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Sage Cohen on Fierce

Sage Cohen wants to rev up your writing. She's the author of Fierce on the PageThe Productive Writer, Writing the Life Poetic, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World.

"Words are the tools I use to pry the lids off of old ideas," she writes on her blog. "I write in hopes of recognizing myself and seeing you more clearly. I want to know when truth turns from solid to liquid to gas in the alchemy of language. Who do we become when we say something new? Where does beauty live, and to what name does it answer?"

As she set out to write her latest book, Fierce on the Page, she cleared a space on the bookshelf facing her desk.

"There I carefully curated what I call my ancestor pile of fierce books that have inspired and informed me about what’s possible in the craft and practice of writing."

These books, she says, shaped her, "in the way that water shapes stones, almost imperceptibly over time. These are the poets and writers whose work whispers directly into my ear to penetrate my being and reveal what I need to know about being a person and a writer."

"The three books that I consider the most important markers on the path of my evolution as a fierce writer are the ones that have taught me how to integrate my writing practice with my life practice — and steer myself intentionally in writing."    

Here, Sage Cohen shares her "Fierce Field Guides":

Bird by Bird
by Anne Lamott

I read this in my mid-20s when I was just starting to investigate and inhabit my identity as a writer. With Lamott’s signature mix of extreme intimacy, vulnerability, hilarity, and scathing insight, this book illuminated a path through my own fear and uncertainty. It invited me into the realm of writing and publishing. In Lamott’s exquisite company, I felt a new kind of belonging. Like I could be a writer, too. I had permission. I didn’t understand until recently how significantly the imprint of Lamott’s personal essay style has informed my own practice of telling stories about my life as a means of inviting writers to move from impossible to inevitable in their work.


Wild Mind 
by Natalie Goldberg

This book initiated me into the practice of freewriting which has been the anchor of my writing practice for 25 years. I spent years studying her examples and following her prompts into the wilderness and freedoms of my own, unedited subconscious. This has been an essential practice in discovering my themes, my truths, my words that are as yet undisturbed by my editing and sculpting mind. Wild Mind taught me to inhabit the unknown, become receptive to what is coming through, and honor it by getting it down on paper as a daily discipline. I don’t know if I’d still be writing poems today if I hadn’t established this direct line to my own source. 


Saved By a Poem
by Kim Rosen

This is a more recent but equally important discovery. Despite the fact that I’ve spent 30+ years saving my own life again and again with poems, this book deepened, affirmed, and illuminated my lifelong practice of poetry as sacred medicine, as a path of inquiry, and as the threshold through which we reach deeper into universal human truths. I fell in love all over with the practice of learning a poem by heart, with the alchemies of allowing language all the way in to our nervous system, and thereby more completely inheriting ourselves. Rosen’s voice in my ear invites stillness and steeping in the poems that matter most to me. This book is one of my favorite ways to inhabit grace.



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