Back in America / Poetism Part 5: Can you speak for others? Lorenzo Bartolucci on Seamus Heaney and Hozier

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Episode notes

Across Northern Europe, so-called “bog people” have often been discovered shuffling around in the peat. While no one is quite certain where these quasi-mummified bodies come from––some date as recently as the 1940s––they have posed a strange mystery for countless poets and artists.

This week, Back in America’s Poetism team takes a look at one of Seamus Heaney’s bog-inspired poems “The Bog Queen” from his 1975 collection North. Written in the spring of the May 1968 movement and the beginning of the Irish “Troubles,” “The Bog Queen” ventriloquizes the voice of its eponymous queen, pretending to experience underground life before her eventual discovery.

In 2014, Irish musician Hozier released a setting of the poem, “Like Real People Do, ”removing many explicit references to Heaney himself, while keeping the ethos of the poem. For Hozier, the relationship of the fallen queen to her discoverer is one of love, even if from afar. Is it possible to love those who we will never meet? Can such a love be anything more than one-sided or wonderfully ironic?

To explore these questions, Stanford graduate student Lorenzo Bartolucci joins Josh in the studio to offer his take on love, Heaney, bog bodies, and American-ness itself.

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If you’re enjoying this summer series, stay tuned for next week’s installment, featuring Susquehanna Philosophy Professor Michael Leon Thomas and the works of Alfred North Whitehead and Pharoah Sanders.