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Between the Covers Podcast

JoAnna Novak : Contradiction Days

Five months pregnant, fearful of the future, and creatively blocked, JoAnna Novak becomes obsessed with the life, writings, and paintings of Agnes Martin. She fashions a three-week intensive writing regimen in northern New Mexico, where Martin lived and painted (and where Novak writes this book we discuss today). The structure of this retreat is inspired by Martin’s 6×6 gridded abstract paintings that so appealingly keep out the clutter of life, and by Martin’s life philosophy—her notions of “positive freedom” and her pursuit of inner perfection. Because of this, today’s conversation becomes a dual exploration of both Novak’s own artistic journey and that of Martin’s. In addition, we look at the various ways Novak uses constraints and experimental techniques as part of her writing practice, about the different ways she has portrayed pregnancy in her poetry versus her prose, about writing into the unspoken stigma of prenatal depression, and much more.

For the bonus audio archive JoAnna contributes a reading of the children’s picture book Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, written some sixty years ago by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and loved by JoAnna’s now four-year-old son. The bonus audio archive is only one potential benefit of joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter. You can find out about all the potential rewards and benefits of doing so at the show’s Patreon page.

And here is the link to today’s Bookshop.