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G&A: The Contest Blog

Poetry and art world icon John Ashbery will be honored in November with the National Book Foundation's twenty-first Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The eighty-four-year-old author of Notes From the Air (Ecco, 2007), Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975), Some Trees (Yale University Press, 1956), and dozens of other volumes of poetry and prose will receive the award along with the winners of this year's National Book Awards at the foundation's annual dinner on November 16.

Also recognized will be Mitchell Kaplan, one of the founders of the twenty-seven-year-old Miami Book Fair International and a former president of the American Booksellers Association. Kaplan will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, previously awarded to advocates of the written word such as Dave Eggers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Terry Gross.

The foundation will announce its finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards on October 12 at Portland's Literary Arts Center, with Oregon Public Radio broadcasting the event locally and online. The winning authors will be revealed on the night of the benefit dinner.

In the video below, Ashbery, who in 2008 won the international Griffin Poetry Prize (sponsored by the Canadian organization the Griffin Trust), reads "Interesting People of Newfoundland" from Notes From the Air.

This year's MacArthur Foundation Fellows, commonly referred to as recipients of the organization's "Genius" grant, have been announced. Among a class of fellows that includes a virologist, a cellist, an architect, a lawyer for elder rights, an evolutionary geneticist, and a silversmith, poet Kay Ryan is honored for her "deceptively simple verse of wisdom and elegance."

Ryan, who from 2008 to 2009 served as the sixteenth U.S. poet laureate, will receive the five-hundred-thousand-dollar prize, designed to encourage continued work, but with "no strings attached," over the next five years. Author of seven collections, she was honored earlier this year with the Pulitzer Prize for her latest book, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010).

Translator and poet A. E. Stallings, whose work is influenced by her training in classical Greek and Latin, also received the fellowship. Currently living in Athens, Stallings is recognized for "revealing the timelessness of poetic expression and antiquity's relevance for today." Aside from her translations of Plutarch, Lucretius, and other classical writers, her original works include Hapax (2006) and Archaic Smile (1999). A new poetry collection, Olives, is forthcoming in 2012 from TriQuarterly Books. 

For biographies of and interviews with the 2011 fellows, who range in age from twenty-nine to sixty-seven and represent ten states, plus Washington, D.C., Greece, and British Columbia, visit the MacArthur website.

In the video below, Ryan describes the impact of the MacArthur grant, especially for a writer at sixty-five, and where she is in her work, "always just beginning."

We've caught some buzz over the past few days about an organization called the World Poetry Movement holding a Bill Murray Poetry Contest. While there's no promise on the contest website that the beloved actor will actually read the poems written "for" him, our friends in the poetry world are embracing the challenge with whimsyafter all, the competition, which promises one thousand dollars and publication (plus possible "recording"), is free.

Blogger Kelly C at Videogum, who pens a wonky sonnet for the actor, breaks it down, "Well, I don’t know. Obviously this raises a lot of questions that I wasn’t able to answer with a quick look at the website. Publication where? Who would record it and for what? What is this thing even about at all? But it doesn’t matter, because when you win it you will win one thousand dollars apparently, from someone, and who couldn’t use an extra one thousand dollars from someone?"

The Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog gave the contest a shout-out too, though, unlike Ms. C, no staffer took a stab at a Murray tribute poem. However, someone does hope to have arrived at the winning title, courtesy of Murray's Herman Blume: "Yeah, I Was in the Shit."

Whether or not you get in on the action (entries are due on September 30), check out Murray's poetry reading for construction workers on a break from building a new home for New York City's Poets House in 2009. (Perhaps the Rushmore-esque music will inspire a your Murray muse.)

The Association of German Publishers and Booksellers Foundation (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels Stiftung) has announced the five finalists for its 2011 German Book Prize. The winning novelist will receive twenty-five thousand euros (approximately thirty-four thousand dollars).

The shortlisted books are Against the World by Jan Brandt, Das Wunderhorn by Michael Buselmeier, The Girl by Angelika Klüssendorf, Blumenberg by Sibylle Lewitscharoff, In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge, and The Hurtress by Marlene Streeruwitz. None of the shortlisted books have yet to be translated in the United States—after all, the art of translation takes time—but given the track record of German Book Prize honorees, perhaps these authors will appear on this side of the Atlantic in the near future.

It may have taken a few years, but 2007 winner Julia Franck saw her winning novel, Die Mittagsfrau (Lady Midday), published in English last year as The Blindness of the Heart (Grove Press). And 2006 winner Katharina Hacker's novel Die Habenichtse was published as The Have-Nots two years after her award by Europa Editions. Just this past April, inaugural 2005 prizewinner Arno Geiger saw his novel Es geht uns gut appear in English as We Are Doing Fine (Ariadne Press).

The 2011 winner will receive the award in mid-October at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where finalists will also receive prizes. The five remaining authors will take home twenty-five hundred euros (roughly thirty-four hundred dollars) each.

Zócalo Public Square, a Los Angeles–based web forum for ideas and literature, began accepting entries last week for a poetry contest sprung from Zócalo's mission to further understanding of citizenship and community. The "living magazine," which combines online journalism with lectures and other real-world events, will consider poems that evoke a sense of place for a one-thousand-dollar prize and publication on the Zócalo website.

“'Place' may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political or personal importance," say the guidelines on the contest page. "It may be a literal, imaginary or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original, and meaningful take on the topic."

Poets may send up to three poems via e-mail by November 5. There is no entry fee.

The winner will be announced next March in conjunction with the recipient of Zócalo's second annual book prize, a five-thousand-dollar award recognizing a work on the topic of community published in the United States. (There is no submission process for the book award.)

The recently-released longlist for Canada's Scotiabank Giller Prize, worth fifty thousand dollars Canadian, has echoes of the Man Booker Prize shortlist. The two Canadian novelists, Patrick deWitt (The Sisters Brothers) and Esi Edugyan (Half Blood Blues), up for Britain's major book prize are also in the running for one of their home country's top literary honors.

Also longlisted for the Giller are:
The Free World by David Bezmozgis (HarperCollins)
The Meagre Tarmac by Clarke Blaise (Biblioasis)
The Antagonist by Lynn Coady (House of Anansi)
The Beggar's Garden by Michael Christie (HarperCollins)
Extensions by Myrna Dey (Nunatak First Fiction)
The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott (Doubleday)
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner (Hamish Hamilton)
Solitaria by Genni Gunn (Signature Editions)
Into the Heart of the Country by Pauline Holdstock (HarperCollins)
A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston (Knopf)
The Return by Dany Laferrière (translated from the French by David Homel) (Douglas & McIntyre)
Monoceros by Suzette Mayr (Coach House Books)
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (McClelland & Stewart)
A Good Man by Guy Vanderhaeghe (McClelland & Stewart)
Touch by Alexi Zentner (Knopf)

Dey's Extensions has already received a Giller honor of sorts, being nominated via public vote for a spot on the longlist. The debut novel had the most nominations out of the roughly four thousand received last month by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), a sponsor of the Giller. (The CBC is now inviting Canadian residents to select their own shortlists from the semifinalists, for a chance at taking home some literary booty: a Kobo e-reader, a gift certificate to Canadian bookseller Chapters Indigo, and a set of the finalists' books.)

The shortlist will be announced later this fall, followed by the winner ceremony, broadcast by the CBC on November 8.

The video below is a trailer for deWitt's novel, set across the border in the American West of the 1850s.

The shortlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize was announced today, including first-time novelists Stephen Kelman and A. D. Miller. The two, along with four other authors, are in contention for a prize of fifty thousand pounds (approximately eighty thousand dollars).

The shortlisted titles, chosen from thirteen semifinalists, are The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape), Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate Books), The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Granta), Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan  (Serpent’s Tail), Pigeon English by Kelman (Bloomsbury), and Snowdrops by Miller (Atlantic). DeWitt and Edugyan both hail from Canada, and the other four authors are British.

On October 18 the winner will be announced at London's Guildhall. The five runners-up won't leave the ceremony empty-handed; each will receive an award of twenty five hundred pounds (about four thousand dollars).

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