Listen of the Week: Dear Sugar

My Listens of the Week have so far have been quite cerebral in their tone, so before you get the wrong idea about me… this week I want to recommend something a bit different for your Podcast time.

Listen of the week

I always describe Dear Sugars as a sort of extended Agony Aunt (and Uncle) column (which I think was how it started originally, in the New York Times). It pitches itself as a podcast for ‘the lost, lonely and heartsick’, but you don’t have to be any of those really – you just need to enjoy listening to the thoughtful, well-considered responses to listeners’ dilemmas about love, friendships, relationships and life in general.

Dear Sugars

The topics are really diverse – recently they have covered the impact of early bereavement, the ending of friendships, sexless marriage, body weight and romance, and owning pets…!

One of the things I really enjoy about the show is the dynamic between the two presenters, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. They don’t always agree, and they aren’t at all predictable in their responses, which always makes it an interesting listen. They also have special guests who often have some insight into the problem being discussed. I absolutely love this episode -“My Best Friend’s Wedding” which has the novelist Ann Patchett as a guest. More recently they have had Oprah Winfrey on the show, and Hillary Clinton too in an episode intriguingly titled “The Double Bind of Female Ambition” (I haven’t listened to that one yet, I’m saving it for over Christmas).

As well as being intriguing and entertaining, I also really appreciate the opportunity to challenge some of my rather middle-aged values and and preconceived ideas about relationships and friendship. I don’t always change my mind, but I really value the opportunity to reflect on it all whilst I’m working away at my sewing machine.

If you have a listen, do let me know how you like it.

Listen of the Week 3: Brené Brown at 99U

Listen of the week

I’m not that great with self-help books – as soon as I see the words ‘this book will change your life’ on the cover, I am absolutely not picking up that book. So I was mightily suspicious of all the fuss about Brené Brown, whose TED Talks on Vulnerability and Shame were viral sensations, and who has written several self-help-type books which result in reviews like “A mind-blowing, life-changing read … gets to the heart of life” (Red magazine on Rising Strong).

But friends were enthusiastic – and you have to trust *them*, right? And, as a result, I’ve become a bit of a Brené-Brown-on-YouTube addict. Her talks/presentations are like a 25 minute boost of pep talk when you are wondering why you have bothered to leave the house or even get out of bed at all. She’s pretty wise and very sharply humorous, and I get the impression that she is a fairly normal woman talking about her lived experience, which is not the feeling I sometimes get from other Internet sensations….

One of my favourites on YouTube is a lesser known talk she made at a 99U (“The mission of 99U is to empower the creative community”) conference. She addresses the vulnerability of the creative life and how hard that can be, but stresses the importance of ‘showing up and being seen’, encouraging us to welcome our critics and allowing them sit in the audience. But I won’t spoilerise too much – hope you enjoy it yourself, it’s just a 25 minute listen and well worth your time.


And if you enjoyed the listen, you might enjoy a post I wrote earlier this year about working with your inner committee – which has some ideas that work really well with Brené Brown’s suggestions about how to deal with criticism.

Listen of the Week: On Being

It’s time for another…

Listen of the week
And this is the week when you discover my ulterior motive – getting to talk poetry on a craft blog… what can I say, it’s *my* blog!

So, if you haven’t discovered it already, the On Being podcast is a rich seam of listening for anyone with an interest in spirituality, creativity, mental health, politics, theology, philosophy and generally trying to live life well. It’s a very wonderful thing, full of riches from a fascinating and diverse range of interviewees, brought to the surface and out onto the airways by the host and founder of On Being, Krista Tippett.

Poets frequently end up in the guest spot, and today I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who you might remember wrote the Inaugural Poem for Barack Obama back in 2009. In the On Being episode, Words that Shimmer, Alexander and Tippett discuss the hunger that humans have for poetry, how essential it is to help us get to the truth of our feelings, and how it can cut to the heart of our shared experience and bring a sense of community.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Poetry is not a luxury, as Audre Lorde writes, and I know that she is right. And yet I rarely read poems. It feels very hard to do at the end of a long day, it’s easier to pick up a novel and lose myself in a story. But I have found that listening to podcasts like On Being whilst I’m in the studio, or in the kitchen at home, has meant that poetry is sneaking back into my life, making me take a breath, pulling me up short. Here’s a few of my favourites from On Being interviews with other poets, I hope you like them too.

Beannacht – John O’Donohue

The First Time Percy Came Back – Mary Oliver

Thirteen-Year-Old American Negro Girl – Marilyn Nelson

The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

Do you read or listen to poetry? I’d love to hear about your favourite poets or poetry. I’m also ALWAYS happy to read Podcast recommendations, so feel free to make suggestions.