Thanks to NASA, three poets will have a chance to boldly go where no poets have gone before: Mars. Indeed, an online contest is currently open in which users can submit haiku to accompany the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, which is scheduled for launch in late 2013. The MAVEN project will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. More details about sending poetry into outer space can be found here.
Jeff Sharlet traveled to Russia because he “wanted to see what ordinary LGBT life was like in a nation whose leaders have decided that ‘homosexualism’ is a threat to its ‘sexual sovereignty.’” What he found was unsettling and terrifying, but the courage of the LGBT community members he interviewed is also incredibly inspiring. Set aside time to read this one. It's essential.
The Naipaul Question, as Morgan Meis calls it, is simple: is V.S. Naipaul too offensive to be taken seriously? His recent biography includes scenes of abuse and moments of straightforward racism. But Meis thinks the issue is more complicated than whether Naipaul is a monster -- the author is, in his phrasing, too “protean” to be pinned down.
"Now I wrote until near dawn, wanting a map of the literary nation, a beautiful evocation of how we are truly a nation of village and city and prairie and brownstone, of Rockies and bayous and mesas. Novels give to every reader someone else’s home. Can we not see this – we of wonder and grievance?" Susan Straight creates a map of America in 737 novels, prompting us to remember the perennial literary question: What is the greatest American novel?
“These people may not take you seriously. And your boss might not either. Or your dentist or your best friend from middle school. But you who does take you seriously? Dictators. Dictators take you very seriously. Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Augusto Pinochet, all rounded up writers and artists in short order. They could not afford to have the unpredictability of literature at large while they were trying to create a totalitarian state.” Wendy Willis on subversion through writing for The Rumpus.
For the most part, your average writer's retreat is a pretty cushy place. Its amenities are designed to let its guests turn their energies to the difficulties of artistic work. At The Paris Review Daily, Rex Weiner writes a dispatch from a different sort of retreat -- a haunted house for writers in Mexico. To read about a more traditional experience, check out our own Michael Bourne on his time at Bread Loaf.