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Longtime P&W-supported sponsor and writer M. L. Liebler, author of fourteen books of poetry including The Moon A Box, which received the 2005 Patterson Poetry Award of Excellence, blogs about curating and hosting Wayne State University's Thursdays in the D in Detroit, Michigan.

On September 22, over one hundred folks packed the Scarab Arts Club in downtown Detroit’s cultural center to hear a wild, fun, and moving reading/performance by a wide variety of literary artists. Thanks to Wayne State University’s Office of Student Affairs and its great staff, I was honored to curate and host Thursdays in the D with Detroit singer/songwriter Audra Kubat, poet Brian Gilmore from D.C., deaf hip-hop star Sean Forbes from Detroit, former slam star Jeffrey McDaniel from New York City, and the insanely talented Jessica Care Moore from Detroit.

I would say 75 percent of the audience had never attended a poetry reading. The audience was made up of urban and suburban students and teachers, senior citizens, blue collar workers, labor activists, college deans, and others, all of whom came together to listen, enjoy, and join in the fun of poetry. It’s a beautiful thing to see the arts thrive in a city that has been hit very, very hard by the recession. Our community is clearly nourished by the arts, and this program was ample proof.

The program began with Detroit’s young singer/songwriter, in the Joni Mitchell tradition, Audra Kubat. Audra’s lyrics are basically poems set to music. Brain Gilmore of the D.C. poetry scene and DC Writer's Corps followed and delivered a great set of poems, with Frank F. Koscielski on piano, as a wonderful homage to Duke Ellington from his book Jungle Nights & Soda Fountain Rags. Next up was Detroit’s Sean Forbes, a deaf young hip-hop artist working with Eminem, who stunned the audience with his cool hip-hop beats and poems as he signed and spoke his work. Jeffrey McDaniel, Pitt Poetry Series author of The Endarkenment, delivered from his old school slam days a fabulous set combining high quality poetry with precision timing and showmanship. To conclude Jessica Care Moore, star of HBO Def Poetry Jam, delivered politically charged poems in the spirit of the late Gil Scott-Heron, Black Star, and Public Enemy’s Chuck D. To put the cherry on the sundae, nationally known Shakespeare impersonator Chuck Wilcox came up to the podium in costume and performed a Shakespeare sonnet!

Folks, I don’t care where you live in this great country (or world, for that matter), it just doesn’t get any better than this. Ah, Thursdays in the D makes me glad to be alive in this wonderful city.

Photo: M. L. Liebler.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Detroit, 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.

Happy Halloween! In honor of this ghoulish holiday, the Poetry Foundation has put together a sampler of Halloween poems. Read and listen to them, then write one of your own.

This fall the Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival is sponsoring a contest for stories and essays centered on the most populous borough of New York City. The organization is looking for "compelling Brooklyn stories from writers with a broad range of backgrounds and ages, who can render Brooklyn's rich soul and intangible qualities" using their actual experiences in Kings County as inspiration.

One prose writer, selected by a panel of Brooklyn authors, will receive a prize of four hundred dollars, and the winning piece will be published on the festival website. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, near the borough's downtown area.

Story and essay entries, which should range from four to ten pages (up to twenty-five hundred words), should be submitted via e-mail by November 25. There is no entry fee. For more information, visit the Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival blog.

The video below is a trailer for some of last year's festival offerings, featuring shots of Brooklyn past and present.

The 2011 ReLit Awards, celebrating books of poetry and fiction by Canadian authors published with Canadian small presses, were announced last night at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Presented along with signature rings featuring movable dials of typea gift that almost didn't come to pass this year due to funding shortagesthe awards' focus is on "ideas, not money" (no prize purse accompanies the honor).

The 2011 awards went to poet Dani Couture for Sweet and Craig Francis Power for his novel, Blood Relatives, both published by Toronto-based Pedlar Press. Tony Burgess won for his short story collection Ravenna Gets, from Anvil Press in Vancouver. The winning books were all published in 2010.

There is no entry fee for presses to submit books, which are due at the end of January each year. Visit the ReLit website for submission guidelines.

In the video below, Couture reads three poems from her winning book, including the title piece.

Last night in New York City the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation offered another group of emerging writers what could be a life- and career-altering gift. Since 1985, the foundation has annually offered fifty-thousand-dollar prizes to ten writers whose early work suggests the promise of a flourishing careerJeffrey Eugenides, Yiyun Li, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Karr, and Terrance Hayes are among the 270 poets, authors, and playwrights to have received the award in the past.

The 2011 Whiting Writers' Award honorees, most of whom have published only one book, are poets Don Mee Choi, Eduardo C. Corral, Shane McCrae, and Kerri Webster; fiction writers Scott Blackwood, Ryan Call, Daniel Orozco, and Teddy Wayne; memoirist Paul Clemens; and playwright Amy Herzog. None of these writers applied for the award; winners are nominated by a group of anonymous literary professionals, which have historically included editors, agents, bookstore owners, and critics.

Poet Mark Doty, who received the Writers' Award in 1994, delivered the prize address, encouraging the winners to "savor this brilliant occasion of attention and celebration" and store it for those inevitable occasions where rejection and self-doubt threaten to define the day.

"May these awards...help you to negotiate with your doubts," he said. "May this award lend you aid and comfort while you move ahead in what I hope will be a long, happy work in service of what is real."

In the video below, Don Mee Choi reads from her book, The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010).

My guiding philosophy of writing, maybe even of life, is that the path to the truth runs through shame. So dig through your memory banks and write about the most shameful episode you can remember. The challenge here is to provide the reader the basic dramatic context, then to slow down and move moment-to-moment during the worst of it. This need not be for general consumption. It's more an exercise in radical disclosure.
Today's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Steve Almond, whose most recent book God Bless America: Stories was published this week by Lookout Books.

Longtime P&W-supported sponsor and writer M. L. Liebler, author of fourteen books of poetry including The Moon A Box, which received the 2005 Patterson Poetry Award of Excellence, blogs about the second annual Detroit Michigan Writers' Retreat in downtown Detroit.

On the morning of September 17, about forty or so metro-area writers attended the second annual all-day Detroit Michigan Writers’ Retreat sponsored by Metro Detroit Writers and Springfed Arts at the legendary Virgil H. Carr Cultural Center in the heart of Paradise Valley. Folks arrived early for coffee, greetings, and to meet new writer friends. John D. Lamb once again offered an affordable, excellent retreat as he has since 1998. The retreat, for many years, was in northern Michigan, and each retreat featured a great lineup of acclaimed writers such as Michael Moore, Ben Hamper, Joyce Maynard, Thomas Lux, Alicia Ostriker, Dorianne Laux, and Billy Collins, among others. Last year, John moved the event from the wilderness of northern Michigan to the center of the city.

This morning began with a poetry craft talk by Denise Duhamel, who stressed the need to bring the concrete experiences of life into poems to make them as real as possible for audiences. She used examples from great works by Pablo Neruda, Ezra Pound, and Etheridge Knight. Denise was followed by Ohio novelist and memoirist Robert Olmstead, who offered detailed fiction techniques that reached many of Detroit’s fiction writers.

Following Robert's talk, writers took to the park in front of the Carr Center for lunch, gossip, and other writerly things. After lunch, E. Ethelbert Miller gave a motivational talk about the importance of being “activists for literature." I could hear by the discussions that followed, Miller's ideas resonated with Detroit-area writers. The afternoon craft talks ended with a strong presentation on memoir writing techniques and ways to get the most from our life stories. Miller shared his memoir on growing up in Trinidad and coming of age in New York City.

The day concluded with an open mic by the participants. This is the chance for attendees to share their talents, and I always find it very inspirational. Topics ranged from world peace to an exploration of diversity and multiculturalism. I was particularly struck by Ami Mattison, a Guam poet, who read an engaging poem about her life as a member of the Chamorro people.

By 6:00 that evening everyone left the retreat invigorated, charged up, and ready to take on their writing in new, inspirational ways... Success!

Photo: M. L. Liebler.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Detroit, 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.

Choose a draft of a poem that you've been working on or a poem that you aren't satisfied with. Print it out double-spaced. Write a new line between each line, then revise the poem as a whole, working to first expand it, then distill it to its most powerful form.

The San Diego City College International Book Fair, which took place in San Diego, California, October 3 to 8, featured P&W-supported writers Cris Mazza, Wanda Coleman, Austin Straus, Christopher Buckley, and Laurel Corona.

Maybe it’s because she grew up in a family of “hunters and gatherers” in the wilder parts of San Diego County that fiction writer Cris Mazza espouses a “stone soup” approach to writing. In other words, she welcomes the happy accidents that find their way into her work and is amused by the prospect of literary critics mining her pages for symbolism.

Mazza, reading from her novel Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls, was one of more than fifteen writers to present their work at the sixth annual San Diego City College International Book Fair, which took place on the community college campus. Though small compared to mega-festivals like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the City Book Fair earns the title of “International” by emphasizing writing from the U.S./Mexico border. City Works Press, a local collective based at San Diego City College (SDCC), recently published Wounded Border/Frontera Herida: Readings on the Tijuana /San Diego Region and Beyond.

Social justice is a common theme in the work of City Book Fair writers. Mazza’s latest novel chronicles the risks taken by trafficked sex workers who serve migrant farm workers in the fields. Mazza said she hoped to bring awareness to the problem. “I usually write something when I’m troubled [by an issue], not inspired,” she said. “But maybe they’re kind of the same thing.”

However, she admitted that she didn’t have any illusions about the power of fiction to stop what government and law enforcement haven’t been able to.

Later in the afternoon on October 8 (the main day of the festival), poet Wanda Coleman alluded to the Occupy San Diego protests happening downtown. Her dynamic voice and musical riffs rang through the auditorium as she bellowed, “It’s way too late—we should have protested the Civil War.”

Other readers and panelists included poet Austin Straus, novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and poet and nonfiction writer Luis Rodriguez, who drew a large crowd that included many young Latino SDCC students. Outside the auditorium, visitors browsed at booths operated by small presses and independent bookstores. A few blocks away, a crowd of protesters—accompanied by a handful of babies and dogs—held up signs saying “End War, Feed the Poor” and “Trickle down?! It NEVER RAINS in Southern California!”

Photos: (Top) P&W staff member Jamie FitzGerald (in hat) with bookfair attendees. Credit: Cheryl Klein; (bottom) Austin Straus. Credit: Cheryl Klein.

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

U.K. poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy is among the writers shortlisted for this year's T. S. Eliot Prize, given for a poetry collection published in the United Kingdom. The award, which Duffy received in 2005 for her previous collection, Rapture (Macmillan), has honored international luminaries such as Anne Carson, Mark Doty, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott since its founding in 1993.

The books up for "the most demanding of all poetry prizes," in the words of judge and poet Gillian Clarke, are:
John Burnside's Black Cat Bone (Jonathan Cape), which won the 2011 Forward Prize earlier this month
Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees (Picador)
Leontia Flynn's Profit and Loss (Jonathan Cape)
David Harsent's Night (Faber and Faber)
John Kinsella's Armour (Picador)
Esther Morgan's Grace (Bloodaxe Books)
Daljit Nagra's Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!! (Faber and Faber)
Sean O'Brien's November (Picador)
Bernard O'Donoghue's Farmer's Cross (Faber and Faber)
Memorial (Faber and Faber) by Alice Oswald, who won the Eliot Prize in 2002 for Dart (Faber and Faber)

"To me an exciting book is one that makes me want to be a poet—to stop and write a poem at that very moment," says Clarke, who will select the winner with the help of fellow poets Stephen Knight and Dennis O'Driscoll. "All these books are nourishing, exciting, and challenging. Some are more challenging, others more nourishing, but all are tremendously important to us in their different ways—in quiet ways and in pizzazzy ways."

The winner, who will receive a fifteen-thousand-pound prize (approximately twenty-four thousand dollars), will be announced by the Poetry Book Society on January 16. Each finalist will take home one thousand pounds (approximately sixteen hundred dollars).

Pick a short story by another writer and use its ending as the beginning for a new story of your own.

The Man Booker Prize was awarded last night to British author Julian Barnes, who had been a contender for the honor on three previous occasions. The author, who once called the prize "posh bingo," won this year for his best-selling novel The Sense of an Ending, published earlier this month in the United States by Knopf (the original U.K. publisher is Jonathan Cape).

Barnes, who was a finalist in 1984, 1998, and 2005, says he stands by his earlier assessment of the award as a sort of game whose outcome is dependent on the fluctuating tastes of the judging panel. For shortlisted authors full of "hope and lust and greed and expectation" he suggests treating the award as a lotterythat is, until you win and "realize that the judges are the wisest heads in literary Christendom."

This year's chair of judges, Stella Rimington, whose Booker jury faced criticism earlier this year about its prioritization of accessible books over those of high literary merit, called Barnes's book "very readable, if I may use the word." She added that it has "the markings of a classic of English literature. It is exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading."

Barnes received fifty thousand pounds (approximately seventy-nine thousand dollars). The shortlisted authors each took home twenty-five hundred pounds (approximately thirty-nine thousand dollars).

In the video below, Barnes reacts to his win.

The eighth annual Story Prize, the twenty-thousand-dollar award given for a short story collection, will be judged by an award-winning fiction writer, a translator and international literature scholar, and a memoirist who curates a celebrated reading series.

Sherman Alexie, whose most recent story collection, War Dances (Grove Press, 2009), won the PEN/Faulkner Award, will be joined by Indiana University professor Breon Mitchell, who has translated the fiction of Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, and Franz Kafka, among others. Completing the jury is Louise Steinman, curator of the Los Angeles Public Library's ALOUD reading and conversation series and author of the memoir The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War. The three will select the winner from a trio of finalists chosen by prize director Larry Dark and founder Julie Lindsay.

The Story Prize is still accepting entries of story collections published during the second half of 2011. Submissions must be made by November 15.

Finalists will be announced in January, and the winner announcement will follow an evening of readings and interviews with the finalists in New York City on March 21.

Longtime P&W-supported sponsor and writer M. L. Liebler, author of fourteen books of poetry including The Moon A Box, which received the 2005 Patterson Poetry Award of Excellence, blogs about the kickoff celebration for the second annual Detroit Michigan Writers' Retreat in downtown Detroit.

Summer in Detroit is over... the season is turning from hot and humid into fresh apple fall. There isn’t any frost on pumpkins yet, but it won’t be long before the first snowflakes fall.

Though temperatures may be dropping, Detroit's literary scene is just warming up. On September 16, Detroit kicked off another full season of literary activities with our annual Detroit Michigan Writers' Retreat in downtown Detroit. A good number of folks packed the small theater at the College for Creative Studies to listen to a diverse group of writers.

This year's readings started with the urban narrative poetry of Rutgers's Tara Betts. Tara was followed by A. Van Jordan, the current writer-in-residence at the University of Michigan, who delivered a spirited reading that combined quantum physics and comic book heroes. Poet Denise Duhamel whooed the audience with her hilarious poems that explored Barbie, sex, and other contemporary and uniquely American topics.

Readers were treated to a little fiction from Ohio novelist Robert Olmstead, as he read from his bestselling novel Coal Black Horse. Robert left the audience wanting more (and sold quite a few copies of the book!). Roger Bonair-Agard kicked it up a notch with a performance-based reading. He read poems featuring interesting moments from his childhood in Trinidad, one of which was a wonderful poem about how his aunt took him to the barber against his mother’s wishes.

Photo: M. L. Liebler.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Detroit, 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.

Compose a poem of five stanzas with four lines each. Use five of the following words: promenade, mettle, flap, azimuth, arbor, heap, mast, foxgrape. Write the final line of the poem using words whose vowel sounds contain a, e, i, o, u, in that order (for example, "The stay between window and room"). 

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