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.

Listen of the week – words to stitch along to

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love to listen to live radio and to Podcasts whilst I sew/quilt/muck about in my studio pretending to work. And I know that there are lots of you who like to do the same (or binge on Netflix of course..!), so I’ve decided to do a regular series on my unmissable listens.

Listen of the week podcasts for crafting along to

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite Podcast episodes and TED talks every Tuesday – hopefully inspiring you to check them out too.

I warn you (but maybe that should be a promise!) that it’s going to be an eclectic mix – but I am sure that’s a good thing, because my readers are a varied bunch, and everyone will find something to like. The topics I tend to search out for are creativity, craft, mental health, spirituality, philosophy, but I also love wonderful stories of all kinds – so if you have your own recommendations for me, please leave a comment.

First up is my all-time favourite episode (so far, although there is close competition) of probably one of the best-known Podcasts out there, This American Life: One Last Thing Before I Go

The Wind Phone in Otsuchi, Japan, subject of the first act of One Last Thing Before I Go (photo from The National Post).

It’s probably crazy to start with such an excellent piece of radio, because it might all be downhill from here, but I really want to give you the Podcast bug, so best to start big, I thought!

I’m a bit stuck though, because I don’t want to say too much about it (Spoilers) – but I can say this: both stories within the episode are deeply moving, thought-provoking and incredibly well-told. They speak (in VERY different ways, and that the contrast is part of the success of the episode) of the human struggle to communicate, to express our feelings, our inadequacy, our bravery, our weakness and our resilience in the face of loss and death.

If you’ve never listened to a Podcast before, you can just listen to it on your browser, or download it for later, or use a Podcast app.

Hope you enjoy it – I’d love to hear what you think.

Some online sources for exploring creativity

If you’ve been keeping up with me in 2017, you’ll know that I’m making an intentional study of creativity this year – with a reading list and everything. I’m also collecting online resources too. I’ve belatedly discovered creativebug and have been hugely enjoying watching How to Design Fabric with Lizzy House, Denyse Schmidt and Heather Ross. Although obviously it’s not specifically about creativity, it is about the how these three amazing designers use their creativity to produce their fabric collections, and it’s very insightful as a result. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 1 on inspiration and Chapter 4 on colour. In fact, the whole class is almost worth buying just for the section in which Denyse Schmidt talks about how she puts colours together and where she finds her colour inspiration.

How to Design Fabric
One of Denyse Schmidt’s colour palettes from How to Design Fabric

Investigating creativebug a bit more I’m adding things to my wishlist for future investigation.  Here’s what I have lined up so far:

As if that’s not enough to be going on with… I’ve also signed up, at the recommendation of a couple of friends, to do a Coursera course called Ignite Your Creativity. I have no idea what to expect there.  And I haven’t even started on what’s available to me over on Craftsy!

Project: Declutter to Make Room for my Creativity is also continuing (albeit rather interrupted by the beginning of my teaching career – it went great, yay!), as I try to get my studio space and fabric collection rather better organised. Working through the mountains of STUFF is the ideal time to catch up with my Podcast list. Recently I’ve added On Being… with Krista Tippett to my Podcast favourites.

On Being with Krista Tippett

If you are the sort of person who loves a bit of internal reflection and philosophical discussion on the subject of what it means to be human, you will love it. I heartily recommend it, as I recommend Krista Tippett’s book too. In discussions about how best to live life, creativity obviously comes up A LOT, and there is so much good stuff here, enough to keep you going over a lifetime of fabric-stash tidying I’m sure. But I’ve particularly enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on Choosing Curiosity over Fearfor a very practical approach to what is important about creativity and how it works. And, just as good, but oh so different, Creativity and the Everyday Brain, a discussion with Rex Jung, a neuropsychologist – which is fantastic for its insight into what the brain is doing when it is being creativity (the answer seems to be…. spoilers…. not much).

Have you got any online recommendations for me?