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Prowling Poets

I picked up an old copy of The Writer's Chronicle, which included this great anecdote from James Harris, owner of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, home of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and, for a few short days in 1995, one rather enterprising chap.

"Not long after winning a Nobel Prize in 1995, Seamus Heaney came to Iowa City for a reading. To say that the entire city eagerly anticipated the visit is putting it mildly. Two auditoriums were booked to handle the capacity crowd, even though it was mid-May and many University of Iowa students had departed for the summer. As is my habit, I went home for lunch and, upon my return, was told that Heaney was upstairs in our café talking to an attractive woman. I went upstairs but didn't see anyone who looked even remotely like him. I knew what he looked like from magazine and newspaper photographs, and I had listened to him read 10 years earlier in Iowa City. But the only people in our café were a middle-aged man and an attractive thirtysomething female. The man had introduced himself as Seamus Heaney to the woman, and asked he if he could join her for a coffee since he was new in town. What happened next, I'm not sure, but this fellow did not appear in the auditorium that night nor have I seen him in Iowa City since then."

Say what you will about the state of Iowa and its supposed lack of sophistication, but Iowa City has to be the only place in the U.S. where literature is so highly revered that a would-be Lothario would have even a remote chance at success using this ploy.

July 24, 2005 in Books | Permalink