For The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt examines how the work of poet Seamus Heaney became synonymous with happiness and joy—and how it came to be quoted by presidents and casual readers alike. “It is this later, happier Heaney who comes into his own in his family’s idiosyncratic selection. Almost buoyant, occasionally repetitive, surprised by himself at least as often as he surprised readers, this Heaney remained self-conscious, revisiting and answering earlier verse. ‘The Conway Stewart’ is a fancy pen, the first the poet owned, and the sharp-lined, short-lined poem of that name returns to a three-way comparison in ‘Digging’ (the first poem in his first book), between spade and pen and gun.”
Is writing an inherently performative medium? Scott McClanahan thinks so. “I think my favorite writers are hams,” he said in an interview for The Rumpus. He also discussed staying at hotels with pimps during his book tour, indie presses, his book Crapalachia (which our own Nick Moran recommends), and his aversion to tote bags.
“If we are now relentlessly connected, every marginal identity gaining collective recognition, becoming assimilated, ever more rapidly? If that is where we stand, then something like a stubbornly solitary voice may be welcome, even necessary, telling us that what it means to be human—and what may keep us human—is to feel alone in a strange room, with our seclusion the thing that defines and can save us.” On bearing witness to the spectacle of aloneness and the fiction of empathy.