“Let’s create writing residencies in large cities that sponsor and house poets and writers” With Isaac Myers III

Heart. Faith. Joy. I’m growing more resistant to the idea that in order to be a successful entrepreneur I have to crawl and fight and struggle in order to survive. As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing […]

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Heart. Faith. Joy. I’m growing more resistant to the idea that in order to be a successful entrepreneur I have to crawl and fight and struggle in order to survive.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Isaac Myers.

Isaac Myers III holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School, where he studied poetry and graduated in 2013. His poetry has appeared in Barrow Street as well as the Best American Poetry blog. He graduated from Drake University Law School in 2011 and since then has worked as an attorney in the fields of civil rights, real estate litigation and bankruptcy.

In 2017 he founded Curlew Quarterly, a print literary and photo journal of New York City neighborhoods, which publishes fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction and includes nearly all forms of reporting and journalism, along with portraits and interviews of poets and writers in their homes and writing spaces.

Ultimately, the journal aims to help poets and writers carve out residences within the city, and to help keep the fabric of the literary history and tradition of New York City’s ever-changing neighborhoods intact.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ofcourse! I was an English major at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, and around my junior year I decided that I wanted to attend law school after graduation. I took a creative writing course during my penultimate semester of college, and as a result became interested in the powers and magic of poetry.

In law school at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, I leaned toward classes and areas of practice that focused on public interest aims, including work with Iowa Legal Aid and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Following my first year of law school, I found time to continue to work on my creative writing, and also decided that I wanted to study poetry at the graduate level after law school. During my third year of law school I began applying to MFA programs in New York, as I had decided to move there following graduation.

I began studying for the New York State Bar Exam and during the spring semester of my third year of law school, and a few months before then, I found out that I had been admitted to the New School’s MFA program, with a concentration in poetry.

I began classes at the New School the autumn after I graduated from law school, and thankfully, also found out that I had passed the New York State Bar Exam that same fall. It was 2011. I was twenty-five and in the midst of one of the most interesting and stimulating seasons of my life. This was the same autumn that Occupy Wall Streat launched. It was an amazing time to live in New York.

I found work at a civil rights law firm and continued taking classes at the New School in the evenings through the spring of 2013. In 2014 I left the law firm and decided to begin a career in real estate. Thankfully, once you’re admitted to the New York Bar you can obtain your real estate broker’s license as part of your law license.

It took me a little over a year to close my first sale, and I had a lot to learn about the business and strategies involved with real estate brokering, but steadily, I found my footing.

I continued finding part-time work as an attorney to keep things afloat; however, by 2016, I felt as though I were spending too much time spinning my wheels in the real estate world — — showing and showing and showing properties without closing deals — — so much so that I nearly decided to hang up my real estate brokering license, and simply focus on poetry and the law.

Then the magic happened. I went down to Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry shop on a chilly October evening (I remember it was a Friday) in 2016, and heard Jason Koo, the founder of Brooklyn Poets, read. This was the first time that I heard Koo’s poem, “Morning, Motherfucker,” which celebrates the liteary history and tradition of Brooklyn Heights, while also lamenting the fact that it has become increasingly less and less possible for poets to actually live there.

The next afternoon the idea formed in my mind: what if there were a real estate company — — a traditional real estate brokerage — — that funded and published a literary journal? And what if that literary and photo journal, together with the real estate brokerage, worked on purchasing living spaces within New York, wherein poets and writers who show particular merit could reside without paying rent (i.e., writing residencies) for two years while they’re finishing their manuscripts, what would this do for the city? And what would this do for the poets and writers who live here?

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There’s not one story that jumps out in my mind. The truth is that the most interesting thing that’s happened in my career is the manner in which each step has unfolded, little by little, bit-by-bit in front of me.

Had you asked me three years ago whether I’d want to publish a literary journal and head a real estate company at the same time, I would not have known or imagined how that would be possible. However, from each month since then, steadily, bit-by-bit, month by month, the how has become easier and easier to see. So it feels like an on-going and continuous development of the most interesting story of my career.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

The Golden Rule has never steered me wrong. I’ve always tried to treat people the way that I would want to be treated. Also, the truth, although difficult to embrace and declare at times, has always set me free.

Ok. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

I mentioned the idea above and am happy to clarify it here: A real estate company can utilize its monies to create writing residencies in cities where the costs of housing almost prohibits, or else — — makes nearly impossible — — poets and writers from focusing solely on their creative writing while still managing to live within the city.

It’s a marriage between the drives that work for and believe in the power and importance of capital and profit with the heart and understanding which know that money and power and wealth will only carry an individual, a family, and even, a city, so far without art, without writing, and without the humanities.

How do you think this will change the world?

The idea creates an opportunity for people to think more deeply about how we use and understand living spaces within a city. It allows people to slow down and enjoy reading, writing, and the processes that are involved with doing both well, while still living in a city that needs economic support and the flow of wealth in order to continue to grow.

New York City is the perfect places to test out this thesis, and to implement this idea; and I’m incredibly proud to head a real estate company and a literary journal that’s taking these steps — — not to mention, grateful for our contributors and photographers (Adrian Moens, Emily Fishman, Alexandra Bildsoe), who have already offered their talent and time for bringing seven issues of the journal to life:

Issue №1 — Summer 2017:

Sean Damlos-Mitchell — Robert Englebright –

Ben Janse — Andrew Jimenez — Jason Koo — Alison Rodriguez.

Issue №2 — Autumn 2017:

Megan Cossey, Chris Gisonny — Jamie O’Hara Laurens — Friko Stark — Mervyn Taylor.

Issue №3 — Winter 2018–19:

Tess Congo — Tom Davidson — Ashley Glass — Adrian Moens — Diana Poon.

Issue №4 — Summer 2018:

Liz Adams — Abigail Conklin — An Duplan — Dale Kaplan — Andy Watson.

Issue №5 — Autumn 2018:

Alexandra Bildsoe — Jeff Haber — Don Hogle — Koby Keys — Melissa Knox — Liora Mondlak.

Issue №6 — Winter 2018–19:

Reginald Eldridge Jr. — Julia Knobloch — Angela Sundstrom

Issue №7 — Autumn 2019:

Jodie Briggs — Beatriz Kaye Jones — Karl Schmieder — Allison Theresa — Catherine Wald.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Any good idea with positive intentions may be corrupted. I can envision a city and a world in which the writing residences which are funded by Curlew New York could be hijacked and compromised, which would result in poets and writers being chosen for the living spaces under unfair circumstances — — wherein the actual merit of their work was taken less into consideration than some other random and far less important, and perhaps, nefarious, factor were given greater consideration.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Hearing Jason Koo’s poem, “Morning, Motherfucker.” in October 2016. Here was a poem that said everything that I felt about what living in New York might look like and feel like when I was dreaming of the city while living in Des Moines, Iowa. And yet, the poem, almost right away, then contrasted that dream against the financial realities of what’s actually taking place concerning the residential real estate market in New York, New York.

If ever there were a person who needed to hear and feel Koo’s poem, I was that person, and it could not have have happened at a better time, as I was just then thinking of getting out of working in real estate. Thank you again, Jason. Your words will span across the city and throughout generations.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Heart. Faith. Joy. I’m growing more resistant to the idea that in order to be a successful entrepreneur I have to crawl and fight and struggle in order to survive.

In order to move Curlew New York and Curlew Quarterly from here — — — — — — to THERE — — — I simply have to keep enjoying reading and writing and the process of meeting and working with people who are intersted in buying, selling, and renting residential real estate in New York, New York.

No longer am I trying to knock over or kick down or punch through a brick wall. The wall is at once the obstacle from here to there, as well as the destination, so when I meet it, I’m writing beautiful words and descriptions upon it, all the whilst dancing beside it, upon it, and then over it en route to these writing residencies.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. No one will notice for a while. But if you keep going, people will start to notice. In other words, and I heard this from a core energetic practitioner who I’ve been working with, Lubna Khalid, “First people will ask you why you are you doing it, then they will ask you how you did it?” This advise would have been helpful in 2016 when I was first imagining the pages for the first issue of Curlew Quarterly; as it makes for great encouragement to keep going.
  2. You’re going to have to make difficult decisions. Feel into the process, and trust your gut and do not rush to make any decision, large or small. Although it can be deeply inspiring and interesting and exciting to live and work in New York; it can also be quite draining. Part of that relates with all of the decisions that have to be made each day, large and small. If someone would have told me earlier on that I absolutely have to trust my gut when I’m making any decision, and that I can take my time as I do so, then it would have helped me earlier on, when I was first learning the ins and the outs of working with prospective purchasers, as well as homeowners.
  3. Meditate. This one, thankfully, I learned about two years ago. In January of 2017; I really dove into meditation, carving out at least an hour every evening, a practice which I still stay true to today.
    The practice of meditation has done so much for my life and business. It allows me to see opportunities and chances and solutions that I would not have been able to see without sitting still, and settling my heart and mind, and allowing the universe to step in, work its magic, and support me.
  4. You’re going to have to learn to speak up, and use your voice. It won’t always be easy, but the more often you do it, the easier it will be. This applies to all areas of my life, and not just business. It’s something that I remember my dad telling me very early on, which I wasn’t quite ready to hear.
    Not everyone has always agreed with my take on things, and part of my growth as an entrepreneur, and as a human being, has related with being able to speak up, speak my truth, have difficult conversations, and then move toward a resolution from there.
  5. You have to take care of yourself, your mind and body, and spirit. I think intuitively, I’ve known this for a while; however, more recently I’ve been discovering just how important this is. I like to think that over the last four years, I’ve built Curlew New York and Curlew Quarterly, together, into a business that’s sustainable over the long term. With that said, the same has to be true for me, i.e., I have to be set up for the long term, so I’ve been asking myself that more often: am I taking care of myself? Am I eating right and running and cycling as often as I’d like to be? What are my friendships like, and how are my relationship with my family and loved ones? It would have been helpful to hear something like this earlier on in my journey; not just the idea of taking care of myself, but the idea of just how absolutely important and pivotal it is to take care of myself.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Move slowly. If you’re rushing that means you’re trying to keep up and trying to catch up; however, the truth is simple: you’re already on time.

Always imagine and believe that you’re right on time and that you’re already on time, and if you act from that place, your actions and words will be that much more graceful, powerful, joyous, and beautiful.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Imagine a city where the capital resulting from the real estate market and the passion that flows from heartfelt and thought-provoking creative writing are married — — happily married — — to each other. What might these two forces create together?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We are on Instagram! @CurlewQuarterly_ as well as @CurlewNewYork_ .

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Not a problem at all. The pleasure is ours. Thank you for taking the time.

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