I got started writing later than many-- I did a handful of poems when very young and Robert Frost wrote something great on one so in the back of my mind I kept that. I thought someday, maybe. Ironically, I was afraid I had nothing to write about even when I wanted to write--- a summer in Cape Cod-- I remember sitting there in a white dress -- maybe 16 --with a pink velvet cummerbund wanting to make a poem and no idea where to start or what it could possibly be about. Even in college I was afraid to take a writing class. But it was not until I left graduate school after walking out of my PHD exam that I began: first in the quiet times at a public radio station where I edited the Scene on 17. There were always slow times when I began to read poetry, subscribed to many magazines listed in Len Fulton's directory and found each day magical, reading and writing. When I left that job, I wrote every morning on Rapple, standing at a kitchen counter. When I got into ballet on Appletree, I wrote in bed or at my desk over looking Chinese dogwood and wild trillium I dug up years before with my mother on the Mother's Day a week after her mother died. I lived alone and I loved it. Sadly a van blew up last summer in my driveway: destroyed all the trillium-- so rare and gorgeous and killed most of the dogwood. I have a notebook of poems about that, still not typed, but full of loss. In those days, I'd work all day-- write early and in the afternoon deal with the mail, or in typing up poems. When I was editing one of the three major anthologies I did, including the long time running TANGLED VINES, that came first and I hardly wrote any of my own work. Though after reading so many mother and daughter poems (I had written very few until then) that became a major theme for many years in my own work. In the award winning documentary film by Mary Ann Lynch: LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS my typical day at work is the main thing: my basement full of news clips, the stacks of notebooks (I always have about 60 handwritten ones just waiting and waiting-- some go back to 1990…). I will never get to all of them, never get to read all I want…it's overwhelming. The film shows me in various readings, at ballet, just every day all day routines. I am very excited: the film, once distributed by WOMEN MAKE MOVIES and show at film festivals is just now coming back as a CD. It probably shows my writing life as well as anything; as does a Washington Magazine issue I think in August 1997 and some articles in The Writer's Market.
Moving to DC -- I wrote around ballet-- classes in the morning, writing some on the metro, visiting museums so often -- a calendar I kept shows 5 or 6 days a week I'd be at some exhibit or talk or movie and those often became what I wrote about. I wrote a little on the metro then but it wasn't until I moved to Virginia where the ballet studio is a much longer trip away that I began writing so much more on the metro--- it's almost seemed the only time I have-- I remember writing poems for the anthology DICK FOR A DAY and putting a harmless book jacket over wildly erotic books I didn't feel ok having others watch me read. Since I've done a lot of series of poems, I carry heavy books on the way and the train ride always seems too short. I still write in wire spiral note books but I long for the old kind: with unicorn on the front: now the notebooks are either very soft backed and floppy or worse: the pages come right out-- I never expected normal nice notebooks would disappear.
I was born in upstate Vermont, in Barre and we moved to Middlebury, one of those small college towns with a white Congregational church LIFE magazine came to photograph every winter. A calendar town. A town where you went to the Catholic School and were Catholic or the public school and you were Christian. Very few Jewish families except my grandparents and uncles and one other family. A start at feeling like an outside which I think helps to become a writer. We lived in one of the few apartments in a town where everyone else had a yard after moving from one rented house to another. It looked out over Main Street activity and in the back, the water falls from Otter Creek and a skyline where the sun set and the Catholic church jutted up. My mother had grown up in that town and desperately wanted to get away but after college at Simmons and Maryland college for Women, she ended back, something she always regretted. My father came from Russia, a taciturn, moody, quiet man-- the opposite of my mother in her younger years: full of fun, lively flashing brown eyes. Always up for a trip from VT to New York City for a cup of coffee. Or dancing on a ferry all night in the city and then going to work at Macy's where she sold more books than anyone. In her last days, her wish was to go back to New York.
I didn't stay in theater but giving readings has been so close to that. After Syracuse where I got a BA in British Literature, I went to University of Vermont for an MA in English and then to Brandeis University to work on a PH in English and then later, the University at Albany-SUNY-- I finished all the course work, had started my dissertation (which disappeared from my office) -- had 90 hours of credits and then walked out, drained and exhausted at the last exam I had to pass. But for a long time one of my most published poems came from that experience.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Elaborate, not just yes, no.
I write all the time. When I am burned out, less so. Or when I am typing a pile of notebooks. When I used to edit anthologies I was too busy to write much myself but I have not edited any recently. Sometimes, when to write for a particular subject (like my Joni Mitchell poems), or poems that I had written to go with a painter's paintings-- poems about women in history and myth-- like Scheherazade, Nefertiti, or Eneduanna-- the first woman to sign her name to something or when I am working on say one of the horse books I've published-- I find each poem triggers more, the connection the subject creates momentum. In the last few years I've been very involved with ballroom-- and from that: BALLROOM from March Street Press and KNIFE EDGE & ABSINTHE: THE TANGO POEMS. Another time, someone wanted poems about Hitchcock so I wrote HOTEL HITCHCOCK. The same thing happened with my writing poems for THE DAUGHTER I DON'T HAVE, MONDO BARBIE, MONDO MARILYN, THE CONDO POEMS, TSUNAMI POEMS, OBAMA---all anthologies I wrote poems for and then ended up with a book or chapbook about (except the Obama anthologies).
Links (added by editor):
Small Press Review: http://www.dustbooks.com/spr.htm
Poets and Writers: http://www.pw.org/
Writer's Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/
What inspires you to write
What type of stories, poetry, and/or fiction do you like to read, imitate, or write?
If you had to choose, what would you say are the two best poems, flash fiction, or short stories you have ever written to this date?
Editor note: Google her: https://www.google.com/#hl=en&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=lyn+lifshin&oq=lyn+l&gs_l=hp.1.2.0l4.1800.11700.0.14184.108.40.206.0.0.0.135.586.1j4.5.0...0.0...1c.1.7.psy-ab.ATmDxGFu3YI&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44158598,d.aWM&fp=3e3d88a3ec4b534b&biw=1344&bih=721
I've had so many-- from Black Sparrow Press, to Beacon Press, to Harcourt Brace--- some tiny ones no longer in existence. Many can be seen on my web site www.lynlifshin.com or listed in the (Missing info).
Beacon Press: http://www.beacon.org/
Harcourt Brace: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harcourt_(publisher)
Do you have any parting words for our readers; any words of wisdom to share?
Are you trying anything new: video's on line, MP3 audio files, any
Some people have posted bits of videos about me on line-- I should do more.