Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Irreplaceable Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah was not simply a writer whose sentences traveled with brilliance at warp speed -- as many have said eloquently since his death more than week ago -- but he was a kind man who cared deeply about young writers trying to make a go of it. I discovered his work about ten years ago and loved it, and eventually wrote him letters as I considered grad school and later when my novel came out. Unlike so many other lonely missives in the publishing world that go unanswered, he wrote me back with funny, concise and encouraging letters scribbled in pencil. I later had the honor of an essay of mine paired with one of his in The University of Mississippi’s 2006 issue of The Yalobusha Review, both of us paying tribute to the late Larry Brown. Later that summer I got to know Barry a little better when I studied under him in a workshop at the Sewanee Writers Conference at the University of the South, an idyllic place that he described as being “Confederate Liberal.” He was hilarious that way, in person and on the page, unlike anyone else I’ve known. Now that he has passed, the world of writing and creative writing teachers is not the same.

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