Wednesday, February 10, 2016

She’s a poet and they know it

By Adam Wisnieski
Karsten Moran / The Riverdale Press
Sarah Stern at the Spuyten Duyvil train station.
Karsten Moran / The Riverdale Press
Riverdale poet Sarah Stern is preparing to release her first book.

For years, Sarah Stern sent out poems and manuscripts, filing away each rejection she received.  She had been  published in various journals and magazines, but never had a book of poetry all her own.

Then, three months ago, just after a stroke of bad luck, things started looking up. The same week she was laid off her job as a press officer for the New School in Manhattan, she received an e-mail from Finishing Line Press saying it would publish her book of poems, Another Word for Love.

“At first my mind was so in another dimension that I saw the subject, the title of my book, I said, ‘Wait this is SPAM,’ I couldn’t believe that this was real,” she said recently as she sat in Palombo Bakery on Riverdale Avenue.

It wasn’t junk mail. Her first solo published book — featuring 24 of her poems — is currently in pre-sales. 

“It’s also hard to accept when someone accepts your work,” said Ms. Stern, 46, a once-and-again Riverdalian. “You get used to rejection. You kind of work from that point.” 

Born and raised in Riverdale, Ms. Stern is the youngest of seven and the only girl among her siblings. Her mother, who fled Germany in 1939, pushed her to pursue her dream of being a writer. Ms. Stern wrote her first poem while attending Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy. 

After attending John F. Kennedy High School, she went to Barnard College and, later, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Ms. Stern lived in Manhattan for 15 years and moved back to Riverdale in 1999, this time married with two children.

Included in her collection are poems inspired by the Riverdale Monument, the No. 1 train, Riverdale Park, Fieldston and Wave Hill. Paul Cymerman, a Holocaust survivor and retired butcher who became the unofficial “Mayor of Henry Hudson Park” (made official by a plaque there), is just one of the local figures she pays tribute to. 

“The physical beauty of Riverdale is very inspiring,” she said, noting that one of her favorite places is the Spuyten Duyvil train station.

Sarah Stern
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