“Listen, then.” Our House Was on Fire, the second collection of poems by Laura Van Prooyen, begins with a calm but firm declaration. I can appreciate the sentiment. Our days are outlined in prose, so the experience of poetry requires a revision of pacing and an increase in patience. Van Prooyen is able to maintain this duality of softness and confidence in an impressive manner. Her poems occupy sharp, absolute moments.
If you’re familiar with the lyrics of Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 reggae classic “The Harder They Come,” then you won’t be surprised to learn that T.C. Boyle’s new novel of the same name includes protagonists who, like the tune’s singer, would “rather be a free man in my grave / than living as a puppet or a slave.” And if you’ve ever seen the film The Harder They Come, in which the song appears, then you’ll know where Boyle got the idea for a character who was close to his now-deceased grandmother and who decides to deal drugs as a way of making money and cultivating his outlaw status.
The winner of our 2014 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans published the following op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on what it meant to win the contest. She, runner-up Brian Van Reet, and judge Anthony Swofford will read at Prairie Lights Bookstore this Saturday, April 18, at 7 p.m.
What Do We Owe Our Veterans?
My roommate ran into a friend of hers from their Duxbury, Mass., high school at a bar in Vail, Colo. He remembered that after high school, she had gone to the Naval Academy, and then on to serve in the Navy. She more or less remembered his name. As it turns out, he started a few startup companies, two or three of which flopped. His last one made him a multimillionaire.
PT: I am now an ex-pat American living in England and have been for almost twenty years, but hearing The Smiths still takes me back to an early, all-consuming, adolescent Anglophilia of the early '80s. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a long psychic distance from The Smiths. My friends and I, hungry for new wave, post-punk, anything English, devoured everything that came through the one cool radio station. I remember discovering this amazing band, the Jam, who had this great new single called “Beat Surrender”; minutes later I realized that we’d missed the entire boat. We were constitutively behind the times.
The Human Rights Index is prepared three times a year by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. The Iowa Review is proud to feature the Index on our website, to suggest the global political and socioeconomic context within which we read and write.
Human Rights Index #42
Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*