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Posts Tagged ‘Meghan O’Rourke’

Poem: Pomme

June 14, 2011 | by

Today’s poem is a reimagining of Persephone’s mistaken choice to eat a pomegranate in Hades—every seed she ate condemned her to spend a month in the Underwold, leading her mother, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, to mourn. For this reason, according to Greek myth, we have winter. Here, appropriately, the old myth is submerged in a bemused interrogation of female independence, and the ways that desire—deep physical desire—can threaten that.
—Meghan O’Rourke

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Poem: Precautions

June 8, 2011 | by

Here’s a mysterious poem by Catherine Pierce about pregnancy and superstition. We were taken with the way it evokes the magical thinking that comes with vulnerability—and the places where scientific advice about prenatal health subtly shades into paranoia and misplaced faith. Pierce lets us into the speaker’s predicament but only so far, leaving the reader with a sense of heightened confusion and attentiveness to the instability of the world around us. Even the moon can seem twisted in this mindset.—Meghan O’Rourke

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Meghan O’Rourke on ‘The Long Goodbye’

April 25, 2011 | by

Photograph by Sarah Shatz.

In 2008, on Christmas Day, Meghan O’Rourke’s mother, Barbara, died after a two-and-a-half-year battle with advanced colorectal cancer. O’Rourke was lost in her grief, which she found overwhelming and unlike anything she had ever experienced. Her book, The Long Goodbye, is her attempt to understand her grief, documenting the years before and after her mother’s passing. In reading The Long Goodbye, I braced myself for the tears (which, yes, did come) but, by its end, discovered that O’Rourke had written a beautiful memoir about a daughter’s love for her mother. We spoke recently about her book; an edited version of our conversation appears below.

How did this book come about?

I started writing things down, for myself, before my mother died. It was a private recording of what was happening. Writing has always been the primary way I make sense of the world. My mother was going through this really intense experience: she had been sick, she had been diagnosed with advanced cancer two years before she died, and she went into a remission that was unusual. Then the cancer came back—it went to her brain, which again was not common for the cancer that she had. It was bizarre to see someone change so radically and so quickly; I had to write it down in order to not go crazy with the strangeness of it all.

After my mother died, I was supposed to be writing my column at Slate, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t read. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I had thought of grief as being sad, but instead it was like being suddenly aware of all the luminous, fragile elements of existence. It was also lonely in its way. My editor at Slate said, “Why don’t you write about what you are going through.” I didn’t think what happened to me was extraordinary. But it was what I was obsessed with, and so I started to shape what I was experiencing into a piece.

I was very unprepared for grief. It was isolating. There was no language for it, and no language around it—but I felt that I was in contact with all of these deeper realities; even the sky seemed strangely bluer. But there is a discomfort that surrounds grief. It makes even the most well-intentioned people unsure of what to say. And so many of the freshly bereaved end up feeling even more alone. I came across a quote of Iris Murdoch’s: “The bereaved have no language with which to speak with the unbereaved.” I thought, What if you could find a language that would describe the experience, with all its mysteries?

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New Poetry Editor

June 22, 2010 | by

We are delighted to announce that Robyn Creswell will join our masthead this fall as poetry editor.

A critic, translator, and scholar, Robyn has written about contemporary poetry and fiction for Harper's magazine, The Nation, Raritan, n+1, and other magazines. His translation of Abdelfattah Kilito's novel The Clash of Images will appear this fall from New Directions.

“I'm thrilled to join The Paris Review as poetry editor,” Robyn writes. “The Review is one of the most vital organs of American literary culture, and its poetry section has always been a place where emerging as well as established poets have their say. It's exciting to become part of a magazine that has published the whole spectrum of brilliance from John Ashbery to Amy Clampitt, from Charles Olson to Anne Carson. The Review also has an impressive history of publishing translations of the best poets from abroad, and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”

Meghan O'Rourke and Dan Chiasson—who have done wonders as co-editors of our poetry section—will remain with the Review as advisory editors. In their words: “After a five-year tenure as poetry editors, it seemed an opportune time to turn back to our own work while continuing an informal and broad-ranging relationship with the new Review. Becoming advisory editors allows us to do that. Of course, one of the things we hope to give some advice on, when it's wanted, is poetry.”

In the short term, stay tuned to The Paris Review Daily for an exchange between Meghan and Dan about Matthew Zapruder's astonishing long poem “Come On All You Ghosts.” In the long term, our editors hope to bring you not just the best poems, but also lively commentary on those poems, and to help them find the readership they deserve.

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