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It’s not quite Halloween yet, but that doesn’t stop some people from dressing up as superheroes. Have you ever worn a superhero costume or daydreamed about what kind of superhero you’d want to be? This week, write a poem about your superhero persona. Would you have a specific power? How would your actions help others? Would you work on a team with other superheroes, or would you fly solo? Have fun with this one.

Richard Jeffrey Newman is the author of The Silence of Men and has translated from the Persian, The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. His poetry and essays have been published in Diode, the Good Men Project, Voice Male, 66: The Journal of Sonnet Studies, Ozone Park, and Newtown Literary. He blogs about the impact of feminism on his life as a man and the relevance of classical Iranian poetry to our contemporary lives. In June 2012, Newman took over as curator of First Tuesdays: A Neighborhood Reading Series

My favorite part of hosting First Tuesdays, the neighborhood reading series I run in Elmhurst, Queens, is building the “cento,” which has become a tradition for me to close with at each month’s open mic. A cento is a poem made from the lines of other author’s poems, and represents a collaboration between the poet composing the cento and the poets from whose work he or she borrows from. At First Tuesdays, this collaboration happens in real time. While the first open mic reader shares his or her work, prose or poetry, I listen for language that moves me. When the reader is finished, I recite that line back to the audience, and then I take (or sometimes the audience suggests) a line or phrase from each subsequent reader. In this way, line by line, we build a poem that represents the literature shared that evening.

Part of the fun is that I don’t write anything down until the entire cento is finished, making the poem a true collaboration. Indeed, the audience often helps me remember the lines, especially when the list of open mic readers is long. This communal participation, the fact that the people who come to First Tuesdays see themselves as a community, is what I cherish most. We are a diverse group, including writers at all levels of accomplishment and from many walks of life, and I am inspired by how warm and welcoming everyone is. Almost every month, we become the first audience for someone who has never read their work publicly before; and there are always people who come just to listen. Some of them have become regulars, as well.

I took over hosting First Tuesdays for the 2012–2013 season, though circumstances made it impossible for me to apply for Poets & Writers funding. Starting from the fall of 2013, I have applied for every reading, and the money I’ve received has made it possible not only to pay our featured readers a respectable honorarium, but also to demonstrate that our small, neighborhood venue—and the work that it does as a small, neighborhood venue—matters. The smiles and head nods I see when I announce that Poets & Writers has sponsored a reading tells me people are happy, and even proud, about that.

Here is September’s cento, the first of the 2014–2015 season, composed of lines by Allison, Keron Dinkins, Herb Rubinstein, Valerie Keane, David Mills, Amanda, Lydia Chang, Norman Stock, Marty Levine, Norka Del Rios, Sean Egan, and Peter Marra:

Everyone Downstairs Can See Directly Up My Skirt

A blind man suggests an offering:   
A family of skeletons released,
Seeking a way out of the suction of Eros,
   Blazing the way you are
when you finally return
   To be grossed out by little peckers.


Perhaps they will wonder why I have so little hair  
 Waiting for the lion
to return.

Be nice to your mother  
 In the presence of the holy one blessed be
he.

That melody of love was interrupted.

I whisper secrets to her pillow to see what it says.   
She always
carried a contempt for daylight.
   
I cried for a while and then the
humor of it struck me.


–Composed at Terraza Cafe, September 2, 2014

Photo: Richad Jeffrey Newman. Photo Credit: Beech Tree Images.

Photo: Terraza Cafe. Photo Credit: Richard Jeffrey Newman.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by funds from the New York State Council on the Arts,and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

French novelist Patrick Modiano of Paris has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement was made today in Stockholm by Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. Englund praised the 69-year-old author, whose work explores “the art of memory, with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Modiano was born in a west Paris suburb in July 1945, two months after the end of the second world war. His parents—a Jewish Italian father and Belgian mother—met during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Jewish identity, the Holocaust, and loss of memory, identity, and time are recurring themes in Modiano's work. He published his debut novel, La Place de l'Etoile, in 1968; though few of his books have been translated into English, he has since gained both critical and popular acclaim throughout France. One of his most well known novels is Missing Person (Jonathan Cape, 1980), which was awarded France's Prix Goncourt in 1978. His most recent book is Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.

American authors Phillip Roth and Thomas Pynchon were favorites for this year’s award, along with Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and the Syrian poet Adonis.

Founded in 1901, the Nobel Prize in literature is given to a writer who, according to the will of Alfred Nobel, has “produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The winner receives eight million Swedish kronor, or approximately $1.1 million. Modiano will receive the award at a ceremony on December 10.

Canadian short story writer Alice Munro received last year’s prize. Chinese novelist Mo Yan won in 2012, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer won in 2011, and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa won in 2010.

There are only three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, but billions of people on the planet, so chances are, you share your birthday with at least one celebrity or public figure. This week, find out who your birthday buddies are, and learn a little bit about them. Notice any similarities? Write a short personal essay about how sharing your birthday with these people makes you feel. If you were born on this day, you’d be sharing the spotlight with John Lennon (and his son Sean), Camille Saint-Saëns, and King Charles X of France.

Many people believe that bigger is better, and when it comes to food, a giant-sized version of your favorite treat can be more exciting than the normal-sized version you encounter on a daily basis. But as humans, we can only eat so much in one sitting. Though delicious, a sofa-sized jelly doughnut is just not practical. This week, write a scene in which one of your characters wishes for a giant version of his favorite food. What happens when the wish comes true, and the delivery person shows up with, for example, a pizza the size of a small swimming pool?

In ancient Greece, the term "ekphrasis" referred to a work of art in one medium that was produced as a reaction to a piece of art created in another medium. For example, a sculpture may depict a character in a novel, or a poem may describe a well-known painting. This week, choose a work of art that you find inspiring and try to capture its essence in a poem. Make sure to consider all mediums when choosing your subject—not just paintings, but also film, music, architecture, or fashion.

Submissions are currently open for the second-annual Christopher Doheny Award, sponsored by the New York City–based Center for Fiction and Audible, Inc. The award is given for a book-length manuscript of fiction or creative nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness. The award includes a $10,000 prize, along with publication and promotion of the book in print and audio editions.

Works by "a writer who has personally dealt or is dealing with life-threatening illness, either his or her own or that of a close relative or friend" are eligible. Writers must have previously published in literary journals or magazines, or have had a book published by an independent or traditional publisher. Previously unpublished manuscripts of any length written in English are eligible. Both adult and young adult works will be considered.

Writers should submit a manuscript along with a bibliography of published books, articles, or stories; a paragraph-long bio and contact information; if submitting an unfinished manuscript, a book proposal for the work being submitted and two sample chapters; if submitting a finished manuscript, a synopsis of up to two pages with the full manuscript. Submissions should be sent by e-mail to doheny@centerforfiction.org or by mail to the Christopher Doheny Award, Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th Street, New York, NY 10017. The deadline is October 30. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

A panel of three distinguished writers and two representatives of Audible, Inc. will judge.

The winner of the 2013 award was Michelle Bailat-Jones for her novel Fog Island Mountains, forthcoming in November, about a South African expatriate living in a small town in Japan who faces a terminal cancer diagnosis. For those in New York City, Bailat-Jones will appear at the Center for Fiction on November 6 to discuss her novel.

The annual is named in honor of Christopher Doheny, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was an infant and worked for Audible, Inc. for eight years. He passed away in February 2013.

The Center for Book Arts, located in New York City, is committed to exploring and cultivating contemporary aesthetic interpretations of the book as an art object, while invigorating traditional artistic practices of the art of the book through classes, exhibitions, public programs, artist opportunities, and collecting. Founded in 1974, it was the first not-for-profit organization of its kind in the nation, and it has since become a model for others around the world.

The Center for Book Arts, now in its fortieth year, is pleased that once again Poets & Writers joins forces with us to present our upcoming Poetry Chapbook Reading. This annual program is an invaluable opportunity for emerging poets to receive feedback from established writers and to have their work formally presented to the public.

Each year, the Center invites a notable poet to serve as guest curator along with program curator Sharon Dolin. For 2014, the American poet David St. John graciously agreed to fill this role and has selected, out of a wide variety of submissions, Sara Wallace as featured poet, and M. Callen and Carol Ann Davis as honorable mentions.

The Poetry Chapbook Reading will take place October 17, 6:30pm, at the Center for Book Arts and will feature readings by St. John, Wallace, Callen, and Davis. The Center is currently producing a limited edition, letterpress-printed and hand-bound chapbook for guest curator St. John—designed and printed by artist Amber McMillan—as well as for the featured honoree Wallace—created by artist Ed Rayer. The Center is also printing a broadside of poems from each of the honorable mentions. The chapbooks and broadsides will be shown for the first time at the reading, and a reception will follow.

David St. John has described featured honoree Sara Wallace's work Edge as: "A brilliantly conceived collection that is both searing and tender by turns. Visceral, fierce, and unapologetic, these poems confront the reader like a series of shattered mirrors. Operatic in scope yet incisive as a laser, this work will seize you—so be warned—and refuse to let go."

St. John also commended M. Callen for Preferred Apocalypse, calling it: "A stunning sequence of raw-edged yet impeccably crafted poems. This is the chapbook I will happily carry with me when that apocalypse finally arrives.” He praised Carol Ann Davis' work as well, noting: “Davis is a remarkable poet of elegant, sweeping lines that enfold us in their meditative beauty. Busy Their Hands is another of her gorgeous and consoling collections.”

Poet David St. John has been honored with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, among many others. He currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he founded and directed its first Ph.D. program in Literature and Creative Writing. St. John is the author of ten collections of poetry as well as a volume of essays, interviews, and reviews. He is also the coeditor of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of the New Poem.

Program curator Sharon Dolin, a Fulbright Scholar to Italy, received the 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and holds a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University.

The Center for Book Arts invites submissions to its 2015 Poetry Chapbook Program, which will feature guest curator Cornelius Eady. Submissions must be received by December 1, 2014. For more information, visit their website.

Photo: (top) Broken Glish: Five Prose Poems, by Harryette Mullen, guest curator of the Center’s 2013 Poetry Chapbook Program. Letterpress printed and bound at the Center by Delphi Basilicato. Photo: (bottom) Sharon Dolin. Photo Credit: Center for Book Arts.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Summer is officially over, and the time has come to drag our sweaters out of storage and sip warm beverages (pumpkin-spiced or otherwise). There are many things about autumn to look forward to: bountiful produce, gorgeous foliage, comfortable temperatures. In a short personal essay, pick out some of your favorite things about this time of year and describe how and why they bring you joy. If you don’t consider anything about autumn enjoyable, write about that instead.

The soothing sound of water pouring over rocks, the spray that mists your face as you stand at the bottom looking up—waterfalls have such power and grace. This week, write a short scene in which one of your characters discovers a waterfall on a walk through the woods. What’s her first instinct? Does she dive into the pool at the bottom for a swim? Or does she stand back in awe?

This week, think of something that has happened to you recently that was stressful, traumatic, or unpleasant. Write a poem about this event as you experienced it, regardless of anyone else’s perspectives or feelings on what occurred. Then rewrite the poem from the perspective of someone else involved in the situation. This new poem may not reflect the truth, but sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that everything has a flip side.

Detroit’s new Write a House program has announced the winner of its inaugural writers residency, through which renovated houses in Detroit are given permanently to creative writers.

The winner is Casey Rocheteau, a poet, writer, historian, and performance artist currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Rocheteau is the author of the poetry collection Knocked Up On Yes, published by Sargent Press in 2012; her next collection, The Dozen, will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in March 2016. She has also self-published four books, released two spoken-word albums, and has performed slam poetry and led writing and performance workshops for youths and adults throughout the United States.

“Being granted with this opportunity to take root in a city so rich with history, creativity and tenacity is truly an honor,” Rocheteau wrote on the Write a House blog. “I look forward to exploring Detroit and getting to know its literary community.” She plans to move from Brooklyn to Detroit in November.

Billy Collins, the former U.S. poet laureate and one of the judges that selected Rocheteau, said of her work, “These are witty but deeply serious poems. The poet uses straightforward language and clear syntax to address some of the more frightening aspects of racism.”

Serving as judges alongside Collins were dream hampton, Major Jackson, Sean MacDonald, Michael Stone-Richards, Tamara Warren, and Write a House cofounder Toby Barlow. Hundreds of poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers applied for the residency; Rocheteau was chosen from a shortlist of ten finalists that was announced in August 2014.

Detroit will welcome Rocheteau to the city’s literary community at a public event sponsored by the Detroit Free Press on September 19. Write a House will open a new round of applications in early 2015 for its next set of houses, which will be located in the same Banglatown/No Ham neighborhood where Rocheteau will reside.

To learn more about the Write a House program, read an article in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Photo: Casey Rocheteau, credit Thomas Sayers Ellis, 2013.

Red Hen Press, founded by Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull, has been a part of the Los Angeles publishing world since 1994 and remains one of the few literary presses in the city. Red Hen hosts a series at the historic Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. A P&W–supported reading on September 9, 2014 featured poets Afaa Michael Weaver, Douglas Kearney, Brett Fletcher Lauer, and Robin Coste Lewis and was moderated by Red Hen Press founder Kate Gale. R&W (West) program assistant, Brandi M. Spaethe, attended the reading and writes on her experience.

Annenberg Community Beach House

My first time at the Annenberg Community Beach House, I arrived when the sun was still just high enough to sink into the ocean as four wonderful poets read their work. One reader commented: “How can I compete with that?” The audience faced the reader who faced a wall of windows. We were all part of the spectacle for each poet who stood at the podium. They were a reflection of the setting sun and the turn of day to night.

In the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst erected a mansion for Marion Davies on the site where the Annenberg Community Beach House currently resides, and it became a place for Hollywood stars to congregate. Joseph Drown purchased the house from Davies in the 1940s and converted the property into a hotel and beach club. Many years later, the state took over and continued to run it as a beach club until the Northridge earthquake in 1994 damaged all properties on site. The Annenberg Community Beach House was built via a grant from the Annenberg Foundation as a place for the Santa Monica community and surrounding communities. 

Red Hen Press has sparked a tradition of poetry at the beach house with past readers who include Susan Straight, Ilya Kaminsky, Camille T. Dungy, and Ron Carlson. One of the night’s readers, Brett Fletcher Lauer from Brooklyn, New York, joked with me about arriving far ahead of schedule due to a warning from the locals about the traffic. He said it gave him a chance to sit outside the beach house and enjoy the scenery. After the reading, P&W–supported writer Douglas Kearney waxed poetic about the ocean at night and how daunting a thing it was. Many of us made note of the space, commenting on its magic.

First to the podium was Robin Coste Lewis, who is currently in the PhD in creative writing program for poetry at the University of Southern California. Her elegance and poise matched the power of her words while the low sun highlighted her beautiful ensemble. Brett Fletcher Lauer read work from his recent book A Hotel in Belgium, making note of its darkness, which was never deprecating or pitiful, but rather stunning in its revelations—enough to make you consider your own station. P&W–supported poet Douglas Kearney, in true Kearney fashion, shifted the tone of the reading with eye-opening crescendos and anaphoras from his published work, including his most recent book of poetry, Patter. His performance asked us to sit up and pay attention. The sun sank lower, almost out of sight now, almost gone. The final note, and a rising one, was P&W–supported poet Afaa Michael Weaver. He shared poems from a variety of his publications with a wisdom that seemed to come from a life of having seen much darkness and written through it. The audience listened intently, catching its breath as he delivered each line. 

Red Hen Press will host the next Annenberg Community Beach House reading on October 14th at 6:30 PM, featuring Leia Penina Wilson, Genevieve Kaplan, Jessica Piazza, and Mary Johnson. The readings are free. More information can be found here

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

This week, in the spirit of celebrating the freedom to read, think about a book you’ve read that’s been banned. (For a list of banned and challenged classics, visit the American Library Association's website.) How would your life be different if you never had the opportunity to read this book? Or if nobody could? Write a short personal essay exploring how you feel about Banned Books Week and why this particular book is so meaningful to you.

Submissions are currently open for the inaugural Payton James Freeman Essay Prize, cosponsored by the Freeman family and Drake University’s English department. The prize will be given for an essay on a theme. The winner will receive $500 and publication in the Rumpus, and will be invited to read at Drake University in Des Moines in February 2015.

Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 3,500 words on the subject “After the Unhappy Ending” by September 30. There is no entry fee. The students and faculty of Drake University will select the finalists; Cheryl Strayed will choose the winner. The winner and finalists will be announced in December 2014.

The Freeman family established the award to honor their son Payton James Freeman—who died at the age of five from the genetic disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy—and to raise awareness about the disease.

Judge Cheryl Strayed is the author of the popular memoir Wild (Knopf, 2012), the novel Torch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), and Tiny Beautiful Things (Knopf, 2012), a collection of pieces from Strayed’s advice column for the Rumpus, Dear Sugar.

Photo: Cheryl Strayed (Joni Kabana)

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