Roger Sedarat: Award-Winning Poet from Montclair

On Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., Roger Sedarat, author of 'Foot Faults: Tennis Poems' will be reading and book signing exclusively at Montclair's Watchung Booksellers!

Roger Sedarat will be sharing his ‘Foot Faults: Tennis Poems’ at Watchung Booksellers!  

roger sedarat
Photo courtesy of Roger Sedarat.
Join Watchung Booksellers  on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. for Roger Sedarat, who will be reading and signing his latest release, Foot Faults: Tennis Poems! Sedarat teaches poetry and literary translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York and, as you would expect, is a resident of Montclair.
Residing with his wife, who is in fact a Web Designer as well, Janette Afsharian, and their two boys, Milo (11) and Theo (9), Sedarat is an author of four poetry collections: Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s 2007 Hollis Summers Prize, Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011), Haji as Puppet: an Orientalist Burlesque, which won the Word Works Tenth Gate Prize for a Mid-Career Poet, and this new collection, Foot Faults: Tennis Poems (David Roberts Books).
 “I can say without reservation that Montclair at this stage of my life is my ideal home. The people are something special: interesting and often successful in varied ways without horrendous displays of money and ego. It’s absolutely the best place to raise a family for its public schools and small town charm,” said Sedarat.
The backstory of his new collection, Foot Faults: Tennis Poems, has a lot to do with Montclair. While previously living in NYC, Sedarat use to run every day in Central Park. After the transition to Montclair, it was more difficult to make time for the gym. Thanks to his Iranian brother-in-law, Amir, Sedarat was invited to play tennis. The basics were taught and Sedarat instantaneously became addicted. From there, he put his current love for poetry to match his love for tennis.
 The Montclair Dispatch had the extraordinary honor to have a Q&A with the ever so talented Roger Sedarat!
Roger Sedarat
Photo courtesy of Roger Sedarat.
Roger Sedarat
Photo courtesy of Roger Sedarat.

Q: What was your first writing piece like when you were a child/teen/or adult? What was the result?
A: On family road trips across America in my immigrant father’s big Buick, I’d write little stories and poems in the backseat, then share them with my family. Then I had one of those amazingly encouraging elementary school teachers in second grade. Mrs. Stanford always praised my writing, so on my own I made her a collection of poems, a riff on Shel Silverstein’s classic that I called, Where the Sidewalk Begins. I hole punched the pages and bound them with yarn, presenting it as a gift to her. I still remember one line from a poem dedicated to her: “Mrs. Stanford is nice/ It’s good to know she has no lice.”  

Q:How/when did you formally decide that you were going to be a writer?
A: I sang in bands in college, and I really loved writing lyrics. I’ve always written poems too, but I never thought it would become a formal kind of thing. When the big record deal never came through for Café Flesh and I was working for minimum wage, I decided to study English in graduate school. I guess as I started publishing creative writing in pursuit of an academic PhD I got to thinking of teaching writing as a profession, to subsidize my own creative work.

Q: Explain the feeling when you found out that a publisher was interested in publishing your first book
A: Well, after placing lots of poems in journals I thought I’d have good luck in getting a book out there. It took me ten years of writing, revising, and sending out a manuscript to ultimately win the big prize for my first collection (which brought publication and then a tenured job at a college). When I got the call, I felt like I’d won the lottery.

Q: What is your advice to students/aspiring individuals in pursuing a career similar to yours?
A: It’s sounds so clichéd, but preserve and enjoy the process. Hanging your hopes on publication/prizes, much less a job teaching creative writing these days (it’s gotten impossibly tough just over the last decade) most likely means you risk losing what it’s really all about. As great as a “career” has become in some ways for me, getting paid for what I do, nothing substitutes for the real wonder and joy I find through my own artistic projects. Bringing this back to tennis, this year I got really tight and frustrated in a heated match, hating on myself and trying to will a victory. This awesome tennis coach Brianna (whose short instructional videos are featured on our website, walked by my court and asked, “Are you having fun?” Just like that, I stopped taking it all so seriously. We call it “playing” for a reason. That’s what I’d most tell aspiring student writers: Make sure to have fun out there.

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