“I think it’s important that poets exist in societies because they exist in the realm of affect. Feeling is important to them. How people feel, what they feel, what breaks them, how trauma resonates through their lives… that’s a legitimate space in poetry. It’s a legitimate space for investigation.” Aaron Coleman interviews Citizen author Claudia Rankine about intimacy, her writing process, and her experience in an MFA program.
American Short Fiction’s managing editor Jess Stoner is reading local newspapers from one state a week and reporting on the big headlines in a better attempt to understand America. As she puts it, “Not to snark, not to make fun of people from unincorporated towns who write letters to the editor, but to share with you a more complicated, less yell-y look at where we are, with the hopes of better understanding where we might be headed.” The first state is Alabama.
So does literature really have the power to bring liberals and conservatives together? Probably not. Either way, this is still a fascinating study: “The ‘most startling result was this: it was conservative — not liberal — readers who are most active in producing this space of cultural compromise.’ Basically, within this sample size, conservative readers tended to exude more generous praise for ‘bridge books’ and did so with a vernacular considered to be ‘less heated or emotional.’ Grammatically, they also expressed ‘more complex thoughts.'”
In memory of Peter Matthiessen, The Missouri Review has unlocked an interview with him from 1989. Matthiessen detailed the beginning of his writing career. “I started my first novel and sent off about four chapters and waited by the post office for praise to roll in, calls from Hollywood, everything. Finally my agent sent me a letter that said ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this a hundred and fifty years ago, only he wrote it better. Yours, Bernice.’ I probably needed that; it was very healthy.” For more Matthiessen, you can read one of his best travel essays or his new novel, In Paradise.