Suspend Your Disbelief

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Remembering 9/11

In one of my undergraduate creative writing classes, a student turned in a poem that referred to tall buildings collapsing to the ground. His classmates interpreted this as reference to the events of September 11. Later that week, the student came to my office and confessed that he’d actually written the poem in 2000, well before the attacks on the World Trade Center, and he didn’t want to write a “9/11 poem,” because–he said–he didn’t feel personally affected by the events of that day. What he wanted to know was this: Did he have to make the poem about 9/11, now that 9/11 had happened?

I told him that as the writer, he didn’t “have” to do anything: he could write about whatever he wanted, however he wanted to. But, I cautioned, he needed to be aware of how his audience might read the poem, and the possibility that they might interpret it differently than he’d intended. Because the fact was, 9/11 had happened, and for many people it had tinted everything, so at least in that sense, it had affected him too. I didn’t say so, but I wondered if he–or anyone–could ever write a poem about a tall building collapsing again without referencing 9/11, intentionally or not.

This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Granta attempts to answer that question. Its next issue, “Ten Years Later,” attempts to “conjure the complexity and sorrow of life since 11 September 2001.”

As part of the issue’s launch, Granta is also holding readings and discussions across the United States starting September 6, asking questions like: Where are we as a country now? How have these events shaped our writing in the past ten years, and how will they continue to shape our writing–and our lives–in the future?

The full schedule is available on Granta‘s website, but I wanted to make a special shout-out for the Ann Arbor event at Nicola’s Books, a panel with authors and former Granta contributors V.V. Ganeshananthan, Linda Gregerson, and Megan Levad, and moderated by FWR’s own Jeremiah Chamberlin. Check the event schedule to see if there’s one near you.

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