“In minds made better by their presence”: Celebrating Sagittarius Writers

November 24, 2021
︎︎︎A Good Used Book

Sagittarians are the priceless paintings of the zodiac, the signs that people cross oceans to admire. They are the rush of a scratch-ticket purchase and the slow of an old clove cigarette. Sagittarians are the poems we write and never share, the strangers we see and never forget. They are Shirley Jackson and Rita Mae Brown, Sandra Cisneros and Richard Pryor.

An amorphous group, they are best identified by their tireless climb toward freedom. Louisa May Alcott, for instance, would free herself from the construct of marriage. Eileen Myles would shuck the straightjacket of sexuality and Gayl Jones, to great risk, would free her writing from whiteness.

For each in their own way, their resistance breeds its own magnetic pull. Consider the legendarily beautiful Clarice Lispector, whose readers were warned that her writing was more witchcraft than literature; or the mesmerizing Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, the most ruthlessly graceful woman in Western Massachusetts.

Sagittarians are Emily Dickinson too, clutching her earliest published poem in surprise. They are Mary Ann Evans in 1848, selling every one of her 1,500 debut copies… but under the pen name George Eliot. Ruled by Jupiter, the planet of luck, their winnings have ranged from fame to self-actualization and everything in between.

As brooding and existential as James Agee, as ambitious and independent as Joan Didion, and as alive as Gordon Parks - Sagittarians exist to feel everything, and to write it all down.