We Who Seek: Jynne Dilling Martin

Jynne Dilling Martin is simultaneously a poet, publisher at Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin Books), and an avid mountain climber. The impressive combination though is only part of what makes Jynne the extraordinary and inspirational woman we’re profiling in this edition of Women Who Seek. Her perspective on life is impactful and inspiring, whether she’s discussing travel, the drive to overcome physical and mental challenges through mountaineering, or what it takes to support a female collective.

1. What’s your most valued travel advice you’ve been given or have to give?

Always say yes to the impromptu. Don't be wedded to the things you "must see" - instead stay attuned to the people you meet as you travel. Ask questions and accept all invitations. The strangest and most special experiences on trips - motorcycling to a tiny Thai temple for a full moon ritual, meeting the Dalai Lama at a remote Himalayan mosque, shooting a laser into outer space - have come because I ditched my existing plans or itinerary, and agreed to go along for a ride.


2. What article of clothing or outfit do you wear most often?

My glitter MM6 Maison Margiela sneakers. I confess I'm on my third pair at this point. I love walking all around NYC, even occasionally walking home to Brooklyn, but a peripatetic lifestyle requires extremely comfortable footwear that is at least vaguely office-acceptable.  

3. What do you do or where do you go when you need to be inspired?

I climb mountains. I love setting off for a long day in which there is not a single decision to make, no way to be reached, and the only work is to put one foot in front of the other. I especially love hiking in the Catskills in winter, where even the same trail will be transformed, week after week, with fluctuating snow and ice conditions, and I never know what the hike will be like. Next lifetime I'd love to be one of those Japanese monks who just trail runs in the Kyoto mountains all day.

4. You climbed Mt Rainer and Mt Baker in 2018, which is a major undertaking both in preparing for and in doing. What motivated you and what did you learn most from the experience?

There are two kinds of people in the world - those that respond to mountaineering disaster porn like Into Thin Air or Meru or Touching the Void with horror, and those who say "I want to do that." I can't explain what's wrong with me that I'm in the latter category, but everything in me comes alive on big snowy peaks. I spent a year training for my Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier expedition, and still was terrified I wouldn't be strong enough - the physical requirements are grueling, including carrying a 65 lb pack up the mountains. That's half my body weight! I was the only woman on the trip, but the guides from Alpine Ascents took exceptional care of me. It's a powerful experience to enter a predominantly male space and to feel as strong and skilled as the men. They even appointed me the rope team leader for our Mt. Baker summer day, an enormous honor. Our guide Paul Koubek told me that far too many men show up overconfident and undertrained (we had one of those on our trip, who had to drop out), but that the opposite issue prevents many women from attempting mountaineering. Women get held back by fears about being not good enough, underprepared, or a burden on others (heaven forbid! This is my own personal nightmare). I'm struck by how this pattern extends far beyond just the world of mountaineering. I hope to continue to overcome that way of thinking about myself, and to support other women in recognizing their own strength.

5. Journey note: what are you seeking more of this year (2019)?

After several physically grueling vacations in a row, I'm thrilled to be returning to Japan this spring. It's the most restful and nourishing place I've ever visited. It will be my first time there during cherry blossom season, and my first visit to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island, a place I've wanted to see for years.

6. How can women seek a sense of support and collective-ness for each other in the future?

For many women, our gift and our shadow is how sensitized we are of the entire supply chain of life, all the small unseen and thankless contributions that make the world turn. This can be a shadow if women take on the mentality of not wanting to further burden this ecosystem, or get caught up in unworthiness about being a part of it. But the potentiality lies in how we can value the invisible labor of the women all around us, bear witness to each others' vitality, and actively honor one another, as you do so beautifully here on this blog. In fact, I have enormous admiration for the Seek Collective model of examining the entire fashion ecosystem and attempting to bring ethical, fair values to each and every step of a garment's process - not just the manufacturing, not just pay wages, but even down to the very dyes and processes being used and how they impact our planet. I try to model this kind of holistic attention and support with our list of women writers at Riverhead Books, with my tremendously talented female staff, and in my role on the board of N+1, a magazine with a brilliant woman at the helm.

Jynne's Seek Collective items:
Deva Top, silver diamond silk jacquard
Rachel Quilted Coat, black tile silk jacquard
Cy Shirt Dress, vin tile silk jacquard

Get Jynne's book of poetry here:
We Mammals in Hospitable Times by Jynne Dilling Martin

One of Jynne's favorite book stores in the NYC area:
Books Are Magic, Brooklyn NY

Find Jynne on Twitter:

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