Leslie Sainz

Poet and 2021 NEA Literature Fellow
Headshot of a woung woman.

Photo credit Hillary Dubie

Jo Reed: From the National Endowment for the Arts, This is Art Works. I’m Josephine Reed. We’re celebrating National Poetry with 2021 NEA Literature Fellow poet Leslie Sainz who has just received the 2024 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry for her debut collection, Have You Been Long Enough at Table. In her work, Leslie explores themes of identity, cultural heritage, and family history, drawing from her Cuban-American roots and her upbringing in Miami.  Her poetry is known for its vivid imagery, fluid structure, and emotional depth blending personal narratives with themes of displacement, family, and tradition. 

Today, Leslie shares her creative journey, offering a glimpse into the inspirations behind her work and she also reflects on her experience as a recipient of the NEA Literature Fellowship for Poetry and her role as a judge in the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud competition. But we begin with the ways Leslie Sainz navigates cultural memory and the role of poetry in exploring complex themes and contradictory ideas, as the title of her collection implies. Have You Been Long Enough at Table is a line from Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. And it's a title with such ambiguity that can be read both welcoming and dismissive. I was curious why she chose it and how it reflects the themes that recur her collection.

Leslie, I want to begin with the title of your collection, Have You Been Long Enough at Table? And it's from Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. And it's a title with such ambiguity because it both welcomes and dismisses. So tell me why you chose it and how does it reflect the themes that recur in this collection?

Leslie Sainz: Thank you so much, Jo. I really appreciate your interpretation of the title. I think I've come to understand my poetics revolving around the idea of contradiction and uncertainty, and so to hear that is evident just in the title of the collection is very affirming in terms of my own goals. So, you're absolutely correct, it was lifted from a passage in Hemingway's “The Old Man and the Sea,” which I had reread during graduate school after having a conversation with my father about what was at the time my thesis manuscript, which was an early, early draft of this collection. And he said, "Well, you know, I really think you should read “The Old Man and the Sea," which I actually hadn't read before. And as I started reading it, I came upon the following passage, and I'll go ahead and read it to you. And it just stopped me in my tracks. So the passage that it's lifted from reads, "Eat it so that the point of the hook goes into your heart and kills you, he thought. Come up easy and let me put the harpoon into you. All right, are you ready? Have you been long enough at table?" And so I just-- there was something so syntactically strange about "Have you been long enough at table?" 

Jo Reed: And just for listeners who might not know The Old Man and the Sea, this is Santiago, the fisherman, who's talking to a marlin who has swallowed a hook, and he's being dragged out to sea by the fish.

Leslie Sainz: Yes, exactly. And I think the domestic imagery that it conjures felt very right for me in this collection in that food is such an important cultural touch point for me and the collection...  even though it is partnered with violence, right, or the suggestion of violence, with the harpoon. Food is one of the primary ways in which I celebrate and enact my Cuban heritage, so that was very satisfying.  I just found that to be so captivating, and as someone who has not always been a fan of Hemingway's syntax-- I have to say that on the record, I just think there was such music to this in a way that I think I tend to experience Hemingway's sentence structure in a rather kind of fixed, curt way, and this felt much more expansive. And so it just haunted me. And I had it written in my notebook for a few years before I came across it again and realized, I think this is it, I think this encompasses all of the questions that I have around this project.

Jo Reed: Well, let's hear a poem. Will you read the first poem from the collection?

Leslie Sainz: Yes, of course. It's one of my favorite poems to read.


                         Para los balceros.


There is no country 

where the dead don't float. 

Men and children going, 

having gone,     lung-wet 

across thickened water. 

Be it the body to know 

what's missing. To call 

back the colors. At sea

the stomach is a bugle

though I've heard it 

called a scream. 

Oil drums headless 

as monarchs, styrofoam 

on the knees. Said of 

regimes: under or over. 

Here or there. 

The orchids are lovely

 this time of year

 and the women, writing. 

What covers the land 

and is the land—

Much, in us, still.

Jo Reed:  “Much,  in us, still.” That is so evocative and speaks, I think, to one of the major themes in the book, which is a displacement. It's like, where do you situate yourself as the daughter of Cuban immigrants who's never been to the island, yet still has the island in her?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, I think that's a question that I will probably be asking for the rest of my life. And so this collection was a sort of desperate attempt to circumnavigate that question. And I think I've had different answers to it over time. And I think a lot of that has to do with my understanding of my own childhood and my relationship to my parents and their relationship to the island. Because, you know, my parents were children when they left Cuba, and so when folks ask me why I haven't gone, one of my answers is often that I don't really know where I would go. There aren't any sort of landmarks that I feel like I would be able to recognize. I mean, my father left with his family in 1956 when he was two years old. They were in New Jersey for a little bit before settling in Brazil, which is where my father really grew up. My mother left the island in 1960 when she was four years old, and they have virtually no memories of Cuba, but they're extremely proud people. And I think that's something that I've come to understand about not just Cuban, but Cuban-American culture as a whole is that there's a deep sense of pride within the exile community. And the narratives that they tell of their immigration often include this idea of them not necessarily having any other choice, that they were sort of forced to make these difficult decisions to leave, property if they had it, family. And so, it's sort of an inheritance of yearning, I think, is what my answer is, at this moment, to that question. It's very abstract and it's a difficult thing to penetrate.

Jo Reed: Where were you raised? Can you tell me just a little bit about your upbringing?

Leslie Sainz: Of course. So I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, more specifically the Palmetto Bay area. My parents still live in my childhood home, and I make it back maybe once or twice a year, in a good year. But yeah, it's so funny. I think I never really came to appreciate Miami until I left it. I'm currently based in Vermont, which is, you know...

Jo Reed: Very different weather-wise.

Leslie Sainz: Very different. Very different. And, you know, I went to undergrad in Pittsburgh. I did grad school in Wisconsin. So I've had a little bit of preparation in terms of winter weather, but I'm not really good in the heat. And I think maybe that's why I didn't enjoy Miami very much. And I think it wasn't until I left it that I was truly able to appreciate how fortunate I was to have grown up in a city that is so vibrant and acknowledges the massive contributions that a number of immigrant cultures have brought to the area. Whether it's Cuban or Haitian or Central American. And, I went years, you know, when I was living in the Midwest and elsewhere, not hearing a lick of Spanish. And I never thought that would be a lack that I felt so viscerally, but it really was. So now when I'm home, you know, I have an itinerary, essentially, of things that I need to visit to feel sort of charged up and like myself again before I return to whoever I am based.

Jo Reed: Why poetry? What brought you to poetry particularly? And what does it allow you to do that other art forms, other forms of writing might not?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah. I've been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. I remember in elementary school when we were first introduced to poetry, I just, I took to it immediately. And I think from then on, I never stopped. I always kept a little diary or a journal and, you know, wrote down, you know, lines, lyrics. And eventually I think as I continued to learn more about the poetic canon, I realized, okay, maybe I'm doing something here, maybe these are poems. And I feel very fortunate because I had such amazing educators and instructors in my life who kind of recognized my fascination and obsession with language, even its smallest unit, and were very encouraging. And I think if I hadn't been met with encouragement from my teachers, I don't know that I would have had the confidence to take it more seriously as my education continued. But as far as what poetry does, I've been really taken with this definition of poetry that the poet, and now novelist, Kava Akbar has shared, which is that poetry is a spiritual technology. And I think I would take that one step further and say, for me, poetry feels like the closest thing that we have to time travel. I think because poetry is not beholden to the truth, like nonfiction or journalism, and it's also not beholden to sense, like most contemporary prose, I think it is able to use sort of the absurdities and expansiveness of its form to allow us to move through time in different ways. And I think that has always astonished me and is certainly what keeps me going, because it feels like poetry can and has taken me everywhere and anywhere.

Jo Reed: That is so interesting because your poetry just works with specificity and ambiguity, almost in equal measure. And that really is a hard balancing act, but you really do work with that tension and the idea of time travel makes sense.

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, I mean, especially with what you mentioned earlier, having not been to the island, I think taking on this project in a poetic form inspired me to look at historical archives and photographs and even family archives and work sort of ecfrastically through and against them as a means of accessing a point in time and a place that will forever be lost to me. So yeah, I think that I really appreciate what you just said about that.

Jo Reed: In your collection, you use so many different poetic forms. Throughout the book, you use sonnets and prose poems, long stanzaless poems, and so on and so on. Tell me your process for choosing the form that you use to express your poetics.

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, so this is always a hard question for me in that I find myself to be a very intuitive writer when it comes to form. I'm very taken with the relationship between form and content, and I sort of think of it as a kind of codependent relationship, in a way, that there's-- that the power dynamics between form and content can never quite be balanced. And I think for me, content is usually driving the plane. And I think from there, I will then consider,  given the tone or the themes or the images, questions or ideas in this piece, what container would best suit it? So you know, for example, there are poems in the collection that are single stanza, but they're very narrow. And that's deliberate, of course. I'm thinking about compression. I'm thinking about creating a sort of claustrophobic environment on the breath and on the page in order to heighten tension. But then there are other examples in which I'm thinking about, how can there be a more harmonious relationship? Or maybe the content, or the syntax or the diction is more interested in displacing a reader. And so I have to think about how do I make it on the page as easily legible as possible if I'm allowing my language to be less legible in terms of its accessibility, or its ability to be kind of pinned down. So it's definitely a delicate balancing act, but one I thoroughly enjoy conceptualizing.

Jo Reed: Well, you use the sonnet form throughout the book. You have seven sonnets for the seven powers in the Aruba tradition or Santeria. Can you tell me how that tradition figures in this book and what that opened up for you?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, absolutely. So there's kind of a roundabout way to how I got to there. But growing up in Miami, there are tons of botanicas around, which are essentially these shops that sell statues and herbs and things that one would need to practice their faith tradition. And so it's not an uncommon thing to come across one, or even to come across practitioners themselves. And so that was probably my first introduction was just environmentally it was present. But as I grew older, I learned more about it through family connections. My second cousin, Miguelito, who was a painter. And one of his favorite subjects were the orishas. So he would paint Yemaya, Changó, Oshun, and they were just these extraordinary, lively, colorful portraits that were really made in a kind of reverence. And so that was probably my initial introduction towards the ways in which the Yoruban tradition can not necessarily be watered down, but how even those who may not necessarily practice the faith explicitly are still very familiar with its important figures and how that iconography has become synonymous, I think, with Cuban culture at large, and that there's a way to sort of acknowledge those figures and respect and revere them without necessarily practicing the religion in earnest. And actually afterwards, more recently, I learned that my maternal grandmother had a shrine in her home in Hialeah, which she keeps kind of hidden, but has statues of orishas. And I think that was sort of the tipping point for me as I was thinking about the series of American sonnets written for Las Siete Potencias Africanas or The Seven African Powers because I was fascinated by her decision, especially in a place like Hialeah, to kind of keep that worship very private. And I wanted to bring that private into a more public space while also keeping quite close to the chest the relationship, the speakers of those poems, which for me function as a kind of persona, have with those specific orishas. 

Jo Reed: Why choose the sonnet form to explore this?

Leslie Sainz: And, you know, the sonnet form is one of my absolute favorite forms. I mentioned before the idea of the poetic form as a container. And to me, I think it's just the most perfect container. I mean, I think 14 lines is just ideal. And as I was drafting into the manuscript, I sort of found myself continuously drafting poems that were around 14 lines. And it almost became a prompt for me that if I couldn't write something in 14 lines, then maybe I just didn't have a handle on it yet. And, you know, given the extensive tradition of sonnets that continues to be, you know, transgressed and challenged in the most exciting ways in contemporary poetry, I wanted to look at it as a space for prayer, in a way, and thinking about the sort of romantic leanings of prayer and devotion.

Jo Reed: Well, can we hear “Sonnet for Oshun”?

Leslie Sainz: Oh, of course. Which, not that I play favorites, but it might actually be my favorite poem in the section. 

Sonnet for Oshun. 


After my left arm I washed my right, neck, décolletage,

and navel. I ate ground meat with large crystals of imported salt.

The women and men who would stroke my hair if I asked, 

I thought of them fondly then sadly. At the flea market,

what I touched with a fingernail was a copper lamp, a mundane

painting of mountains, the cashier’s hum. I bought nothing I didn’t 

want. In the cul-de-sac, I found clouds on leashes, loose roosters.

I thought thoughts ugly as clothespins. Reading a used book,

I suspected I knew less about death than the last person who held it.

I spat into a mirrored sink. I lost my slippers and face. To feel more

like water, I drank it. Before bed, I walked my plank of uncertainties

and plunged further into uncertainty. Am I capturing all of history

in this gesture? I shouted into the future. In the wet air of the future,

I could have but never appeared. No one was sorry but me.


Jo Reed: And those time-traveling aspects again, lovely. And we should say Oshun is associated with water, with fertility, beauty, femininity, purity, sensuality.

Leslie Sainz: And even the island itself. So Oshun is a very important figure to Cuba, which I should say, not all practitioners of Santería come from Cuba. So she's especially important to the culture.

Jo Reed: Can you describe your writing process? How do you approach the creation of a new poem?

Leslie Sainz:  I've come to understand it as being actually rather project or moment dependent. The poems I'm writing now are coming to me in very strange ways and I'm having to learn how to surrender to them and to a new kind of process. And maybe that's really where it starts for me is coming to terms with having to surrender to something. Anyone close to me will tell you that I have difficulty letting go, and that I like to have control over things to feel comfortable. And maybe that's why I've stuck with poetry for so long, is that my writing of it is where I have the least amount of control, I think, in my life. And I think that's a good thing. But yeah, I think normally, you know, the seeds of a poem will come to me in maybe a single image or even just a word that I think sounds really interesting. Usually words with heavy consonants are very attractive to my ear. I'm always trying to disrupt a kind of linear thinking and instead allow for there to be space for connective tissue to be applied afterwards. Because I do think, for me, the act of writing poetry feels like a more subconscious act. I've been reading a lot of Jack Spicer recently, and he was sort of famous for describing the process as being more like receiving a sort of radio signal rather than being in charge of the product itself. You're a receptor rather than the actor themselves. And so I find that to be pretty true to my understanding of how poems come to be. And yeah, from there, I think, you know, allowing myself to receive that transmission and then, you know, the hard part coming almost afterwards, for me at least, through revision, which is where I think of it as sort of applying conscious thinking to something that's done more subconsciously. And then I can get kind of more analytical at that stage and start thinking, okay, am I revising for complication or am I revising for clarification? And I sort of go almost line by line, stanza by stanza at that point in the process.

Jo Reed: I love that question.

Leslie Sainz: Oh, thank you. It has served me well.

Jo Reed: I bet, I bet. I am going to start applying it to my work. Thank you. So how did, how, then you put this collection together. It's your first, it's your debut collection, your first collection. How did you put, “Have You Been Long Enough At Table” together? And how long did it take you to, have it, arrange it the way you wanted it?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, so it took about eight years to write and there were definitely different drafts of the manuscript that I think over time became, or felt at least for me, riskier and riskier. I think that's another thing that's very central to my writing process, especially in working on a specific project rather than just individual poems.  I wasn't satisfied until the version that is currently published. And even then, there are days in which I think I've failed to do what I hope to do. But, but for me, it really went back to the idea of risk, because it felt very risky to write these poems, to write about an island that I haven't visited, to sort of expose narratives of my relationship with my family and my upbringing to the world, to also relay what it's like to essentially grow up in a conservative household and have to do a lot of conscious and careful unlearning to prioritize a kind of self-determination that would lead to the establishment of my own politics and my own values. But as far as the actual organizing goes of the collection, I feel very fortunate to have worked very closely with my editor, Alisa Ogie at Tin House, who is just, I cannot sing her praises enough. I feel so lucky to call her a friend as well as my editor. And she felt very strongly in our initial conversations that the sonnets should feel like the backbone to the collection. And so they're very intentionally placed across the book. So each section will have multiple sonnets in them. So there's sort of this inescapable anchor. And a lot of poets will tell you that as they're organizing a manuscript, they'll print out individual pages of poems and maybe organize them on the floor or tape them on a wall, and that was definitely part of my process as well and I loved it. And that was very helpful for me in creating not just an emotional arc, but sort of distilling the project down to certain themes to be mindful of… I guess, moments in which poems were butting up against each other in an ordering sequence that felt too similar or maybe too dissimilar, like the sort of blank space. Maybe one can think of it as like the gutter in terms of book design terms, like what happens from one page to another that allows for that brief silence to be disrupted in a way that feels earned. 

Jo Reed: You have received many awards and fellowships, including a 2021 NEA Literature Fellowship for Poetry. And I wonder how that recognition impacted your writing, your sense of yourself as a poet, your career.

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, I mean, I still struggle to articulate what that award has meant to me, even outside of the extremely generous financial component of the award, the validation that offered me. I am not sure that I would have finished this collection if I had not received that award, which, I should mention. I mean, I just feel-- I keep saying this, but it's true. I feel so so lucky to have won an NEA prior to the publication of my first book. I mean, I think that is, you know, the ultimate dream of many emerging writers, and I think to sit and think that a committee of writers who I deeply admire and who I consider to be a student of their work, to know that they looked at, in some ways, even early drafts of these poems and thought, "This is a voice that we want to invest in, that we want to hear more from." I refer to that often, I think, when the inevitable self-doubt creeps back in. And it absolutely has carried me through some of the darker times of doubt. So yeah, I mean, the NEA has awarded me so very much. And every individual that I've ever corresponded with at the National Endowment for the Arts have been so generous, so encouraging, and they continue to support my work long after other cohorts of fellows arrive. They are so good at reminding their fellows that this is a career-long investment, and I remain so touched by that.

Jo Reed: I know it's not easy to apply for an NEA fellowship, and I wonder if you would have any advice for other poets or writers who might be considering applying for a fellowship at the NEA or at another foundation?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, for sure. It's interesting, maybe this will be my hot take on the podcast, but oftentimes when specifically the NEA application period is open, you'll hear folks talk about how difficult the application is. I only applied once for the NEA, and I did not find it that hard to put together, and I do think part of it is a personality thing, because it does require a certain level of organization that I'm not sure that all writers have a good handle on. I am very type A, and so I was already keeping pretty meticulous records of my individual publications, which are an eligibility requirement for the NEA, and I do think it can be a bit of a tedious process to then write out all 20 publications that you have and make sure that you have the issue number, the year of publication, the page numbers in which you appear on, whether or not it was print, or online or all of the other specifics of that record keeping can be difficult to track down, especially if it's not something that you stay on top of, and I think maybe that's where some of the difficulty really comes from. I think that's probably where the start of my advice would really begin, which is to make it easier on yourself, and stay organized. Keep a record of these things Most folks applying for the NEA are probably also writers who are applying for other fellowship applications, and some which require, you know, an up-to-date CV, and so I think sort of treating it as this supplemental document in which if you're updating your CV with something, also double-check this record of where you've had your work published. So that's more of a technical piece of advice, I think in terms of putting together the actual writing sample, I'll sort of bring it back to our conversation around ordering and say, think about how ordering a writing sample can produce a narrative. So not just the content of the work itself, but think about whether or not, you know, poem A needs to actually go before poem D in order to create an emotional and conceptual experience that shows that you are cognizant of how you can distill a larger project into a smaller sampling. Take someone on a journey simply through ordering, I think can be a really powerful way of demonstrating that you're able to think about projects as a cohesive whole, even if it's, you know, 10 pages or 20 pages versus 60 pages. The other thing I would say too is to ask for help. I think, you know, none of this is really done in a vacuum. And if you're fortunate enough to have a community of writers or trusted readers around you, send them a sample of work that you're thinking about putting forward for these opportunities and get their feedback. Have them rank the poems, you know, one through 10 and see which ones folks consider to be the strongest. And then from there, think about  synthesizing that information and then again, taking advantage of how you might sequence them.

Jo Reed: That is very good advice and thank you. I'm thanking you in advance for people who might be listening. I'm going to take a turn here because you have been, and will be again, a judge in the semifinals of Poetry Out Loud, which is the NEA's poetry recitation competition. Tell me about that experience. How often have you done it?

Leslie Sainz: Oh my gosh. I could talk about Poetry Out Loud for two hours. So I started… Well, actually, it goes a little bit further back than that because my first experience with Poetry Out Loud was when I was the outreach manager of the Hub City Writers Project based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. And we were one of the approved organizations that could put on one of the regional competitions. And so it was my job to organize that. And I had a blast doing it, and after I had won the NEA, I was approached by Lauren Miller, who I just adore and cannot shout out enough. Lauren reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in serving as a semifinals judge for the 2022 competition, which was actually virtual that year. And I had the most fun, which I think even in the virtual format, it was amazing the way the NEA accommodated that. And I was blown away by not just the professionalism of the organization, but also the professionalism of the students who had to record their performances, which, you know, for me, I imagine, would have been maybe even more nerve-wracking than performing them on a stage in D.C. But yeah, I just, I had so much fun doing it. And I, you know, the judging sessions take several hours. And I think I was just invigorated by the passion of these young students. I could have, you know, sat there on my laptop watching their pre-recorded videos for another three hours. I mean, it was so much fun.

Jo Reed: I wonder if you've thought about, or in your own experiences, what you see happening when we actually learn a poem by heart. And I'm always even struck by the term “by heart”, because I think that's very revelatory in itself.

Leslie Sainz: Yes. Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think the thing about poetry, because it's an oral and aural art form, traditionally, I think we really are meant to experience it in a bodily way. I think even the way a number of writers actually compose their pieces, myself included, when I write, I'm saying out loud the lines that I have on the page over and over again until I receive the next one. And then, now I tack on that other line, and I keep reading. And when folks memorize a poem, they embody it, not just in their performance of it, but the way that the language lives inside you, I think, is a profound act of love, which is where it returns to the heart, like you said.  I think the heart is a space of memory just as much as the brain is, and I think the capaciousness and the way it changes us is very much an important component of that process.

Jo Reed: As we close, what are you currently working on? Are you working on new books or a new project? Or are you just relaxing into this collection, which was published in what, fall of 2023?

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, so the book was published at the end of September. So it's been about six months now. And, you know, I'm feeling rather restless. I've just started really tinkering with a new project, which is tentatively titled, “I Believe in Evil and Evil Believes in You.”  That's actually a collection of persona poems written in the voice of Esther Hicks. And some folks are familiar with her work, but she is a American inspirational speaker and channeler, and a longtime proponent of the law of attraction. And she is often credited with kind of popularizing the concept of the law of attraction. And she claims that she can access this infinite intelligence titled Abraham, who shares with her the secret laws and knowledge of the universe that she then channels and shares in her books and in her workshops.

Jo Reed: That will be very interesting, hands down.

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, so definitely a departure.

Jo Reed: I cannot wait to see what you do with that.

Leslie Sainz: Yeah, it's been fun. I think so much of the first collection, it's so rooted in specific image systems. And I think with this next project, I was very excited to have nothing be off limits, I think, in terms of imagery. I can have a flying saucer, and I can have a microwave, and I can have a Pop-Tart, and I can have really anything enter that world. And so that freedom has been, I think, what has allowed me to return to the page with this kind of seriousness so quickly.

Jo Reed: Leslie, I want to thank you so much. I loved your book and I loved our conversation, so many, many thanks.

Leslie Sainz: Oh, thank you, Jo. Again, I'm blushing. I can't believe I had the opportunity to speak with you about this. I'm so grateful.

That was poet and 2021 NEA Literature Fellow Leslie Sainz. And, on April 17,  two days after our conversation, Leslie Sainz’s collection, Have You Been Long Enough at Table received the 2024 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry!  You can keep up with Leslie at Leslie Sainz.com. And mark your calendars! The  Poetry Out Loud® National Finals will be held in Washington, DC, May 1-2, find out more at arts.gov. We’ll have links in our show notes.

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We’re celebrating National Poetry Month with 2021 NEA Literature Fellow, poet Leslie Sainz, who discusses her debut poetry collection Have You Been Long Enough at Table. Sainz reads from her collection and talks about its major themes, including the ambiguity, displacement, and impact of cultural heritage as a daughter of Cuban immigrants. She discusses the variety of poetic forms used in her collection, allowing form to be guided by the emotional and thematic demands of her work. Sainz also talks about the impact of receiving a 2021 NEA Literature Fellowship for Poetry on her career and the validation it provided, and offers advice to other poets and writers, especially regarding the NEA fellowship application process. 

Sainz  also discusses her involvement as a judge in the NEA's Poetry Out Loud competition and shares her experiences from organizing regional competitions to judging the national semifinals, as well as her appreciation for the performative and memorization components that enhance both the understanding and the emotional experience of poetry. She also gives us a glimpse into her upcoming project, tentatively titled I Believe in Evil and Evil Believes in You, exploring new thematic territories and expanding her creative boundaries.  And, on April 17,  the day after our conversation, Leslie Sainz’s collection Have You Been Long Enough at Table was awarded the 2024 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry!