The Poetics of Space
I can’t recall exactly how old I was when the search for a perfect hideout became imperative, but considering that my two children are always looking for a tree to climb it’s safe to say I was between the ages of five and seven. Of course, the joy of climbing a tree is almost always followed by plans to stay up in that tree, on your own, away from your parents’ demands. (If you haven’t read Italo Calvino’s 1957 novel, The Baron in the Trees, add it to your list.) My quest to build a tree house consisting of more than a few planks nailed together to form an uneven platform remains unfulfilled (I had better luck building forts in the hayloft of our barn in Wisconsin), but I see that the dream lives on in my kids.
Finding one’s own space to be inspired—whether it’s personal or shared, public or private—and how one’s definition of that space changes (or not) over time is something that often comes to mind as I work on our annual Writers Retreats Issue. I had the pleasure of being part of the photo shoot that produced the cover image of Emily Raboteau and Victor LaValle, whose warm welcome and calm confidence as four relative strangers waltzed into their living room and (politely) scrutinized their space for photographic potential was remarkable. As the photographer was setting up, I chatted with LaValle and Raboteau, who was seven months pregnant with the couple’s second child, about negotiating space for family and work in their beautiful one-bedroom apartment. These days I am especially sensitive to such negotiations. Not only am I on the losing side of a years-long border war with my kids in which separate territories for toys and books are constantly being drawn and redrawn, but as of this writing I, along with the rest of the magazine staff, am still working from home while our New York City office is restored following the hurricane last October. Space has never seemed so precious.
The theme of inspiring spaces runs through the pages of this issue, from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s constantly moving Workspace residency to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, from Rae Armantrout’s exotic garden of desert plants to the amazing conferences, festivals, and even hotels in our special section on writers retreats. Wherever you are, wherever you’re headed, I hope you have a little space where you can write, and if not, I hope this magazine inspires you to find it. Keep climbing!