In November 2010 I received a Priority Mail package from a Claire Dederer. I remembered the name. She’d attended a couple of my postnatal yoga classes in the mid ‘00s and I’d recognized it then too. She wrote for The Seattle Weekly and delivered a wry sense of humor in her film and book critiques. When I first relocated here in 1993, the Weekly and The Stranger were my main resources in attempts to understand this foreign outpost 2000+ miles from my last two homes.
Now Claire Dederer had written a book, and an advance copy was in my hands. I was pretty thrilled, and honored to be privy to her brand new creation. I cracked it that night and quickly devoured “Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses” with its stories of the intersection of mommyhood and yoga with spot-on descriptions of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, especially the Phinney neighborhood that had been my first home and now held the newest 8 Limbs on its view-heavy ridge.
Claire, in this yoga-laced memoir, was describing an alternate version of my life, from childhood to parenthood. We were chubby as kids. We hid in books. Our mothers left our fathers. We struggled with being perfect mommies to our first children. And yoga was a guide as we grew into adults. I chuckled my way through the pages, enamored with her self-deprecating style and perfectly crafted sentences. She’d taken a look in the mirror and was sharing what she saw with an authentic and humorous voice. Each chapter artfully centered on a yoga pose and followed a less-than-dramatic arc in the first ten years of her parenthood. Not only did Claire tell a great story, she nailed the yoga references, sharing wonderful information with her readers.
Claire was touching my heart, but she was also tugging open a creative doorway that I’d been watching for a while. I saw that this, this is how one can write about everyday experience and make it worth reading. This is what it looks like to write a memoir as an ordinary woman with ordinary struggles and ordinary triumphs. And this is how you write about yoga in your life without being, well, cheesy. Well done.
Since then I have continued to work on my own uncheesy yoga-laced memoir. It’s a long haul, but I am having a great time wandering through the storerooms of memory with a fresh awareness that yoga practice has given me. I have returned to creative writing with the lens of awareness that I find so essential to meaningful literature, and am writing from the inside out, rather than the outside in.
Check out Poser, now out in paperback at your neighborhood 8 Limbs, and join Claire and I for a Yoga & Writing Workshop on Thursday, March 15 to explore how yoga practice and writing can serve one another in the path of self-awareness, svadhyaya. Early registration rate through March 1. Sign up online or call 206.325.8221.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer