“It’s Friday the moon is full airs fuckedup warm, alleyway poetry, and I did an interview with Sarah from the Boulder Weekly who is expected to attend; come?”
– Matthew Clifford, poet/accountant/punk rockstar’s post for February ‘17 Full Moon Reading on Boulder Poetry Tribe Facebook group
Some Full Moon Readings have just four people come to them. And they don’t even read poetry. They find cardboard scraps in the alley and make houses with them. And when the wind knocks the house down they try to create another more sturdy house. And when a stronger wind knocks that down, they make a bed, lying right down there on the gravel. And then they all say, “hey, this is actually pretty comfortable,” and take turns resting for awhile. And then at some point they all jussknow when it’s the right moment to break it all down and head home.
And some Full Moon Readings seem to pack the whole alley. Like the one Sarah Haas covered for the Boulder Weekly, our local free indie paper that is big enough to have its own newspaper boxes around town. Perhaps the big turnout was cuz people wanted to help make our monthly poetry reading look good, or perhaps it was to help themself look good, or perhaps the reading seemed a little more important than it had before. Afterall, professional newspapers only cover things that are ‘significant,’ right?
I’d met Sarah Haas a few weeks earlier when she interviewed me about Boulder Poetry Tribe for the Weekly’s local “unsung heroes” anniversary feature. Before that I’d never gotten attention like that from someone who hadn’t also known me personally. But she apparently had “heard about” our poetry scene from afar. This isn’t supposta happen, I thought. The Media is supposta ignore us. That’s why we needed our own news website to begin with. What the hell is going on?! Who IS this person?
In The Alley that night, Sarah stood toward the back of the crowd. I half-expected her to come forward when she felt the moment was right and start revealing her own long hidden poetry. But she just stayed back in the shadows. Aside from a little brief small talk with me and Cliff, she kept to herself quietly writing notes. Most probably had no idea the tall, hip-looking, mysterious woman over there was a real-live actual journalist. And she was journalisting hardcore. She was maintaining her objectivity. She had the serious reporter look in her eye. She was covering us like she believed we were The News. Again, who IS this person?
There was only one way to find out. I hadta return the favor, turn the tables, and interview her for our own news outlet. It took a few months of life-getting-in-the-way, but I finally got to meet up with her recently, and here’s what I found out…
Sarah Haas is a Boulder, Colorado native. Her bloodline is half-hippie and full former Boulder cabdriver. She has the privilege of understanding the vibe of this location in a deep way…
“I do believe in my (half) hippie heart there’s a part of this town that can’t be killed by start-ups…” says Haas. “There’s a heart that beats here that’s more substantial than the things that would change it… the spiritual energies that are here, and the creative influences, and the way it attracts and nurtures these countercultural communities. And that’s been my interest as a journalist.”
She left Boulder for her highschool and college years, absorbing the different perspectives of towns like Walla Walla, Washington and New York, New York. At first she thought she’d get involved in non-profit management, even attending business school, tho her bohemian instincts were still ever-present.
“I went to ask questions like ‘why do we need to make money?”
It wasn’t long before Haas was drawn back to Boulder.
“Ultimately I came back here for the view.”
She tried to get a career going in the non-profit world. It was never a good fit tho, and in a possibly alien-inspired epiphanic moment in Roswell, New Mexico, she quit her job and called up the Boulder Weekly to ask if they needed anyone to write for them.
“The day I decided to become a writer was the day I decided to be poor forever,” Haas says. “You take the jobs that seem to give you insight into human life.”
She had no formal experience in journalism, and didn’t really have any specific areas she wanted to write about. Working for free at first on arts and culture stories, it was soon clear tho she had the instincts for the job.
“I love to talk to people and… I think being able to describe visual things… you can look at a situation and in explaining it that’s its own creative experience.”
Haas, who has now become a regular arts and culture contributor, as well as the weed columnist, for the Weekly (writing 2-3 articles a week), seems to view her professional writing as its own artform.
“I’m not interested in clicks. I’m not interested in content. I’m interested in narrative non-fiction… I’m interested in theoretical concepts about truth and humanity… and I think if you really get into a good story you are willing to flirt with those dangerous lines.”
She has a particular soft-spot for artists.
“I feel like if you’re not an artist then what’s the point of being alive.”
Her own personal projects include adult picture books, animation, and puppets, and she’s evolving from ‘polite’ work to “really weird violence and psychedelic stuff,” in which “if a head needs to explode it needs to explode.”
“I wish that we didn’t need such clean narratives,” she says. “We’re less and less willing to make ourselves uncomfortable and self aware.”
In fact, Haas even talks of transitioning away from freelance journalism.
“I want to see what happens if I no longer depend on my artform as a living.”
There’s also an economic reality to her living many of us may not realize. While she’s written around 250 articles in just over two years, and she does get paid for them, it’s not nearly enough to make ends meet. She supplements her income by working at a breakfast diner, taking care of horses and goats, and getting a little sidework as a metal founder. She laments the downside of “the idleness that comes with underemployed creative life,” considering full time work, and being open to, and perhaps even welcoming, “the shit that comes in” with that.
When I mention that many of us really admire what she does and would love to have that opportunity, Haas turns it back on us.
“I love you guys and I respect you… Every time I write an article I think wow, I’m such a wimp for not just being an artist like these guys… I think it’s the most courageous thing in the world to just be an artist and just be like here, let your shit hang out there.”
And I suppose that answers why she wanted to cover our poetry scene.
As a poet it’s often hard to remember the value of what we’re doing. And it’s really encouraging when someone like Sarah Haas reminds us. While she’s paid to bring truth to her audiences, and she personally writes to seek her own insights about life and people and herself, she also benefits those she writes about, even if it’s just that small but crucial self-esteem boost that helps them keep going. In this way, at least to us, Sarah Haas is significant enough to be The News herself.
You can find Sarah Haas’s work with the Boulder Weekly here.
Jonathan Montgomery is the editor-in-chief of Boulder Poetry Tribe. He graduated from Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School in 2005. His books include Taxis & Shit and Pizzas and Mermaid. You can read more of his personal work at jonathan-montgomery.com.