Poems are adept at expressing interior conflict, at enacting complex thought, at feeling strongly through not-knowing—but somehow, when we enter the territory of politics, we expect our poems to shill for votes, to argue strongly for particular beliefs. Emily Dickinson does not know if there is a god or a void, an afterlife, a stasis, or a zero at the bone. But reading her theologically inflected poems allows us to wrestle with these unanswerable questions with her—and to come out not with answers, but with a deeper sense of the questions.
It’s rare that Warren G. Harding gets much attention these days, which is why it’s all the more interesting that Sadie Stein’s father, when she was growing up, grew fascinated with the single-term president. At the Paris Review Daily, she recounts her family’s visit to Harding’s home.
Though the questions are very different, I experienced something similar growing up in West Texas as a Bangladeshi American. There was an empathy about having people try to categorize you when you cannot be so easily categorized. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what it means when there is no vocabulary, or language, or even space given for you, as a being, outside of certain prescribed categories. In a lot of ways, these women seemed to me to be outside the usual categories. Their stories cannot be seen as either personal or political. They have to be seen as both simultaneously.
Celebrate literary journal Asymptote’s third anniversary in New York City later this month. The event will feature Eliot Weinberger, Jeffrey Yang (translator of Liu Xiaobo), Paris Review poetry editor Robyn Creswell, Idra Novey (translator of Clarice Lispector), and Daniella Gitlin (translator of Rodolfo Walsh). They will come together for a panel discussion on translation and readings. The event starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21 at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
You may have heard that Alice Munro couldn’t make it to Sweden to accept this year’s Nobel prize. Instead, she made a video, which you can watch in full on the Nobel Prize committee’s website. (You could also read Ben Dolnick’s beginner’s guide to her work, or else read my essay on the meaning of her win.) (h/t The Paris Review)