MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Rare is the college student these days who sets his or her sights on a career in poetry. Lan Samantha Chang, director of the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, has published a novel focused on two such aspiring poets and the very different paths they follow. The book is called "All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost."
Alan Cheuse has our review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Roman and Bernard, two poetry students lived near the poverty line as they began their writing careers at the small Michigan art school under the tutelage of Miranda, a much applauded and enigmatic poet in residence. Bernard has his Christian faith and a vision of a long narrative poem to sustain him, while handsome but insecure Roman follows his talent into the bed of their illustrious teacher.
This secret love affair leads Miranda to award the young poet his first big prize and leads Roman to teaching jobs and eventually the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He marries and raises a family with one of his fellow poetry students from that old school.
But even as he finds success, real love proves elusive to him. His friendship with Bernard founders, and when in the middle of a long marriage he reveals the secret of the love affair with the poetry teacher to his wife, the marriage splits asunder and Roman's world loses all luster.
This relatively short novel begins small, but blossoms into a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist, in this case poet, against all odds, psychological and social. In its own way, it is rather unforgettable.
Chang doesn't give us much of Roman and Bernard's actual work, just snippets and praises. The real poetry comes in her prose.
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BLOCK: The novel is "All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost" by Lan Samantha Chang. Our review, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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