Speak of it as if it is just new

Last March Jamaica Kincaid visited for three days as a Writers House Fellow. She was a marvelous presence and we got along extremely well. Here you'll find links to video recordings of her reading and also the interview/conversation I conducted the next morning — as well as photos taken during the visit. Today Andy White finished editing a 16-minute excerpt from the interview, and it is now part of a Writers House podcast. Listen to it here. Anna Levett, a student in the Fellows seminar, wrote this:


That Ms. Kincaid so values youth — that she so values newness — is reflected in her work. Before meeting her, we spoke often of the deceptive simplicity, almost childlike, of her writing. Al told us that his favorite line in all of her work came from My Garden (Book), where she writes, "I shall speak of it as if no one has ever heard of it before. I shall speak of it as if it is just new."

Lisa Tauber, a student in our class, wrote, "One of the things I really love about her writing is the seemingly simple choice of metaphors and descriptions, so that it appears the world is being viewed by a child. I remember when we went to lunch, one of the first things she did was tell us some little anecdote, and then she said, 'It was as clear to me as this glass of water.' I was struck by the use of her writing style in her everyday speech. It was a nice moment where I felt I saw her artistic sensibility outside of her work."

Indeed this may be the best thing about Writers House Fellows — the chance to see from where, from who, the words on the page arise. It's nice to be reminded that even famous writers are real people.

Though she doesn't refrain from criticism (particularly when it's political), Ms. Kincaid herself likes to remember that we are all human. As our Fellows class discussion came to an end on Monday afternoon, she encouraged us to be bold, to go at the world with the same directness as a beam of light.

"That's the thing about being young," she said. "You should say all sorts of things — because you have to have something that you should be forgiven for when you're old."