Retrospective: A New Podcast...and Maya Stein!

If all the people I know and love lived here in my neighborhood, I would host a party every Friday night so you could meet one another and hang out. You would be so inspired and happy to know each other, as I am every single day.

But we live near and far, and we will likely never be all together on a Friday night. So I'm creating this new podcast series as an attempt toward the next best thing.

It's called Retrospective, and it features in-depth conversations with artists, authors and visionaries about the places in which we find ourselves and the stories that brought us here. It's an inquiry into our experience of journey. But at the heart of it, it's an introduction between some of my favorite people in all the world.

It's coming soon to iTunes and all that jazz, but I can't wait for everything to be 'just so' because my first interview is with poet Maya Stein and it is a very time-sensitive conversation about her latest project, Type Rider. Here's the video trailer:

Yesterday I went in to meet Maya on the Highline Canal in Manhattan. She was here in town, and she's been setting up writing stations here and there, even though the official Type Rider trip doesn't launch for another few weeks. I wasn't sure how it would go over here in New York--would people be curious, or too cautious to investigate?

Just those few minutes I witnessed there, with passerby being drawn to her blue typewriter like bees to blossom and Maya conversing with them in a space of pure welcome, held so much beauty and humanity that I was all tears under my sunglasses. I wanted a video camera or some other way to capture the quality of playfulness and adventure that was as tangible as the warm sun on our cheeks. Some way to bottle it up and give it to you like the best present ever.

I do have this to offer you, though: a heart to heart chat, friend to friend, with Maya herself.

There are only a few more days to fund the Type Rider project--please help us spread the word.

 

Maya Stein is a poet, feral writing instructor and adventurer. She is the author of Spinning the Bottle and The Overture of an Apple. On her blog you can sign up to receive one of her original 10-line poems in your inbox every Tuesday.

 

 

Click the link below to play the episode in your browser (it may need a couple minutes to load), or right-click (or control-click) to download it into your library. I have individual files of each of the poems she reads to share with you, but it looks like I need to post those separately. Look for them to be added in the coming days (along with ways to subscribe to this new series.)

A Taste of Something Good

Fire by the Sea, Canon Rebel xsi

Today's audio clip is a reading of "Fortunes", the poem that shares its title with my favorite collection of the year--a little book made to hold close to your heart or to give to a beloved friend.  I'm sharing it today in honor of 2009, and all the joys and sorrows that inspired my most honest work yet.

Traveling, and The Missing

cars

Sometimes I miss the wisdom of traveling at the speed of man and animal.  My body and my soul are jarred by air travel, and they need days to catch up.  There is the way our first night is interrupted by little tummies that are confused by a day with two meals instead of three, or requests during slumber of "Papa, now!"  Or the empty fridge that says I must go find something to put in it, to put in us.  The words and images of the last week and a half that swirl in my mind so it feels like it may be a week before I can even answer, How was the trip? And then there are all of you, who have been so patient for me to return to this space and our work together.  In a way, I am back--but in another way I am not still really here yet.  So please accept this little piece as my offering for the day and send restful thoughts my way.  It is a draft I jotted on the plane yesterday.

 

Bits and Pieces

Photo: Proof that we had at least a couple blue sky days here in my neighborhood. Diana F+ with 55mm Wide-Angle Lens

I felt a small collective panic going around after the last post.  I'll take a moment to add a couple more thoughts about creative companions.  First, with only a couple exceptions, the people in my life who are friends of my work live far away, and like most of you I use blogs and flickr and email and the phone to stay in touch.  Out of the three women I met with last fall, now I'm only meeting with one of them.  These things change and flow. 

I'm flexible--I take what I can get, and I'm not picky, in that you don't have to be "a writer" to be my creative friend.  If Jen and I weren't having technical issues, we could share work via video chat, or just exchange digital images and files.  I've done some really nice phone readings of my new work.  But there's something particularly comforting about seeing someone in the flesh, something about being able to look her in the eyes and see she's dead serious when she says you're doing well, that I cherish.  Scoop this up if you can, but don't let it trip you up.  If an internet creative community is what you have, work it.  Find a way to deepen a connection.

Here's a random knitting update.  After completing the sweater, I made myself these (toast) and one of these (more yarn is on the way). I am honestly wearing all of them right now--even the one boot.  And I feel like magic. For those of you who have been waiting patiently for a Portfolio Project button to display on your own site, I wish I could say your patience paid off with something super beautiful and artsy and fabulous.  But this is the Portfolio Project, where we're keeping it fast and dirty and getting our work done without getting lost down rabbit holes, so it seemed fitting that the button turned out like this: To embed the button on your own site, copy and paste this code:

<a href="http://jenlee.net/index.php/the-portfolio-project/"><img src="http://jenlee.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/button.jpg" alt="" /></a>. 

Many thanks to Justin for building that little cutie for us. The first issue of Voca Femina is live.  Go visit!  You can read my piece, A Voice, Untamed and submit some work of your own. Finally, a little gift to carry you into the weekend.  Here's a piece I wrote about the journey I've been on this last month.


Can You Stand in the Storm?

Flatbush: A double exposure on the Diana F+.  The B41 bus and One Plaza Street.  Shot on 35mm film. When I first started talking about writing, my husband came home from a business trip with a couple gifts for me:  Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing. These are now two of my favorite books, but something really stood out to me when I read Bird by Bird for the first time. 

Lamott describes her writing process and the writing life so vividly that it is painful at times.  Her honesty provoked this thought: I've felt and thought those same things, and I thought it meant that I hated writing, but if everyone (or many enough others) feel and think that way and they are Writers, maybe I don't hate it.  Maybe I'm just a writer.

Okay, typing it out like that makes it look pretty lame, but it felt very profound to me at the time. Reading Jen's post this morning reminds me of the ways we fantasize about people who we think are Really Doing It, and how they are probably more together, more mentally stable, more endowed with natural talent and confidence than ourselves.  How life probably leaves them alone, and doesn't disturb their precious concentration with troubles at their kids' school, or relatives who are angry with them, or lay-offs. The part that really got me was when she wrote, "It’s okay to have serious doubts about your talents and abilities. Do your work anyway." 

It's so obvious to me, I think because it's the water I swim in, that it's something I forget to say out loud.  But then I remembered that I used to think and feel these same things and I thought it meant I hated writing--I thought everyone was floating on some cloud of bliss while their hands floated across the page in perfect script. 

So let me just underscore this point today.  I am plagued with serious doubts about my talents and abilities.  Luckily I have safe friends with whom I can speak of these things--people who understand that these get stirred up when you take risks and practice vulnerability.  If they didn't understand this, they would be convinced that I was mentally unwell. I swear it.

Here's another one: every day I sit down without A CLUE about what I'm going to write or to say.  I stare out my window at the light or the dark or the snow or the sidewalk and try to start there somehow, but I'm sure I do the same avoid-that-blank-page shuffle that you do.  Having young kids, I probably just do it for a shorter amount of time than some, viewing it now as a luxury and not a necessity.

Whatever storm you are standing in today, whether it's a storm of circumstances or one of doubt or confusion or fear, see if you can just stand in it.  Watch how it touches you and how it joins you.  See if by receiving it, you can see it transform.  Not one of us is immune to the distraction of circumstances or the grating voice of doubt, but we can choose to see it as part of the package.

Here's a piece from yesterday, when I had nothing to say and only a gentle storm of snow outside my window.  Happy Friday, everyone.