarding authoritative positions and becoming tenured. One of the focal points of the series was watching Dr. Ji-Yoon, Dr. Hambling (played by Holland Taylor) and Dr. Yaz (played by Nana Mensah) handle misogynistic mistreatment from their male colleagues. Throughout the show, Dr. Hambling fights for an office not trapped in a basement while male colleagues keep their comfortable spaces and Dr. Yaz competes for a tenure position while battling for appropriate teaching time with a male professor. While both women fight against sexism in the workplace, Dr. Yaz has an added layer of challenges due to her coworkers showcasing their white privilege. Besides Dr. Ji-Yoon, she is the only other professor of color and is constantly belittled during her tenure track, even though she has exceptional credentials and another job offer.

While the show hits on some heavy topics, it holds an element of charm and humor. To be honest, it would be hard to have a successful TV show about a college English department without throwing in elements of comedy. In moments of chaos and tribulations, the writers manage to throw a smile or laugh in the mix, giving the audience moments of comedic relief. This is shown quite often between Dr. Ji-Yoon and her colleague/friend, Dr. Dobson; Dr. Dobson is a main character who faces his own challenges, mostly brought on by himself through unfortunate choices and dabbling in drugs and alcohol. The two have a chaotic but understanding relationship, which brings Dr. Ji-Yoon company and a break from the stress of her work and raising her daughter as a single mother. 

I recommend “The Chair” to all, not just people studying or having an interest in English. The show makes many twists and turns, leaving it to be anything but boring. It scored an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a decently high rating for a show revolving around the nooks and crannies of an English department. It’s short, sweet, and not really simple, but brings awareness to important issues with a few laughs along the way.

Sara Cahill is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Literature Studies and a minor in Writing. Sara has experience writing for the student-lead newsletter at the University of St. Francis, The Encounter. She has been a part of the prototype design and implementation of Bernie’s Paw Prints, the university’s first digital eco-poetry collection, and is also a founding editor of Archway Review, USF’s up-and-coming undergraduate literary magazine. While working with the English Department as a blog and social media intern, Sara is also the VP of Community Relations for Alpha Phi, manager for the track and field team, and works as a writing tutor and St. Ambassador tour guide.