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Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning poet, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo of Los Angeles, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for a post from winning fiction writer Laura Joyce Davis as well!)

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo with fellow writers.It is now 4:41 p.m., I’m sitting in my room on the seventh floor of the Gershwin Hotel in Midtown, and I have to be in the lobby ready to go to my first New York reading by 6 p.m. I got back to my room at 10:30 last night after a delicious Indian dinner with Yale Younger Poet Eduardo C. Corral, my fellow contest winner Laura Joyce Davis, and staff from Poets & Writers. Eduardo laughed at the lamb chops I ordered over dinner: “You know how to do it.”

But now I have only a little over an hour before I must make my way through the cold and ugly rain that has burst onto Manhattan Island today in order to get to the Center for Fiction for the reading. This is how the trip has been since we landed Sunday night: a whirlwind, a storm.

So what do I say? I can say that spending the last two days talking poetry and literature with fabulous people over fabulous food has been, well, fabulous. A definite highlight was sharing a glass of wine with Yusef Komunyakaa at a little corner café and as we talked about theatre, Son Jarocho, and poetry. But so much of this trip has been a highlight. Getting to sit in on a meeting with a real New York lit agent with a no-bull attitude, papers on her desk piled to her chin, was other-worldly. It has all felt unreal, and every once in awhile I have a little giggle to myself and think, I can’t believe this is happening. 

Eduardo C. Corral talks about running in the cotton fields around his home in Casa Grande, Arizona, as a child and imagining it was snow. He remembers shivering in the middle of August and even asking his mother for a coat. Matthea Harvey remembers chasing fairies in the hedges around her house, and fantasizing about glow-in-the-dark teddy bears that she wished were hers. Yusef Komunyakaa shares a story about watching an eighty-year-old woman dance Son Jarocho and believes it is the first time he has seen duende in the flesh. These are the memories I will take back to Los Angeles with me.

But then there is the quiet moment I enter my hotel room and throw off my coat. The moment I am alone, and my heart and eyes almost instantaneously swell. I breathe and really take in everything that has been going on around me. I’m truly lucky to have this moment and all the moments that brought me to this one. And I can’t stop feeling thankful. Thankful to Poets & Writers, thankful to my friends who keep texting me good luck for tonight, to the L.A. poets that always have my back, to my parents who have always encouraged me pursue my dreams. I feel like a silly little girl, but all I can really say right now is thank you.

And, just for something a little fun, here are two questions I’ve been asking everyone, along with their answers.

Q: As a reader, what is the first book you remember getting swept up in?

Deborah Garrison (literary editor at Knopf and Pantheon): It’s a little embarrassing, but The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilders. I’m rereading it right now with my youngest. I’ve read it at least eight times.

Eduardo C. Corral (poet): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Gail Hochman (literary agent): Little Women by Luisa May Alcott. No question about it.

Matthea Harvey (poet and children’s book author): Fantastic Toys by Monika Bisner. I remember lying in bed and wondering if I could have one toy, which one would I choose?

Q: Besides reading and writing, what is an activity that is important to your writing?

Deborah Garrison: Commuting, walking. There are not a lot of places that I can be contemplative. Walking the dog; times when I am unplugged.

Yusef Komunyakaa (poet): Maybe shooting pool.

Eduardo C. Corral: For me, in New York City, walking around, listening, dragging your finger against a wall. Being in the city.

Matthea Harvey: Going to art museums and galleries. Walking around the city. Taking photographs of nothing particular.

Photo: From left: P&W staff member Jamie FitzGerald, Laura Joyce Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, and P&W Staff member Cathy Linh Che.

The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation. For more information on the contest, visit here.

Create a timeline that marks the major events of your life. Analyze it, looking for patterns or events that led to a series of others. Based on what you see, write an essay that explores one period of time—it could be a year, two years, a decade, or more. Think about how that time period informs the narrative of your life that you present to your friends, family, and acquaintances.

Yale University Press has announced the winner of the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. Given annually since 1919 to a poet under the age of forty, the prize is the oldest literary award in the United States. 

Eryn Green of Denver received the 2013 prize for his collection, Eruv, which will be published by Yale University Press in April 2014. Judge Carl Phillips says that the winning work “reminds us how essential wilderness is to poetry—a wilderness in terms of how form and language both reinvent and get reinvented; meanwhile, the sensibility behind these poems points to another wilderness, the one that equals thinking about and feeling the world—its hurts, its joys—deeply and unabashedly, as we pass through it.”

Eryn Green is a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver and received an MFA from the University of Utah. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Colorado Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. In addition to the publication of his book, he will also receive one of five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut.

Green’s book will be the 108th volume in the Younger Poet series. Will Schutt’s Westerly, also chosen by Phillips, received the 2012 prize, and will be published in April. Past winners have included John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Robert Hass, Adrienne Rich, and Jean Valentine. 

Submissions for the 2014 prize will open this fall. Visit the website for more information and complete guidelines. 

You walk into a dimly lit room at a party where you’ve arrived with a friend. The walls of the room are lined with reptile cages. Across the room you see someone you recognize, and when you turn to your friend he or she is gone. What happens next?

Today there are fifteen lines of poetry that will present themselves to you in various ways. Some will be visual, some will be spoken. Look and listen carefully. Take the time to record them. Then refine them and use them to craft a poem. 

Claremont Graduate University has announced the winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, given annually to a mid-career poet for a book published in the previous year. At $100,000, the Kingsley Tufts Award is one of the largest monetary poetry prizes in the United States.

The 2013 award has been given to Marianne Boruch of West Lafayette, Indiana, for her collection The Book of Hours, published by Copper Canyon Press. Heidy Steidlmayer of Vacaville, California, received the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her debut collection, Fowling Piece (Tri-Quarterly). The Kate Tufts Award is given annually for a first book by a poet.

“We are delighted to honor these poets and celebrate their achievements,” said Wendy Martin, director of the Tufts Poetry Awards program and vice provost at Claremont Graduate University, in a press release. “These awards will help them gain wider recognition and will sustain their continuing commitment to writing outstanding poetry.”  

The winners were selected from a list of finalists for each award. Boruch’s most recent books include the poetry collections Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan, 2008) and Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin, 2004), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (University of Indiana, 2011). Steidlmayer’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the 2012 Ploughshares John C. Zacharis Award.

Now in its twenty-first year, the Kingsley Tufts award was established at Claremont Graduate University by Kate Tufts to honor the memory of her husband. The award is presented for a work by a poet “who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career.” The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was established in 1993 and is given annually for a debut collection.

The winners will be honored at a ceremony at the Garrison Theater in Claremont on Thursday, April 18. David Barber, Kate Gale, Ted Genoways, Linda Gregerson, and Carl Phillips judged.

Timothy Donnelly received the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Award; past winners include Robert Wrigley, Tom Sleigh, Matthea Harvey, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Chase Twichell.

To be considered for next year's awards, books published between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013, may be submitted by September 15. Visit the Claremont Graduate University website for more information and complete submission guidelines.

Write an essay about a story or anecdote from your family lore that has never added up. Imagine various details of or revisions to the story that would make it make more sense.

Write a contemporary adaptation of a fairy tale using first-person narration from the point of view of the villain.

Write a poem in the form of a letter to an imaginary friend in which you ask them for help that begins, Dear Friend. Keeping the person or creature or entity you’re writing to in mind, include details and images that reveal your imaginary friend’s characteristics as you craft your entreaty.

The recipients of the inaugural Windham Campbell Prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and drama were announced this morning at Yale University. Each of the nine winners of the new prize will receive $150,000 to support their writing.

The winners in fiction are Tom McCarthy, James Salter, and Zoë Wicomb; the winners in nonfiction are Adina Hoffman, Jonny Steinberg, and Jeremy Scahill; the winners in drama are Naomi Wallace, Steven Adly Guirgis, and Tarell Alvin McCraney. 

Sponsored by Yale and established with a gift from the estate of the late writer Donald Windham, the Windham Campbell Literature Prizes recognize English-language writers at all stages of their careers. The prizes are named in honor of Windham and his longtime partner, the journalist and publisher Sandy M. Campbell. The prizes are administered by the Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library, which also houses Windham’s papers. The awards join a list of esteemed literary prizes already sponsored by Yale, including the Bollingen Prize for Poetry and the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

“Yale is a place that hopes to inspire and recognize greatness in every field,” said Peter Salovey, president-elect of Yale University, in a press release. “The Windham Campbell Prizes allow us to fulfill that ambition in the field of world literature in ways we are only beginning to understand.”

There is no application process for the Windham Campbell Prizes. Established professionals in each category are asked to nominate names for consideration, and a selection committee meets at Yale to name up to nine writers to receive prizes. 

The winners of the inaugural prizes will receive their awards at a ceremony at Yale during the Windham Campbell Literary Festival from September 10 to September 13 in New Haven.

“I look forward to the dialogue the winners will inspire on the Yale campus and around the world,” Salovey said. “We will learn much from our prize-winners, particularly in these first years of awarding the prize.”

In the video below, Salovey announces the prize and the first annual winners.

P&W-funded Regie Cabico is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

I recently flew to Oakland to jump-start the debut of Cupid Ain’t @#$%!: An Anti-Valentine’s Day Poetry Movement. The series, started by J. Mase the III, has a strong, queer spoken-word bent, with poets of color and queer allies coming together to rail not just about love, but also about political identity through a humor and candor that you don’t get in a lot of poetry readings. In its fifth year, the series has gone to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., and Oakland. Having performed as a gay Filipino poet for the last twenty years, it occurred to me that the Cupid Movement is giving voice to a queer culture that embraces queer allies and also fosters an intergenerational queer positive environment.

I flew in from Washington, D.C., and into The Living Room Project, an Oakland-based organization devoted to healing, wellness, and serving the queer community. I rode the BART with poet Baruch Porras Hernandez, who curates the Queer Open Mic, the longest running series in the Bay. We were later joined by J. Mase, who flew in from Chicago, as well as trans comedian Natasha Muse. The Cupid show brought in an intimate crowd of a dozen or so: mainly queer folks who heard about the show from queer artists they had been following from New York. Deb Malkin, a college friend and her girlfriend, Cholla Soledad, showed up and made the reading a Valentine’s Day compromise—since Cholla is an anti-V-day cupid-downer. Deb is a Libra romantic. As a poet who performs constantly, you never know who will come or how many folks will show up.

Mase’s poem “Neighbor” was a big hit. The poem is about a homophobic neighbor who gives Mase nasty stares: “Queer people fuck better...and you know it because you live next door...to me.” Baruch’s poem on being “thin” is the best queer poem on body image: “If I were thin I would move a pile of needles naked from one room to another...and sleep with so many skinny boys in my bed because I’d be thin and we can lie in a line on the bed...” Natasha Muse broke her stand-up set into progressions during which she spoke of coming out as trans, starting out as Ewan McGregor and then ending up looking like Nicole Kidman, so watching Moulin Rouge hits her in a very personal way. Natasha concluded her set by talking about becoming a mom and living with her female spouse. The evening had some of the best comedic queer material that I have come across. The owner of The Living Room Project, Micah Hobbes, was impressed by the talent and acknowledged humor as a healing tool.

Photos: (Top) Regie Cabico. Credit: Carlos Rodriguez (Bottom) From left to right: J Mase III, Natasha Muse, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Regie Cabico.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C. 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.

Last night, during a ceremony at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York City, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2012. 

D. A. Powell won in poetry for Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf); Ben Fountain won in fiction for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco); and Andrew Solomon won in nonfiction for Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner).

Leanne Shapton won the autobiography award for Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press); Robert A. Caro won the biography award with The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Knopf); and Marina Warner won the criticism award for Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Belknap Press). 

The winners were chosen by a panel of established literary critics from a list of thirty finalists announced this past January. The shortlist in poetry included David Ferry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press); Lucia Perillo for On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press); Allan Peterson for Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Books); and A. E. Stallings for Olives (Triquarterly). The finalists in fiction were Laurent Binet for HHhH, translated by Sam Taylor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House); Lydia Millet for Magnificence (W. W. Norton); and Zadie Smith for NW (The Penguin Press). 

The annual National Book Critics Circle awards are given for books published in the previous year. For more information about the awards, visit the NBCC website.

In the video below, watch the finalists read from their work at last night’s ceremony.   

Jennifer Karminmultidisciplinary projects have been presented at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets across the United States, Japan, Kenya, and Europe. A founding curator of the Red Rover Series, she is the author of the text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice (Flim Forum Press, 2010) and her poetry was recently published in I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues Press, 2012). Jennifer teaches in the Creative Writing program at Columbia College Chicago and at Truman College, where she works with immigrants as a community educator. She will be a guest faculty member at Naropa University in the summer of 2013.

With fellow poet Laura Goldstein, I curate the Red Rover Series (readings that play with reading). Founded in 2005, each Chicago event is designed as a reading experiment with participation by local, national, and international writers, artists, and performers. To date, we have hosted over sixty events featuring a diversity of renowned creative minds. The Readings/Workshops program at Poets & Writers has helped support many of our programs in the past few years.

Here are Laura and I in dialogue about our curation:

Karmin: From the beginning with co-founder Amina Cain and our subsequent curator Lisa Janssen, Red Rover has tried to create an environment where anything can happen and often does. Our audience never exactly knows what they're walking into. We're interested in an interdisciplinary approach to events. This often includes nonliterary genres, audience participation, exploring a theme, and playing with seating in the space.

Goldstein: I really think that our series looks at all the elements of a typical series and tries to experiment with them in order to engage an audience with being as aware as possible about what they are experiencing. How are the words presented? How do I relate to the other readers tonight? How can I incorporate the space? How can I incorporate the audience? I think that these elements are taken for granted at a lot of readings.

Karmin: We see the curator as a facilitator of group experience for the writers, artists, and audience members. This is one way we're trying to challenge the usual hierarchies that often play out in the literary and art world. Our main mode of operation is collaboration.

Goldstein: Sometimes people send us proposals as a group, and those are usually a pre-packaged deal. Those writers have been in contact so they come up with a title based on their proposed experiment. If we get individual proposals, we connect the performers and ask them to communicate a bit about what connects their ideas.

Karmin: To experiment is to try something new. To move out of your comfort zone. It's a kind of creative freedom where there's no success or failure.

Goldstein: We call them experiments because whoever is producing the poetry is asked to experiment with the ideas surrounding the work and turn that into a mode of presentation. We also like to call them experiments because there is less pressure on the participants to have something "perfect" or "complete"...it's just something that we are encouraging writers to try out in the community.

As part of the 2013 IN>TIME Festival, Red Rover Series brought the writers of Black Took Collective to Chicago for three February events. Co-Founded in 1999 by Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo V. Wilson at Cave Canem, a retreat for African American poets, Black Took Collective is a group of Black posttheorists who perform and write in hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and cutting-edge critical theory about race, gender, and sexuality. We happily received support from Poets & Writers, Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago, the Creative Writing Programs at Columbia College Chicago, and the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Thoughts on Black Took Collective’s recent Chicago visit:

J’Sun Howard, writer and dance artist: Two Macbooks with blank documents open for the audience to read periodic automatic writing from the collective, as the piece went along, spread across opposite walls from each other. The third wall facing the audience housed another projection that was a small phantasmagoric video of smiling faces behind a clear makeup-ed mask, Wilson dancing while Lundy read, and more text in bold white letters contrasted eerily with the sleekness, absoluteness, and unfussiness of the other automatic writing projections. In the center of the floor, a table held all the equipment and was flooded with microphones, water bottles, more text, poetry books, props of a gun, and a black mask.

Kenyatta Rogers, poet and teacher: At the Black Took events, I found myself engaged in an experience that combined multiple voices and mediums to give me a different vision of myself as a Black man and in some senses a ‘thing’ to be feared or misunderstood.

Jen Besemer, poet and artist: Dear Plurality of One/s, To say yes and. I can't put any of my questions into words, can only nod my kangol head as the talk happens. I am obsessed with that gun, like ‘is that thing loaded, little caps, what?’ I want to move, too. The words I can't say in the audience I could say onstage. Now why is that? I thank you.

Laura Goldstein:

our bond as an audience in the blue light, paper is hung, within
letters skip, turn into that knot ronaldo was taking about. what fits
in frame. duriel's fairy tale: feel skin, found doubt, in you. each for
each. and dawn the tone and tongue. gently peel back the sack, give heart attack.

At the end of Black Took Collective’s evening of performance, I lead a short tribute to poet, performer, and activist Jayne Cortez, who died on December 28, 2012. Calling for five volunteers from the audience, we presented a choral reading of the Cortez poem "Find Your Own Voice". One by one, I tapped the readers on their shoulders and asked each to start reading. Listening to the voices spontaneously weave together, I was reminded that curating is often a form of making a live collage and witnessing the ways creative community gets formed.

Photo: (from top) Jennifer Karmin. Credit: Amina Cain. Ronald V. Wilson, Dawn Lundy Martin. Credit: Laura Goldstein. Duriel E. Harris. Credit: Laura Goldstein.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Chicago 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.

The 2013 Susan Sontag Prize for Translation will award a grant of $5,000 for a proposed work of literary translation from French into English by a translator under the age of thirty. The deadline for applications is April 12.

The grant will be awarded in late June, and the translation must be completed by November. Eligible works include novellas, plays, and collections of poetry, short stories, or letters originally written in French. Applicants wishing to translate longer works should contact the Susan Sontag Foundation before applying so that supplementary materials can be included. Preference will be given to works that have not been previously translated.

Translators may submit a five-page sample translation of the proposed work and the same passage in the original language, along with the required application form, a personal statement, a project proposal outlining the work and describing its importance, a bibliography of the author, one academic letter of recommendation, and an official transcript from a current or most recent academic institution. Applications must be submitted via postal mail to the Susan Sontag Foundation , 76 Franklin St. #3, New York, NY 10013. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines

The winner will be notified in late June, and results will be announced on the Susan Sontag Foundation website. The winner will also be expected to participate in symposia on literary translation with established writers and translators, and give public readings of their work once the translation has been completed.

The 2012 prize was split between Julia Powers and Adam Morris, who translated Contos d'escárnio/Textos grotescos and Com os meus olhos de cão, respectively, by the Brazillian poet and novelist Hilda Hilst. The 2011 prize winner was Chenxin Jiang, for her translation from the Italian of Destino Coatto, a series of prose vignettes by Goliarda Sapienza.

The Susan Sontag Foundation Translation Prize was established in honor of Susan Sontag, who devoted much of her life’s work to championing literary translation. The prize, given annually in alternating languages, seeks to increase the practice and recognition of translation in the United States. For more information about the prize or the foundation, visit the website.  

One of the challenges of writing memoir is balancing truth and one’s subjective experience of the past. Write an essay about something that happened in your past that involved family or friends who you trust. Send your essay to one or more of these people, and ask them to read it and to point out any differences between how you presented the event and how they remember it. Use their input to revise the essay.

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