Leigh Stein on Writing a Pandemic Time Capsule
In Conversation with Alex Higley and Lindsay Hunter on I'm a Writer But
Welcome to I’m a Writer But, where two writers-and talk to other writers-and about their work, their lives, their other work, the stuff that takes up any free time they have, all the stuff they’re not able to get to, and the ways in which any of us get anything done. Plus: book recommendations, bad jokes, okay jokes, despair, joy, and anything else we’ve got going on that week. Hosted by Lindsay Hunter and Alex Higley.
In this episode, Alex and Lindsay talk with Leigh Stein (What to Miss When) about her new poetry collection, writing fast and furiously in the early months of the pandemic, the joy in editing at the sentence level, Summer House and other reality television, is it okay to write fiction about the pandemic yet? and more!
From the episode:
Leigh Stein: I had been frustrated for a while with how much wine I was drinking, and [two weeks before lockdown 2020], that was the weekend where I was like, I have to make a change, I’m going to stop drinking for 30 days. I thought, 30 days, that seems manageable, I’m not quitting forever. Ten days later, I started writing poetry again for the first time in ten years. I had lost poetry. I’d written prose during that whole period, and I thought, oh, there’s this other part of my brain that’s being exercised, and I’m not a poet anymore, but the poems just started coming, and the first poem I wrote was “Think Starlight,” which opens the collection.
So I started writing these poems, and I ended up not drinking for 104 days, for most of the period of writing the book. If I hadn’t stopped drinking, I would’ve never written this book. It was this perfect collision of I stopped drinking, it opened something up in my mind, and my world completely shrunk to the size of my house. I think it was just a perfect storm. I can’t imagine what would have to happen for me to have that same experience again.
Leigh Stein is the author of five books, most recently the poetry collection What to Miss When and the novel Self Care. She has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Allure, Elle, The Cut, Salon, and Slate. She is a recipient of an Amy Award from Poets & Writers, and The Cut named her “poet laureate of The Bachelor.”