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Sawhney, poet in Sonoma County releases new book ‘Lemons’

Ricardo Ibarra
Written by Ricardo Ibarra

There is a new poet in Sonoma County: Sawhney. Her first published book of poems, Lemons has been received by the local literary community since April and can be found on various electronic platforms, as well as bookstores.

Jennifer Sawhney, born in Santa Rosa to parents from India and El Salvador, promised to publish a new version in Spanish — for the Spanish-speaking community.

For now, you can find the electronic version of her book on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Nobles and Good Reads. Printed copies may be found at Copperfield’s or directly from the poet on her Facebook account, Sawhney The Writer. Now, let’s get to know a little more about her…

Jennifer Sawhney recently published her first book, Lemons in Sonoma County. Courtesy Devindra Sawhney

Life: I was born in Santa Rosa and raised in Sonoma County. I’m local. My mother is from El Salvador and my father is from India. My heritage is a big part of who I am. I speak Spanish and English, but I don’t speak Hindi. I went to Casa Grande High School and then to the SRJC. I went to UCLA, got a degree in Global Studies and after graduation, traveled for a year. I’ve been writing ever since.

Learning to fly: I traveled for a year and did a lot of writing. I really just wanted to travel for the rest of my life. I thought about that saying: ‘If you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. ’ So if I learned how to fly, I’ll be feeding myself for a lifetime, for what I want to do with my life. I started taking pilot classes, now I’m learning how to fly and I’m moving to Miami to finish my flying.

Eyes open: I started writing poetry when I was 13. I’ve always been a sensitive person and had a difficult time expressing my feelings. In 8th grade, we had to write all this poetry and I really liked it! It was exciting, it was cool. You could write creatively. That experience opened my eyes and I started writing poetry. It would flow naturally when I felt like I couldn’t talk to my parents about things.

Notebooks: When I was 17 or 18, somebody gave me these really cool notebooks. They were very tiny. I remember having all the little poems I’d written over the previous years and I wrote them down very carefully in this beautiful notebook, because I wanted to fill it with something beautiful inside. So I transcribed my poems with a really nice pen. I did it quietly and never told anyone about it.

Poem a day: After college I missed writing, so I promised myself I would write one poem a day and I started doing that in 2015. I had all these poems that had to go somewhere so I started posting them online.

Authors: I love Khalil Gibran. There’s this one poem called ‘Of good and evil,’ it’s my favorite poem. I have it posted next to my bed. I like to look at it often. I really like Pablo Neruda. Rumi is amazing and what I admire about his writing is that it is hundreds of years old and it stills hit me in the heart.

Tools: I try to write as soon as something hits me. My phone is one of my biggest tools. I always write at night. Every night before I go to bed, that’s my favorite time to write. If I have to do edits, I edit in the morning (laughs). I’ve also found the gym is a place where a lot of thoughts come to me. I would be on the bike sweating profusely and I would have to reach my phone.

Trees or stars: Most of my poetry is about expressing myself, and whatever comes to me. A simple conversation with somebody can affect me. Someone would say something that really sticks with me and hits my mind or maybe just walking through the park and looking up at the trees or sometimes my walks at night looking at the stars. Nature is a big inspiration. Conversations with my parents, arguments! Loves had and loves lost. I can be in my mind, losing myself and a very cool idea comes out.

Lemons: The majority of these poems I wrote throughout one year that I traveled to see places, the world. First I went to LA and then I went to Vegas, Miami and New York. I traveled to Europe for about a month. I met up with my dad in London, and we went to Spain and Portugal together. It was amazing because my dad and I don’t speak Portuguese. It was cool to try to navigate the space with my father. We’d never had a trip like that before. I then went to Cuba, Puerto Rico. Miami, New York, DC. I flew down to El Salvador where my family is. I also traveled to Chile and Argentina through Los Andes.  I sipped on Malbec and delicious food there. Then I flew back to California. I would travel around and them come home. So many of the poems where written when I was home.

Instagram: It was very vulnerable when I first started to post on Instagram. You kind of have to go through these steps. Growth is always uncomfortable. I felt like everyone was looking at it. I’ve come to terms with it and now I don’t mind sharing.

Paying attention: Honestly, people didn’t really like them. In the world of Instagram, nobody gave a like. I thought it was not for everybody. It’s been a process for me. I started posting when I was traveling a lot, so it was less vulnerable in a sense because I was not in my hometown. I was elsewhere, so I could  kind of shield myself. People would then comment on them or think they were beautiful or they’d message me and said that they really liked my writing. People were paying attention!

Secrets: It felt intrusive when I started posting. I was sharing so much with people it made me question what was I doing. It was scary at first but now I’ve gotten used to it. Everybody has their own secrets, their own thoughts and their own worries. By putting it out there, it shows me that I can relate to people and that’s one of my goals, just be able to relate to and talk to people. And to be able to have these conversations about things that are deep and personal without feeling judged.

Rebel: It came naturally, being able to say something in a short verse without real written rules is really cool. It’s like I’m a rule breaker. The thing that I like about poetry is that it’s really flexible. As a mixed race Latina, I grew up speaking a unique form of English. I learned a type of English at school but then at home, I spoke another type of English. What’s great about poetry is that you don’t have to apply those formal written English rules to the poetry, you can change it up, be versatile. I like the idea of having no rules. I’m a bit of a rebel myself so it was very appealing.

[Versión en español]

Reach La Prensa Sonoma’s Editor Ricardo Ibarra at 707-526-8501 or email ricardo.ibarra@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ricardibarra.

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