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America

Radio 3's weekly exploration of language and literature. Ian McMillan's guests are Tracy K Smith, Terrance Hayes and Sarah Churchwell.

The Verb does a deep dive into the word 'America' - why does it have such a hold on the imagination? Ian's guests are Tracy K Smith, the US Poet Laureate, nominated for the TS Eliot prize for her collection 'Wade in the Water', and Terrance Hayes, author of 'American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin', which was also shortlisted for the TS Eliot. Joining them is the critic Sarah Churchwell, author of Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream.

Presenter: Ian McMillan
Producer: Faith Lawrence

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44 minutes

Last on

Fri 24 May 2019 22:00

Tracy K Smith

Tracy K Smith

Tracy K Smith is the 22nd US Poet Laureate. She reads from her new collection ‘Wade in the Water’ (Penguin) and from the anthology of American writing that she edited recently: ‘American Journal: 50 poems for our time’ (Graywolf). Tracy explores the idea of American kindness, and the symbolic resonances of the word ‘America’.

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes’ collection ‘American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin’ (Penguin) was nominated for the 2018 T.S. Eliot Prize and was written across the first 200 days of the Trump presidency - it has been described as being ‘haunted by the past and future eras and errors’ of the US, its ‘dreams and nightmares’. Terrance discusses the idea that the word ‘America’ offered him a kind of tuning fork for his inventive and formally virtuosic poems.

Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell
Sarah traces the origin of the phrase ‘the American Dream’ by way of the idea of the ‘American creed’ and the slogan ‘America first’. She explains why F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ offers us an insight into the ways in which the idea of America always seems to be ‘unfurling behind us’. Sarah is a professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London, and her latest book is ‘Behold America: A History of America First and the American Dream’ (Bloomsbury).

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