The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Books & Words

On True Love: A Couple in Chicago

Books & Words, Love and MarriageAlexandra king2 Comments

Did you guys see the wonderful old New Yorker interview with a young Barack and Michelle Obama that's been doing the rounds online this week?

In 1996, photographer Mariana Cook began a photography project on couples in America. She interviewed the Obamas, and took the photo above- aren't they adorable here? Fresh faced, long-limbed, determined of countenance. Michelle's body language here is so revealing and beautiful, too, a strong and protective ying to B's languorous yang. Reading their words now is so wonderful ("There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career" muses Michelle) but it's what Barack says about his then wife of four years that moves me so much. I don't think I've read such a pure description of true love in a very long time.

"Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a very strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don’t know, because when she’s walking through the world she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her. And then what sustains our relationship is I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person."

I'm going to miss these two.

Why I Sent Myself Postcards For A Year

Books & Words, Careers and WorkingAlexandra king8 Comments
PAUL NEW MAN.jpg

Around this time, five years ago, I was 24, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and freshly employed in a new job. Sounds good, right? Nope. It was tough. I was figuring out the office culture in a new country (read: very different). The freelance contracts I had were intermittent, unpredictable and my visa depended on them. I was on-and-off dating a very intense and controlling and in hindsight absolutely bat shit mental man. I was desperately in love with New York, but I spent half my time in a state of bliss and half in abject terror. Had I done the right thing by staying? Was this the place I was meant to be in? Was I wasting my time? Why could the man in the bagel shop still not understand a word I said? Was that script I wrote good enough? Shit, it wasn't good enough. My anxiety was through the roof. I cried in a lot of bathrooms. I drank a lot of Margaritas (see above). I also started doing something a little strange. Though I have always kept a diary, on and off, throughout the years, somehow, then, it wasn't enough. One day, as is my want, I bought a postcard, which I found myself absentmindedly scribbling a few lines on. Then, entirely on a whim, I posted it to myself. I was absolutely delighted, two days later, when the card arrived back at my door, like a dependable message in a bottle, boomeranging its way back to its maker. The act of writing, sending and receiving reminded me, somehow, that the best way to deal with the fleeting yet essential business of days is for them to be both, in turn, recorded and discarded into the ether.

I carried on sending myself postcards for a year or so after that. At the time, I realize now, I was a lone satellite, as so many of us are in our early twenties, pottering about in a wildly undulating state of both absolute joy and total confusion, surrounded by people, but desperately lonely. I needed to be looked at with love to remind myself that I was there, some stamp of affirmation that I was a real girl, in a real place. Who would have thought the answer could have been so literal. Each of those postmarks, with their curved sooty lines, willed me on like a wave.

You can see a couple of the first postcards I ever sent to myself in the photos above. I look at them now and they make me laugh. I even feel a bit nostalgic for that littler version of me. I see her now, folded like a praying mantis in the windowsill of that apartment on 75th street, glancing at passersby with the warmth rising off the pavements, bare legged, a postcard at her feet, wondering what will happen next.

This Is Just To Say

Books & Words, BooksAlexandra kingComment
plums

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were

in the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold
 

William Carlos Williams


Words With Love: The Best Valentine's Day Cards

Love and Marriage, Books & WordsAlexandra king2 Comments

NYC-based publisher and general renaissance woman Sonel Breslav, runs her own publishing house, Blonde Art Books. For Valentine's Day this year, Sonel collaborated with fellow publisher Corina Reynolds and artist Cara Benedetto to produce a unique set of Valentine's Day Cards, part of an ongoing project titled "Words With Love". The cards are designed by a carefully selected group of women artists, writers and activists, sold in sets of six and printed in a limited edition of 100. They are, in turn, hilarious and romantic and moving. I have mixed feelings about Valentines Day, but I'm passionate about the power of a good love letter. And I LOVE these cards. So much, in fact, that I asked Sonel if she could tell me and you a little more about the project.

 Cammi Clamico

Cammi Clamico


Alex: Tell me about Words With Love. How did the project begin?

Sonel: The project stemmed from a much larger conversation I've been having with Cara Benedetto and Corina Reynolds. The mission of Blonde Art Books has always been to celebrate independent publishing and I've only ever been involved in projects that are highly collaborative. Things that I have questions and curiosities about. I don't know the answers myself and so I reach out to learn through the process of publishing! Words With Love is meant to be read as 'words with' love. Like the expression 'to have a word with'. The cards are direct- urging the receiver to rethink, re-imagine and challenge notions of love and romance.

In large part the project came from my desire to collaborate with Cara. I met Cara through a book she had written called The Coming of Age, an erotic romance novel. Her interest in this genre was really interesting to me - she has a very particular voice, a strong feminist voice. I can only speak for my interpretation and to me the book is very much about coming to terms with the many disappointments that come along with romantic life. About finding ways to find romance within different relationships - with friends, partners, family, and with yourself. I identified with this position. The anger, humor, and sexiness (!!) of disappointment. So of course I wanted to collaborate with Cara. Words With Love came together very quickly but stems from a series of conversations that we'd had over the course of a year. We had a wishlist of artists, poets, activists, with whom we wanted to reach out to in what we saw an an on-going conversation. This was the starting point for inviting these women to contribute to Words With Love.

 Cassandra Troyan

Cassandra Troyan

 General Sisters

General Sisters

Alex: When I saw the cards, I immediately wanted to send them to all my girlfriends. Who do you see the cards as being for?

Sonel: I really love this idea. But I also feel like they're for yourself. They're really beautiful and also limited edition, so first and foremost they’re just lovely things to have. But I’ll say that they're definitely for people who think about love in an open and complex way. I hope that anyone who receives one of these cards will see it as something to be kept aside and thought about very specifically. I hope the cards inspire people to write letters and to think about their own vulnerability. They are really genuine and thoughtful- a starting point to a conversation or to a secret or to a relationship. I imagine them to say something that you haven't said before, to express a fantasy. Even just being involved in making the cards has been a unique and loving experience- I’m really moved by the gathering of these amazing women. A lot of the artists I didn't know very well before but I feel close to them now- through their words and artwork.

 

 Lex Brown

Lex Brown

 Lucy Ives

Lucy Ives

Alex: You asked the women who designed the cards to send the finished product to you in the mail. I love that. Sonel, is this you engineering a way to receive 30 separate love letters? Solid work.

Sonel: Ha! I felt that having the artists send the cards to me in the mail would keep with the idea of it being handmade and from the heart. That romantic gesture of putting something in the mail. What was really interesting was the care that people had wrapped them in. It was so amazing unwrapping them all.

 Mira Schor

Mira Schor

Alex: Now that the project is completed, when you look at the cards, what do you feel in your heart?

Sonel: When I look at the cards I feel proud. I think of who they’ll be sent to- the women, the friends, the lovers, the colleagues, the co-conspirators. I hope they will also feel this sense of empowerment and joy. A romantic expressioncan be balloons, hearts and chocolate but it can be anything really. For me this is a project about love, whatever you define it as. 

 Moyra Davey

Moyra Davey

Thank you so much to the wonderful Sonel Breslav for talking to me. And run don't walk to get your cards!

Set 1: Mira Dancy, Kayla Guthrie,  Jill Magid, Karin Schneider, Christine Wang, and Camilla Wills.
Pre-order here


Set 2: Moyra Davey, General Sisters, Suzanne Herrera, Amy Lam, Aura Rosenberg, and Cassandra Troyan.
Pre-order here


Set 3:  Lex Brown, Cammi Climaco, Sara Greenburger Rafferty, Lucy Ives, Mira Schor, and Danna Vajda.
Pre-order here

Stars, Birds, Babes, Sages

Books, Books & WordsAlexandra king4 Comments

Monday inspo courtesy of old-time theologian William Ellery Channing.


TSWIL On Cup Of Jo

Careers and Working, Home and Design, New York City, Books & Words, BooksAlexandra king4 Comments
Alexandra King-Lyles and Isaac Lyles

Delighted to share with you that the wonderful blog Cup of Jo, has featured our apartment today. Head on over to see me and Isaac being awk on camera and hear me waffle on about handymen, my love of black cats and why there's a painting of a penis above our dining table.

So many thanks to Cup of Jo and especially my wonderful new friend Caroline Donofrio for interviewing me. And oh hey Cup of Jo readers!  It's so lovely to meet you.

A Poem for a Thursday

Books & WordsAlexandra kingComment
 Black Iris III by Georgie O'Keeffe

Black Iris III by Georgie O'Keeffe

Irises
Li-Young Lee

          1.
In the night, in the wind, at the edge of rain,
I find five irises, and call them lovely.
As if a woman, once, lay by them awhile,
then woke, rose, went, the memory of hair
lingers on their sweet tongues.

I’d like to tear these petals with my teeth.
I’d like to investigate these hairy selves,
their beauty and indifference. They hold
their breath all their lives
and open, open.

          2.
We are not lovers, not brother and sister,
though we drift hand in hand through a hall
thrilling and burning as thought and desire
expire, and, over this dream of life,
this life of sleep, we waken dying—
violet becoming blue, growing
black, black—all that
an iris ever prays,
when it prays,
to be.