Mini-interview: Sanna Wani

Sanna Wani is a Kashmiri settler living near the Missinnihe river (Eastern Ojibwa: trusting waters), on land stewarded since time immemorial by the Mississauga of the New Credit, the Anishnaabeg, the Chippewa, the Wendat, and the Haudnosaunee among many other diverse First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

What draws me to the writer: Hugely anticipated at grass roots, Sanna Wani’s vivid poetry collection My Grief, the Sun, has been getting big love after her debut chapbook, The Pink of The Seams (Penrose Press, 2019).

My Grief, the Sun by Sanna Wani

About the Book:

Sharply political and frequently magical, these poems reach for everything from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 film Princess Mononoke to German Orientalist scholarship on early Islam. Love and grief sit side by side. My Grief, the Sun listens carefully to the planet’s breathing, addresses the endless and ineffable you, and promises enough joy and sorrow to keep growing.

Praise for the book:

“Sanna Wani’s My Grief, the Sun makes such a convincing case for astonishment as a way of life. Each poem enveloped me with so much tenderness it was as if were the sun! The theological music that courses throughout the book was not a narrowing toward some esoteric knowledge but rather an opening toward a collective sense of enmeshment with the inscrutable world. This book is a necessary reminder that ‘there is something inside / [us] that says live.’ My Grief, the Sun is a wonder and a delight.” — Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of This Wound Is a World and NDN Coping Mechanisms

Wani practices the act of artful surrender to each poem’s strange, budding logic. That she can do so with such apparent ease is astonishing. That we get to witness the places her gorgeous poems take her is a profound gift. I’m wonderstruck.” — Heather Christle, author of Heliopause and The Trees The Trees.


read the rest of the sample at Anansi


PP: For an unanswerable rhetorical question to start, how do you make something so fresh and alive as that?

SW: You’re sweet! I wrote that because I read this fresh and alive poem, “Insha’Allah” by Danusha Laméris.

PP: Your poems are dense and agile, pivoting yet holding together in leaps. Do they come together assembled from pieces or come out of a passionate stream-of-consciousness?

SW: They tend to come out in one fell swoop. But it’s messy! I edit very slowly and very particularly. Have you heard that quote? A poet will move a comma in the morning and a comma at night and say, Oh what a day’s work! My friend’s dad told me that. But sometimes there are new waves hiding behind commas, cracks in the rocks, pieces hiding behind other pieces.

PP: Do you have writing rituals that help you into the writing frame of mind or do you write in stolen moments?

SW: Definitely stolen moments for poetry. Middle of the night, subway rides, grocery stores. I want to try the writing desk routine life someday but that day has not come yet.

For editing or prose, I can sit at a desk or in bed and crank something out. But my poetry is much more chaotic. Like catching sight of a bird and having to drop everything to chase it before its gone.

PP: What was the most fun part of making the collection?
SW: Ordering it! It was also torture. Laying everything out, choosing the way poems appeared felt like making a roadmap. Some stayed, some went. And then I set it all on fire! 

PP: Heh, sometimes that’s the route we have to take to get to something better. Thank you for your time and for your poems.