Lidia Yuknavitch wrote of STAY and Sarah Leamy: “A stunning writer. These pages are spectacular. Every word. Every juxtaposition. All of the layers and images and echo effects building, accumulating, creating a complex poetics from which the narrator and story emerge. Rather than from action/plot/rising tension bullshit storymaking, this narrator and this body and this story emerge from micro movements. The flashes of story and experience and voice and body and image collect, repeat, create layers, echo, circle back to each other beautifully. I was completely immersed in them and engaged by them.”
Summary: What happens when an awkward and shy tomboy doesn’t always feel safe at home or at school? She leaves her small town to study languages and populations’ migration patterns in London before setting out with a rucksack, teddy bear (John), and juggling toys to hitch across Europe and the States – at 22, broke & alone. She is in search of a safe home.
STAY is a collection of micro-memoirs that follows the evolution from bullied kid to clown to traveling writer and even to being gun wielding vigilante (a slight exaggeration perhaps). Yes, it’s an odd life, unique, funny at times, intense at others, it examines the cumulative effect of trauma, both physical and emotional, on the brain’s wiring. Much like other queer kids and immigrants, I had a lifelong goal of finding the right combination of people, place and purpose. The need to find community took me out onto the road, constantly searching for a sense of safety which I finally found. Or so I’d thought.
The finished manuscript (21,000 words/140 pp) is a hybrid visual story, an experimental work with footnotes, sketches, photos, and hyperlinks to music and articles online, reflective of the digital age we live in. The pieces are deeply emersed in New Mexico as well as in Wales, England, Guatemala, Germany, Spain and all across the States. The text and images are full of how I was–and always will be–an outsider.
Speak Up, the throughline poem, was published in the Best Emerging Poets of New Mexico 2019, by Z Publishing. Dunes Review of Michigan published Deported, one of the poems here on immigration. A few of the images appeared in Metallo Gallery, Madrid, NM in the Spring of 2019. A few of the photos were shown in galleries in London, UK in the mid-1990s and in Santa Fe, NM, in the early 2000s.
During and since receiving my MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, I’ve worked with Connie May Fowler, Hasanthika Siresena, Julianna Baggott, Steve Almond, Sean Prentiss, Matthew Dickman,Trinie Dalton, Lidia Yuknavitch and others.
Leamy peeks into the lives of outsiders, drunks, wanderers, queers, creatives, and the tension between newcomers and those who stay in rural towns along the Rockies. These are stories of connection and disconnection.
Synopsis: One narrator empties the joint savings account and runs to Truth or Consequences, NM, renting a run-down apartment in Ocean View Estates and ends up wondering if divorce was such a great idea after all. A single mom struggles with depression after losing her daughter due to one too many DUIs. A seasonal bartender in Durango is robbed of all her belongings but the town comes together for her with a fundraiser. The threat of the neighbourhood dogs sends a newcomer down into the arid valley with a pocket full of kibble and rocks. A fifty-year old woman finds herself waiting to be adopted in local human shelter one weekend. A young child discovers where all their lost teeth end up. These written sketches are enhanced and confused by the addition of visual sketches, her pen and ink cartoons.
As Julianna Baggott says of Sarah, “she’s darkly disturbing, in a good way, mostly.”
And as Hasanthika Siresena wrote, “The technical experimentation and the scope is breath-taking. Exquisite.”
Photo Credit: Eric Cousineau