Quetzals, Ecclesiastes, and Slinky Dresses (OR: Date Night Photos)

“Tell me what you’ve been thinking about lately,” I said to my husband.

jen_hinst-white_greyhorse

Date Night Photo: Exhibit A

(This is—a friend pointed out to me recently—a classic Jen HW question. I like to hear people’s deep thoughts: what they’re wrestling with, who and what they love, what they’ve always wanted to do with their lives. You’d be amazed how deep you can go with party small-talk if you add a few extra degrees of How so? Why?)

So Rob (husband) and I were out on a date and I asked him this question and he surprised me. Which still happens once in a while, after all these years.

“Pretty often,” he said, “I think about the meaninglessness of everything.”

Read More

Lucky (Song Series #17)

95% of my days are a quotidian mixture of laboring at my desk and the care and feeding of hurricanes.

(Pictured here: Hurricane #1 and Hurricane #2, along with a rare eye-of-the-storm moment)

IMG_2904-COLLAGE-COLLAGE


I’m pretty tired, usually, but it’s a lucky life.

Last week, though, felt like I’d been picked up and dropped into some other plane of lucky.

I was up at the Bennington Writing Seminars, hearing electrifying readings and lectures and also getting some much-needed space for writing (while my generous husband, mom & in-laws wrangled the kids at home)…

bennington_meadow

And then, on the evening of the summer solstice, I got some news: I’ve been offered the lavish gift of a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship  at Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Tennessee: a fully-funded, two-week retreat this fall, to work on my brand-new second novel. No hurricane-wrangling. Just reading and writing. I’ve never had two solid weeks for reading and writing in my entire life. I’m floored and so grateful. 

Coincidentally, my creative-co-conspirator Elijah Burrell and I had just worked out our little version of Radiohead’s song “Lucky.” It was one of the songs we figured out for a show we were playing at Bennington. So—in honor of feeling pretty lucky right now—

“Lucky” (Radiohead cover)

Vocals: Jen Hinst-White & Eli Burrell

Guitar: Eli Burrell

 

19396850_10154911537998650_5910239414147035410_n

Playing with Eli Burrell at Bennington College, June 17, 2017. Photo: Laura Gill.

 

PS Just to make it all a little more ridiculous: On a rainy walk off the End of the World at Bennington College, Vermont, I found the three biggest 4-leaf-clovers I have ever seen. OK, to be honest—I have a strange knack for finding 4-leaf-clovers, and the where’s-Waldo part of my brain was probably scanning for them. But I felt pretty lucky to be in that meadow at all.

 

IMG_2814

 

 

Read More

Orexia (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

51Kjj4ZSfzL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Poems as Temples
Orexia by Lisa Russ Spaar

Temples exist, possibly, not because the Holy is holier there, but to make us awake to it. A singular hour—one with a lover who is going on a journey, for example—draws up all our attention. Maybe this is why “Temple” and “Hour” appear so often in the poem titles of Lisa Russ Spaar’s new collection Orexia, a word which means “desire, appetite.” Discrete spaces, including bodies, are important in these poems. In “Temple Tomb,” a reimagining of John 20:11-18, the speaker is shocked by the physicality of the man who appears to her: “What did your body ever have / to do with me?” In “Temple Dictionary,” Spaar does heavy work in a space no bigger than a violet pressed in a dictionary: “genital lapels held in tiny, kama sutric / kimono foldings, obeisant // to the word “thesis,” a setting down. Down. / Forgive me, O once-alive. // I believed to press love / would be to make love.”

Read More

Said Not Said (Review Series)

51KZUtW4j0L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

Poems of Violence and Mercy
Said Not Said: Poems by Fred Marchant

“Imagine a fishbone lodged in your throat. / Imagine it kicks and squirms. / You cough, you hack, you try to heave it out…” writes poet Fred Marchant in his new collection Said Not Said. “[Y]ou try as you may to discern meaning / in the situation. You feel the bone stirring again.” Maybe every good book has a fishbone lodged in its throat. In this one, it might well be violence itself.

Read More

You Again? (or: AWP Serendipity: It’s a Thing)

IMG_0154

Major Jackson speaking at the fantastic Folger Shakespeare Library panel on Keats and Countee Cullen.

Given the legions (10,000? 15,000?) who attend the annual AWP conference (Association of Writers & Writing Programs), it should feel like a faceless sea.

So how is it that, for every hour I spend there, I run into somebody I know? I’m not even especially well connected. I’m a very wee creature in the AWP zoo.

I think it’s just the AWP Serendipity Thing.

Consider this quote from Julia Fierro, on today’s panel “Second Time Around: On the Sophomore Novel”:

“I had to give up all hope of publication to write that first book [Cutting Teeth] in a pure way. I had a certain level of honesty. I enjoyed writing it.”

—Julia Fierro

This way-of-being that Fierro describes seems to me not only a good way to write, but a good way to approach AWP. I think many writers feel a kind of anxious urgency to Hurry Up and Network! here. And I understand that. It’s a huge conference, it costs money, and it’s brief. So you pick up on a lot of anxiety, observing people going booth-to-booth in the book fair or approaching Big Name Writers after panels.

That Hurry Up and Network! approach just feels to me like 1) a lot of pressure, 2) not fun, and 3) a surefire way to miss real, warm, human interactions….

Read More

Jen Hinst-White

 

S   U  M  M  E  R  T  I  M  E

• H  E  L  L  O  S •

jen_hinst-white_home

THE NEWEST NEWS:

• This fall, Image Journal will publish my essay on literary apocalyptic fiction, ”A Little Guide to Surviving Apocalypse.”

• Consequence Magazine will publish my long essay on nuclear weapons, “15 Eggs,” in their 2018 “Women Write About War” issue.

• Newest blog pondering: “Quetzals, Ecclesiastes and Slinky Dresses (Or: Date Night Photos).” A musing on meaningfulness and minor vanities, with photographic evidence.

≈≈≈

And if we’re not yet acquainted: Hello! I’m Jen. I write. I speak. I like to be alive. I’ve written a novel about tattooing with spunky illustrations (and I’m looking for a great agent or indie press to bring it into the world). I write essays and stories; I review books; occasionally I make a little music or deliver an unconventional sermon for those (like me) who waffle between the skeptics and the mystics. Should we talk? Connect on Twitter? Instagram?

Cheers & love, Jen Hinst-White

Read More