»

| Give a Gift |

  • Digital Edition

Poets & Writers Blogs

Dialogue is about economy of words. Less means more. Dialogue should reveal characters through tension. Write a scene in which your protagonist must convince a stranger to divulge his or her social security number. The context is irrelevant. Use the conversation to show readers who, exactly, this protagonist is. At the end of the scene, have the stranger whisper the number into the protagonist’s ear.

At a press conference in London this morning, the Man Booker Prize Foundation announced the shortlist for the 2013 prize. The winner, who will receive 50,000 British pounds, or approximately $75,000, will be announced October 15.

The finalists are:

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus/Reagan Arthur Books)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
The Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
 
The judges selected the six finalists from a longlist of thirteen announced in July, a list that judge chair Robert Macfarlane called the most diverse in recent memory. The shortlist maintains that diversity, with the novelists hailing from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland, and Zimbabwe, and the time periods and settings spanning the biblical Middle East (Tóibín), contemporary Zimbabwe (Bulawayo), 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace), and modern Tokyo (Ozeki). The oldest author on the list is Jim Crace, at 67; the youngest, Eleanor Catton, is 28.

“It is an exceptionally international and exceptionally varied shortlist,” Macfarlane said. “What connects them is connection. They are all about ways of connecting: technological, familial, emotional and in one case elemental. There are also inevitably about connections in reverse: loss, grief, separation, exile and dispossession. In some ways, these novels are all about the strange ways in which people are brought together and the painful ways in which they are held apart.”

The Man Booker Prize is given annually for a book of fiction published in the previous year and written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland.

Writing poetry can be a lonely endeavor. Reading poetry, however, can introduce us to people and worlds we’ve never experienced. Use the power of poetry to help someone who is lonely. The woman resting her head on the steering wheel at a long red light. The old man with a soggy coaster at the end of the bar. The adolescent kid hiding in the school bathroom. Write a poem for them, from you.

P&W-funded Jamaal May is a poet from Detroit, MI, where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His poetry won the 2013 Indiana Review Prize and appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, and The Believer. Jamaal has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson and fellowships from Cave Canem and Bucknell University. His first book is Hum (Alice James Books, 2013), and he is founder of the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press.

Writers frequently ask me how to get more readings. I’ve said for years I don’t know why people give me money and sit still to hear me recite poems. But now that this bizarre phenomenon has occurred more than 600 times in the last nine years (three funded by P&W), I have to admit I do know why I get so many readings, and only part of it is luck. The truth is people like to hear me read. So the better question to ask is “How can I give better readings of my work?” Below are my top five tips.

Use Your Everyday Inflection

It’s remarkable to watch a poet charismatically engage an audience with banter then slip into a monotone drone when the poem starts. I suspect part of the reason for the “monotone drone” or the equally disheartening “poet voice” is a fear of performing. Writers tell me they don’t want to perform or be seen as performative. I would argue that an overly dry, disengaged reading is in fact a performance. No one speaks that way. Conversely, our daily conversations are full of varied inflection and shifts in tone. Rather than try to perform a poem, practice reading it in your own voice as if you’re telling those lines to a friend.

Focus on the Words

Another pitfall is the inherent distraction of facing an audience. I’ve found it helpful to shift my thinking to the why behind each poem. Every word in your poem was chosen for a specific reason. Read them as if they have a place in the world. Did an image delight you enough to write it down? Don’t fight back your delight. Did it haunt you? Take your time and let us feel the specter. If we think deeply about every line read, we are less likely to fret over the presence of an audience. Engage the work and engagement with the crowd will follow.

Try to Memorize Your Poems

The emphasis here is on “try.” Many believe they will never have a good enough memory to recite poems by heart. Even if this is true, you should try anyway. It will make you more familiar with the poems, you’ll make eye contact more frequently, and read with more confidence. At the very least you’ll know that line you have to nail is coming up. You will nail it.

Be Nervous

We know from elementary science that energy can’t be destroyed, only changed. Nervousness is a kind of energy so apply this concept to it. I’m still nervous before every reading and I don’t try to stop it anymore. Nervousness means you care. Take it as a sign that you are present and paying attention, then turn that energy and focus towards your poems. Apathy is a much worse state of mind to approach a reading with. The only one worse than that is feigned apathy.

Risk Yourself

When we see a good poetry reading, we are witnessing a writer becoming open enough to get in touch with what they’ve written, the same openness they’ve implicitly asked of the audience. It takes a risk to stand in front of people as if you have something of value to share. Let that come through and be as uncool and awkward as you need to be to get it done. The writing deserves it.

Photo: Jamaal May. Credit: Tarfia Faizullah.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Detroit is provided by an endowment established with generous contribution from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors, and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

The City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) is currently seeking the city’s next Poet Laureate. Applications will be accepted until September 30.

Poets who are residents of Philadelphia, and who are able to demonstrate both a significant body of work and a record of commitment to community service, are eligible to apply. Using the online application form, applicants may submit four poems (up to ten pages total), a list of publications, a résumé, an artistic statement, and three references. Applicants may also submit up to three links to videos of public readings or performances. Applications must be completed and submitted online.

The Philadelphia Poet Laureate position was established in 2012 "in order to give one talented poet the opportunity to publicly represent the city in the medium of poetry and to serve the art form and field of poetry within the city.” The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term, from January 2014 through December 2015, during which time they will be expected to raise awareness of poetry and creative writing within the city of Philadelphia through public events, readings, and community service activities, and provide mentorship to the city’s Youth Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate will receive a stipend of $5,000 over the two-year term.

The city's inaugural Poet Laureate position has been held since January 2012 by poet and retired Temple University professor Sonia Sanchez. Her term ends in December.

The Poet Laureate Governing Committee—which is comprised of writers, editors, professors, and arts organization professionals from the Philadelphia area—will review all applications and make its recommendation to the mayor. Visit the OACCE website for more information and complete guidelines.

P&W-supported poet, speaker, teacher, and performer George Edward Tait is the author of At Arms and The Baker's Dozen: Selected Dance Poems by George Edward Tait, among other works. In July he gave a reading and workshop at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Central Library. Linda Jordan, Manager of General Collections and Ivan Allen Jr. Reference Departments, blogs about his visit.

George Edward Tait is recognized by his fans as the Poet Laureate of Harlem, but last month he ventured well outside of New York City to make his first appearance at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System's Central Library, in Atlanta, Georgia.

I was honored to introduce him to the fifty-five budding writers who turned out for the workshop he led. Tait has been writing and teaching—at universities, juvenile detention centers, and senior centers—for over thirty years. During that time he also embarked on music projects and worked as an activist (Tait is also known as the “Poet Laureate of Afrikan Nationalism”). At the Atlanta workshop, Tait's wisdom flowed as he openly discussed his theories and practices and his belief in making emotional connections with readers.

Tait also delved into the nitty-gritty of craft, touching upon alliteration, imagery, and "Ars Poetica" (a poem that examines the nature of poetry). Then he addressed real-world concerns in discussions about marketing and self-publishing--topics that interested many workshop participants. After the workshop, he performed several poems and shared anecdotes about each piece. At the end of the day, a small group of participants were thrilled to have their own work personally reviewed by Tait.

Photo: George Edward Tait. Credit: Linda Jordan.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Atlanta is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Social media has changed human interaction. Twitter, Facebook, and other digital platforms force us to create versions of ourselves that often misrepresent our true feelings and situations. This disconnect can interfere with our relationships and even distort our own identities. Write about a time when social media added turmoil to your life. Explore the difference between who you are online, and who you are at the dinner table.

Resist the temptation to build characters according to stereotypes. Character development must reflect the complexities of real people. Even Pure Evil buys his favorite niece a pony for her birthday. Learn to love your villains as people, and they will reward you as characters. Write a scene where the most despicable character in your fiction does something deeply touching and loving. Then send them on their evil way.

The Chicago–based MacArthur Foundation announced last week that it will increase the value of its annual fellowships—also known as “genius grants”—to $625,000.

Previously, grants of $500,000 have been given through the MacArthur Fellows Program to individuals working in various fields including literature, music, visual art, science, and medicine. Past winners—nearly nine hundred since the program's inception—have included poet Kay Ryan and fiction writer Junot Díaz. The foundation last increased the grant amount in 2000.

“We looked at many benchmarks and decided it was time to make an adjustment,” said Cecilia Conrad, vice president of the Fellows Program, who cited inflation as one factor in the decision to increase the grant amounts.

Established in 1970 by philanthropists John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, the MacArthur Foundation bestows the unrestricted five-year grants to individuals based not on their past accomplishments, but instead on their potential.

“We believe the program inspires people from all walks of life to think about how they can use their own skills and ideas to make the world a better place,” Conrad wrote in a recent report on the inspiration and impact of the fellows program.

There is no application process for the grants, and recipients are nominated anonymously. The 2013 fellows will be announced September 25.

In the following video from the MacArthur Foundation, 2012 Fiction Fellow Junot Díaz discusses his work and the impact of the grant.

The end of summer means the beginning of autumn. This is a time of change. Write a poem about the changes occurring in your life. Choose powerful verbs. Focus on the feelings of expectation, fear, and relief that come with change. Use vivid imagery. It is during change that we are often the most alive.

In August, Bushra Rehman celebrated the launch of her first novel Corona (Sibling Rivalry Press). Corona was featured in Poets & Writers Best Debut Fiction issue. The Readings & Workshops program is co-sponsoring the book event An Ode to Corona with the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective and Rehman’s writing workshop Two Truths and a Lie: Writing Autobiographical Fiction. This blog is a continuation of last week’s Two Truths and a Lie post.

One of the drawbacks of writing autobiographical fiction is that the people in your head are not imaginary. They’re real. They’re the people you love the most and are most afraid of losing. In the workshop Two Truths and a Lie: Writing Memoir and Autobiographical Fiction, we spend time working through these fears. I wanted to share some tips for overcoming them.

Thinking Is Not Writing

You can end up using your imagination to create all the scenarios in which your mother is hurling platters, your father is explosively silent, and you are left out of all future family holidays until your little nieces and nephews, who once had gathered up in your lap, no longer know your name. All of this might happen, but you can spend so much time worrying about these possibilities that you may never get to the writing.

The truth is you don’t know the shape your work will take until it is written. Yes, you may feel a burning anger in the beginning, but when you write the story, you might be surprised by the gentle and compassionate portrayals you create. The very writing of the narrative will transform you and your memories.

Writing Is Not Publishing

Sometimes it takes years to find the right publisher. It took me six to find one I love, Sibling Rivalry Press. But those years were necessary, not only for the growth of the book, but for my own readiness to present my work to the world. So, write! You don’t know who you will be by the time you find a publisher. You never even have to publish. I trick myself every time by saying I won’t. It’s one way I’ve learned to be honest in my writing--by lying to myself.

Listen To Dorothy Allison

Allison, author of the unforgettable Bastard out of Carolina, was asked how she could create such brutally honest portrayals of the people in her life. She said you had to tell all you could about your characters, create three-dimensional portraits, so the reader could come to understand and even love them. She said, “If you tell enough … even if you use a character based on people you know, you don't create an act of betrayal. It is when you use characters in small ways that you betray them.”

To tell enough, you may have to dig deeper into your memories, read old letters and diaries, really remember--but isn’t this why you’re writing autobiographical fiction in the first place?

What a Coincidence That Everyone in This Class Is Innocent!

Allison also said, “I don't believe you can be any good as a writer if you're trying to hide yourself.” You can’t be like the preacher who only points out the sins of others. In your writing, you have to reveal your own sins as well.

I Don’t Make You Look Bad. You Make You Look Bad.

Let’s say you are innocent, but others have accidentally or purposefully hurt you. This is when I remember this advice from one of my favorite writers, Ed Lin. His words hit the bull’s eye in my mind. When people get upset about your writing, they’re upset that a certain truth, crime, or terrible memory has been brought out into the light. The writing is an explosion, but it gives the opportunity of transformation by forest fire, rather than slow suffocation. Most likely these truths have been stifling the relationship for years. In our writing we have the conversations with people we never have in real life. Sometimes with the writing, the conversations begin.

Lay Your Body Down on the Train Tracks

When I was younger, I spent all my free time in the library. The world I wanted to live in was the world of books, but every door I opened led to a room that wasn’t my own. I now know why. Not only is it difficult to find a publisher who wants to present the story of a Pakistan-American woman who is not oppressed, it’s difficult for us to overcome the family and community taboos of writing our own stories.

But for those of us who are called to this craft, we know we must write. Because it’s true, your mother, father, brother, sister or cat could end up hating you, but if you don’t write, you’ll end up hating yourself. Ultimately, we write not for the world but for our own souls.

Photo: Bushra Rehman. Credit: Jaishri Abichandani

Support for Readings/Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from theNew 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 Cowles Charitable Trust, the Abbey K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Readings/Workshops (West) associate director Jamie FitzGerald reports on a visit to the P&W–supported EngAGE senior writing workshop, taught by Hannah R. Menkin. Menkin is an educator, poet, and visual artist, who uses an integrative approach to help adults, older adults, and veterans discover their own voice through oral history, memoir, storytelling, and the creative/expressive arts.

Members of the EngAGE writing workshop“What is a poem?” asked Hannah Menkin, facilitator of the P&W–supported poetry workshop for residents of the Burbank Senior Artists Colony. The participants answered: “expressive,” “cathartic,” “a tiny soliloquy that comes from a deep well,” “a mirror of what you hold onto inside,” revealing in these answers their special relationship with the art form.

Over the past five years, this Poetry Toolbox class of older adults has become close, defining itself as a women’s writing group. Participants regularly refer to each other as sisters, including new member Sharon Yofan, who commented: “I love poetry, but was absolutely blocked. I couldn’t write on demand. There’s magic in this space, and I’ve been writing ever since. I feel so connected to our sisters here. It’s food for body, mind, and spirit.”

Last fall, we reported on one of their Poetry & Tea events, which reaffirmed for us the transformative power of writing; this year’s event was no less inspiring. It was devoted to honoring women poets. Each participant spoke about what the workshop meant to her, read a favorite poem by a female poet, and then some of their own work.

Dolly BrittanDolly Brittan, who lived in South Africa for seventy-two years before moving to Burbank, described how the class has given her “permission to be.” She brought in a tribute poem to Nelson Mandela by a poet named cheryl irene and read her own poem about her pet tortoise, Honkytonk. Felicia Soissons-Segal read a persona poem in which the speaker was an umbrella. Abigail Howard’s poem “Jacaranda Oleander” left us chanting “jacaranda oleander, jacaranda oleander.” Another member of the group, Ayn Phillips, read a poem titled “Finding Poetry” that began with the words “Dam bursts…,” a phenomenon that appears to happen regularly in this class.

Also celebrated were Lucille Clifton, Linda Hogan, Emily Dickinson’s poem number 465, and Anne Sexton’s “The Bells.” At each turn, we discussed our interpretations of the poems.

The conversation turned to perceptions of older adults. After the passing of her husband of fifty-two years, Brittan is in a new relationship—“and at my age!” she exclaimed. Kit Harper was also trying bold new things, in the literary realm.

About submitting her poetry to literary magazines, Harper said: “Doing is a lot more fun than thinking about it. It’s a lot more invigorating.”

There seemed to be consensus with Menkin’s opinion that “The image of older people needs to change. Positive stereotypes are needed, not negative ones. I don’t like the word ‘seniors.’ I like the words ‘elders,’ ‘older adults,’ ‘wisdom people.’”

Maureen Kellen-Taylor, chief operating officer of the workshop’s sponsoring organization EngAGE, told a story about an older artist who said that “when she’s acting or writing or painting, she feels ageless.”

But the perils of age do surface at times. Due to a fall, workshop member Karolyn Merson was hospitalized and unable to attend the day’s event (but is now back and writing with the group). Now in her nineties, Merson is beloved for her wit and admired for publishing a book of her haiku. The class has coined the term “Karolysms” in her honor. Merson had wanted to read “A Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. In her stead, Menkin read the poem, which ends with the lines:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

These wisdom people know.

Photo 1: Members of the Poetry Toolbox workshop (from left to right): Sharon Yofan, Kit Harper, facilitator Hannah Menkin, Dolly Brittan, Felicia Soissons-Segal, and Abigail Howard. Photo 2: Dolly Brittan with a paper horse used in a writing exercise. Photo 3: A haiku-like poem/Karolysm by Karolyn Merson. Credit: Jamie FitzGerald.

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

Creative nonfiction isn’t only about the past. History is always happening. Right now, at this very instant, your life is passing. What is happening in your life? What are your worries? Your problems? Your fears and loves? Imagine yourself eleven years from now, and imagine what your perspective might be on your current situation. Write about your life from the year 2024. Time may heal all wounds, but now is the best time to document your bleeding.

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” This writing axiom extolled by Kurt Vonnegut underscores the importance of human desire. However, desire often stems from human frailty: the need to fill or compensate for something we lack—a mothers’ love, approval from society, the ability to forgive ourselves. Write about what your protagonist's desires; this is where the story begins.

The Table 4 Writers Foundation, established in honor of New York City restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, is currently accepting submissions to its second annual writing competition, which offers five grants of $2,500 each to fiction and nonfiction writers.

Kaufman, who ran the celebrated Elaine’s restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for more than forty-seven years, was known for nurturing writers and other creative people inside her restaurant—and in particular at Table 4, where, according to the foundation’s website, she “offered writers just what they needed: sometimes a kick in the pants, an introduction to a fellow writer or agent, but always a directive to order something to eat.” She died in December 2010.

To apply for the grants, writers may submit four copies of a short story, an essay, or a novel excerpt of up to ten pages (or between 1,000 and 2,500 words), along with the required entry form and a $10 entry fee, by October 20. Submissions are accepted by postal mail only. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Works by the inaugural winners, who were announced and honored at a ceremony in New York City this past March, were chosen by a panel of publishing professionals and members of the Table 4 Foundation board. Each writer received $2,000.

“I’m pleased that in our second year we’re able to increase the amounts that we award our winners,” said Jenine Lepera Izzi, the foundation’s chair. “We hope that the prizes will help them focus on their work and also bring attention to their writing.”

The Table 4 Writers Foundation was founded on February 10, 2012—a date that would have been Kaufman’s eighty-third birthday—in order “to help struggling and promising writers, just as Elaine had for nearly fifty years.”

<< first < previous Page: 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 next > last >>

841 - 855 of 2054 results

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | Help | About Us | Contact Us | View Mobile Site

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2016. All Rights Reserved