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Book News: Seamus Heaney Poem Published Posthumously

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The Guardian has published "In a Field," the last known poem by the Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney before his death in August. Inspired by Edward Thomas' 1916 poem, "As the Team's Head-Brass," it was written for a WWI poetry anthology edited by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who said, "Seamus's poem is typically beautiful, placed and weighted at the centre of the poetic landscape which he made so familiar to us all, and above all, heartbreakingly prescient." It describes a man coming home from war:
  • "From nowhere, unfamiliar and de-mobbed,

    "In buttoned khaki and buffed army boots,

    "Bruising the turned-up acres of our back field

    "To stumble from the windings' magic ring."

  • In an op-ed for The New York Times, writer and cartoonist Tim Kreider explores the problem of writers being asked to write for free: "Not getting paid for things in your 20s is glumly expected, even sort of cool; not getting paid in your 40s, when your back is starting to hurt and you are still sleeping on a futon, considerably less so. Let's call the first 20 years of my career a gift. Now I am 46, and would like a bed."
  • R.L. Stein, the horror writer of Goosebumps fame, is reviving his '90s teen series Fear Street, set in the town of Shadyside. The series will kick off with Party Games in fall 2014.
  • Rubyfruit Jungle author Rita Mae Brown considers the Roman historian Suetonius in an essay for NPR: "Suetonius' underlying theme — left unstated, out of credit for his readers' intelligence — is the devastating erosion of total power to the human psyche. Few rulers have overcome the washing away of reality, and in his work Suetonius makes this hideously clear."
  • The Best Books Coming Out This Week

  • Gorgeous Nothings is a lovely facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson's 52 envelope poems — writings scrawled on scraps of paper or the backs of envelopes. Though you can see envelope poems online in the newly-launched online Dickinson archive, the book is a beautiful object in itself.
  • Another physically beautiful book is The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects. Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Richard Kurin has chosen 101 objects — from Louis Armstrong's trumpet to Abraham Lincoln's hat — to tell a compelling history of the United States.
  • Daniel Alarcon's second novel, At Night We Walk In Circles, set in an unnamed South American country, follows Nelson, who is starring in a production of a dystopian play called "The Idiot President." Alarcon spoke to NPR's Arun Rath about the writing process: "There was nothing about the writing of this book that was fast-paced, or dynamic. This was a terrible, terrible seven years of creative stasis and dysfunction."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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