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Sade Andria “Phoenix” Zabala: The Interview

Sade Andria “Phoenix” Zabala: The Interview

Who is Sade Andria Zabala? There is no simple answer and that is what fascinated me about this poet and writer. She writes with a ferocity that cuts at times but always impacts meaningfully. She imaginatively places words next to each other and somehow digs up feelings from deep within. Sometimes those feelings are delight; sometimes those feelings are despair.

Why? What? How? When? Where?

Why poetry?

“A lot of people in my life say I can be a contradiction. There is both a self-loving, no-apologies woman and an insecure, depressed, anxiety-ridden girl inside me and when they mesh, I write. I could just simply say ‘I write to quiet the disquiet in my head’ or some expected response like that, but lately I’ve realized it’s not just tragedy that makes me write, but narcissism as well. The need to have a semblance of me live on after I die as some sort of evidence I existed.”

Kill the part of you that believes it can’t survive without someone else.

Start with the hands.
The feeble way they shake
holding your morning coffee,
the way they did his dishes, his laundry, so willingly.
How they itch from the want of undressing his memory.
All lonely. All empty —

Cut them off.

What sparked you to take this path in life?

“I’m not sure. A competitive drive? I remember being a freshman in high school and receiving our first copy of the campus paper (which was a new thing at the time). There was this poetry section and I thought to myself ‘I relate to this… This is pretty cool. Hey, maybe I can do this!’ I was a bit frustrated because our catholic school only paid attention to the same 30+ smart kids. I was convinced I was one of the best writers (yes, I was immature and smug, I know), but never had the privilege to be in writing seminars or writing for the school paper because students involved were mostly handpicked by teachers from the honor roll. Back then I would think ‘Why can’t I do that? Why not me? I can do that, too, maybe even better’ when it came to aspects I thought I had skill in.

Perhaps I was somewhat self-entitled? There were these other talented kids who were trained to write for years and there I was with zero actual work experience thinking ‘I can do better than you.’ I guess you can say my thirsty ambitious teenaged ass wanted the recognition and opportunity. I wanted my words to be the one that made people feel, relate, nostalgic, hurt, glad, empowered. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be read. Some part of me still aches for that. But over the years I think (or would like to think) I’ve began to write more for myself, rather than for others’ eyes alone.”

What do you write?

“I began writing about romantic love or heartbreak because that’s all I ever knew and what I thought the audience wanted. After finding my own style, so to speak, I think themes present in my poems are often intimacy, sexuality, petty vengeance, retribution, self-empowerment and healing.

Lately I’m trying to write other stuff. Exploring my religion, politics, and societal issues. At the core, though, I think my poems sound angry, aggressive – a woman becoming.”

Undo the trembling in your knees
when you licked the blood from his lips;
Undo the weakness in your feet
when he stole the breath in your lungs.

Stand the fuck up.

How do you write?

“It’s erratic. Often with music, but not totally intentionally. Sometimes I’ll hear a real good song that feels like a soft nudge in the gut, like a reawakening (you know what I mean when you discover a real good song?) and then I’ll put that on loop while looking at art – whether be it reading poetry online, art blogs, or in a museum. It’s usually in the middle of this that I feel comfortable/in the zone to write. Sometimes (okay often lol) I accompany the experience with a glass of wine, a cigarette (though I quit recently), or a roll. One solid thing is I have to be alone or at least have my focus entirely on my writing or the art/music I’m immersing in.”

When do you write?

“Afternoon, like mid-late afternoon to early evening. Maybe it’s the transition of dusk that brings a touch of ease to breaking oneself open. It was easier to write when I was going through depression or letting go of people or sexually awakening. It seems as though since being married / content / safe, I don’t have much to say. I’d rather physically live in that happiness and it’s kind of difficult to translate into poetry without sounding inauthentic. I am in my element when I am miserable.”

Go for the stomach.
Destroy the butterflies giving you
sleepless nights and make a painting
out of their corpses’ wings.

Spit him out.

Where do you write?

“My bed. It’s safest and private. A coffee shop with good wifi and a view of the sunset is a cliché that is welcome.”

Beyond your writing, what do you want to accomplish as a human on this small blue dot?

“To just be a better, healthier, nicer, freer person, really. To travel the world, conquer/understand my inner fears and mental illness, learn more about the dynamics of sexism and feminism, and share that with others, especially young women from my country.

If I can brazenly love life again and get through another year without self-harming or succumbing to self-induced misery or being malicious towards others, I’m good.”

You can eat fire if you want.
Do no let his absence take away your magic.

You are not hard to love if you can love yourself
and no one has the authority to break you
except you.

You are a calamity, you are a force of nature,
and there is thunder crackling in your veins.
Can you hear it? This is your funeral song.

Now, burn —


There is an inner struggle that we all face between who we are and who we want others to believe that we are. Oftentimes we filter what others see, in hopes that we can ignore the ugly and messy parts of us. I want to thank Sade with all of the gratefulness that I can muster, for being honest and raw. May this journey called life take you to beautiful and inspiring places. May it teach you to love in the purest form of the term. May it lead you towards tranquility and peace. And above all, may your words continue to cut into the deepest corners of our souls.

You can find more of Sade’s poetry and writings on her Facebook page or on Instagram. The poem in block quotes comes from her book War Songs which can be purchased here.

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