America: where it’s better not to be a poet

On Friday we caught up with our long elusive Irish friend Niall, newly returned from Ireland after a summer of dissipation and waiting for his US visa situation to straighten out. He said that he was getting grumpy about the scene in the embassy, until he turned around and looked behind him and realized he was sitting near Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate. He mentioned that it was apparently better not to be a poet when getting a travel visa. Heaney was trying to get a visa to go over for a six-week-long guest professorship at Harvard, and the official kept probing, “What are you going to do when your professorship is up? Do you have a job to come back to in Ireland?”

Ah, the hard life of a poet in America. Didn’t we use to go out of our way to make sure that vital creative people from other nations could visit our country easily? I guess the ideology of the free exchange of ideas is as dead as the Cold War.