Welcome to The Word Cave!

This is where you’ll find my series of essays on visual art and writing, Museum Pages, as well as occasional What I’m Reading dispatches, behind the scenes stuff from my forthcoming essay collection First Love, and First Love Interviews—a series of conversations with authors about friendship and writing.

The title of this newsletter comes from a the opening line of Paul Celan poem: “Line the word-caves/ with panther skins”

My father made a series of woodcuts inspired by this line, and one of them hangs in my home office, which, on the best days—the days when I shut myself away and feel completely enveloped by writing—I think of as my word cave.

The idea of a word cave reminds me of the feeling of retreating into the work, going deep within your own mind to dig out the words you want to say. And the imagery of lining the word cave reminds me of the tending and preparation necessary for such deep work. Going to a museum feels like lining the word cave, reading a good book feels like lining the word cave. All of the things that mentally and emotionally nourish so that we have a well to draw from when we sit down to write.

So the name of this newsletter is an attempt to hold onto that feeling—to remind myself to let this project be fun and generative, to spring from the word cave. To answer the question, What if rather than pre-rejecting ideas that excite me because I don’t know where to publish them… I just stayed in my word cave and wrote what I wanted to write, and put it somewhere where people could read it?

This is also the best place to get updates about my essay collection, First Love, which is forthcoming from The Dial Press in May, 2024.

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Short essays and missives about writing, reading, and art from Lilly Dancyger, author of First Love and Negative Space. Plus occasional writing course listings.


Author of First Love (The Dial Press, 2024) and Negative Space (SFWP, 2021)