Eighty-year-old Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer was named winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature at an afternoon press conference in Sweden today. "Because," says permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund, "through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."
Tranströmer, whose profession is psychology, investigates the "big questions," says Englund, such as death, history, memory, and nature, but in a way that does not belittle the human condition, but rather "makes us important."
Translated into sixty languages, Tranströmer's most recent collections published in the United States are The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions, 2006) and The Half-Finished Heaven (Graywolf Press, 2001). U.K. publisher Bloodaxe Books released an updated volume of their 1997 translation, New Collected Poems in 2010.
The Nobel has not gone to an author from Sweden since 1974, when Swedish poet Harry Martinson and Swedish novelist Eyvind Johnson shared the award.
The National Book Foundation has announced the latest crop of emerging writers to be recognized with the organization's 5 Under 35 honor. Nominated by former winners and finalists for the National Book Award, the five young fiction writers will be feted later this fall at an event hosted by John Waters in New York City.
Shani Boianjiu of Jerusalem, the youngest of the honorees at twenty-four, was selected for 5 Under 35 by Nicole Krauss. A veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, Boianjiu is working on a novel titled, "The People of Forever Are Not Afraid."
Julia Glass selected New York State native Mary Beth Keene, author of The Walking People (Mariner Books, 2009). Keene, a mother of two boys, is working on her second novel.
Alaska-born Melinda Moustakis, whose first book, Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (Unviersity of Georgia Press, 2011), won the Flannery O'Connor Award in Short Fiction, was selected by Jaimy Gordon.
Oscar Hijuelos chose Louisiana author John Corey Whaley, the first 5 Under 35 author to be recognized for young adult fiction. Whaley's debut is the novel Where Things Come Back (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011).
The 5 Under 35 celebration, held on November 14, will kick off National Book Awards week. The awards in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature will be announced at the foundation's annual dinner on November 16.
The Winter Anthology, a "collection of contemporary literature informed by history and older art, twenty-first-century science and philosophy, and the ending of print culture," is accepting entries for its 2011 contest. All submissions will be considered for publication online and subsequently in Volume 2 of the anthology, alongside the poetry or prose of the winning writer, who will be awarded one thousand dollars.
This year's judge is poet Lisa Russ Spaar, a professor at University of Virginia whose poetry books include Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999), Blue Venus (Persea Books, 2004), Satin Cash (Persea Books, 2008), and the forthcoming Vanitas, Rough, which Persea will release next year. Spaar has also published essays in Shenandoah and Virginia Quarterly Review, and her poetry appeared in Volume 1 of the Winter Anthology, with poems by Lucie Brock-Broido, Jean Valentine, and Charles Wright and novel excerpts by Karl Ove Knausgaard and Magdalena Tulli.
Works of any genre are eligible for the contest. Each entry, which may range from two poems or a single essay or story to an entire book of up to fifty pages, must be accompanied by a ten dollar reading fee.
The address for print submissions and a link to the Winter Anthology's Submishmash entry page (which requires writers to submit an eleven dollar entry fee) are posted on the contest website. Entries must be submitted by November 15, and a winner will be announced in the winter.
For the month of October, longtime P&W-supported 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 literary arts scene in Detroit, Michigan.
It’s Alive!!! From the early days of Robert Hayden in Paradise Valley to the new slam poets at the annual urban street festival, Dally in the Alley, being a writer in Detroit has always been a struggle. Motown writers have survived it all with the generosity of organizations like Poets & Writers (P&W). Since the early 1990s, P&W has helped our city’s literary arts scene sustain diverse programming through near-crippling recessions, anti-arts funding governors, Tea Party naysayers, unemployment, and the general hard times of the auto industry.
The Detroit poetry scene started to gain recognition among nontraditional audiences in 1987. Shortly thereafter, P&W expanded to the city to further stimulate the funding culture and help local arts organizations such as the National Writer’s Voice Project, Terry Blackhawk’s school-aged InsideOut Literary Arts Project, John D. Lamb’s Springfed Arts, and the Detroit Public Library leverage dollars for more literary programming. The support allowed Detroit’s struggling literary arts organizations, libraries, colleges, churches, and small reading series at galleries and coffeehouses to host writers with dignity by allowing venues to offer writers monetary compensation.
Some of Detroit’s unique literary programs that I have been fortunate to direct and host over the years include the annual Lit Fest-on-the-Lawn at the Detroit Festival for the Arts, readings at the Detroit Opera House, The Scarab ClubDowntown/Uptown Series, the monthly Detroit Tonight Live at the Music Hall, and the now legendary Annual Labor Poets Program. Our 2010 P&W-supported Annual Labor Poetry Program brought together suburbanites, urban residents, high-school and college students, professors, and union members. This has become the typical audience demographics in Detroit for the last several decades.
Writers from around the country who visit Detroit for readings, workshops, or signings quickly become aware of Detroit's supportive and dynamic literary scene. I have heard writers say they want to “move here to write and work.” In fact, some have: John Berryman, W. D. Snodgrass, Eugene Redmond—heck even Joni Mitchell lived and wrote some of her classic songs on Wayne State University’s campus in the mid-1960s.
In the poetry and lit biz, Detroit is where it’s at. From the Wayne State University Press’s long-running Made in Michigan Book Series to the local open mic down the street, Detroit is a literary arts oasis in these trying times. We are, indeed, Alive!!! Come see about us.
Find a poem that is different in style and approach than the kind of poem you usually write. Read it repeatedly until it opens for you, scan it to better understand its musical qualities, and finally memorize it. Write your own poem inspired by the poem you've studied.
A major catastrophy has occurred that has changed the way we live and the environment in which we live. Write a story that conveys this post-apocalyptic environment without describing what has happened, using the setting and characters to suggest it instead.
After odds were released earlier this week citing Syrian poet Adonis as top contender for this year's Nobel Prize for literature, the Millions released an open letter calling for Philip Roth to receive the honor—one of the only major awards missing from the Connecticut writer's resumé. As of Monday's forecast by British gambling company Ladbroke's, Roth has twenty-five-to-one odds of taking the Nobel, given to an author who has produced "the most outstanding work in an ideal direction."
"Can we please stop the nonsense and give Philip Roth a Nobel Prize for literature before he dies?" begins the letter, written by Michael Bourne, who recognizes Roth for his brilliance at tackling the subject of "the essential unknowableness of the human heart."
"The case for Roth's candidacy for a Nobel Prize isn't that he's a nice guy; it is that he's a genius, and in Roth's case, his genius lies in his audacity," Bourne says. "Audacity without intelligence begets mindless spectacle, but Philip Roth is the smartest living writer in America, and his work, good and bad, brilliant and puerile, is among the best this country has ever produced."
According to Ladbroke's, among the authors heading up the list of Roth's competition are Tomas Tranströmer (with projected odds of nine to two), Thomas Pynchon (ten to one), and Haruki Murakami (sixteen to one). Fellow American luminaries Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and Joyce Carol Oates join Roth in the twenty-five-to-one camp.
The winner of the ten-million-kronor prize (approximately $1,463,830) will be announced on a yet-undisclosed Thursday in October.
The National Poetry Series has announced the 2011 winners of its Open Competition, the annual contest for books by poets at any stage in their career. The five writers, representing both coasts and three Midwestern states, will receive one thousand dollars each and publication of their manuscripts by participating publishers.
This year Penguin Books judge Lucie Brock-Broido chose With Venom and Wonder by Julianne Buchsbaum of Lawrence, Kansas. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who is currently a university librarian, Buchsbaum is also the author of A Little Night Comes (Del Sol Press, 2005) and Slowly, Slowly, Horses (Ausable Press, 2001).
Bernadette Mayer selected Chicago poet Hannah Gamble's debut, Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast, for publication by Fence Books. Gamble's poems have appeared previously in journals such as Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, and Ecotone, which originally published the title poem from her forthcoming book (reprinted on the web forum As it Ought to Be).
For Coffee House Press, Ange Mlinko selected Green Is for World by Juliana Leslie of Santa Cruz, California. Leslie is also the author of More Radiant Signals, published in 2010 by Letter Machine Editions.
Patricia Smith chose New York City poet (and translator) Idra Novey's second collection, Exit Civilian, for publication by University of Georgia Press. Novey's first book is In the Next Country, which won the Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books in 2007. Her translations from the Spanish and Potuguese include On Elegance While Sleeping by Viscount Lascano Tegui (Dalkey Archive Press, 2010), Birds for a Demolition by Manoel de Barros (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010), and The Clean Shirt of It by Paulo Henriques Britto (BOA Editions, 2007).
D. A. Powell selected Marcus Wicker's first book, Maybe the Saddest Thing, for publication by HarperCollins. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, poet, a Cave Canem fellow who was recently a resident poet at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, has published work in DIAGRAM, jubilat, and Ninth Letter, among other journals.
The five winning books will be released by their respective publishers next summer. The deadline for next year's prize will be announced later this year.
In the video below, Wicker reads poems, including one from a series of love letters to his "secret heroes," at Cave Canem's annual retreat for fellows.
The sixth annual Dayton Literary Peace Prize, recognizing "the power of the written word to promote peace," was awarded yesterday to novelist Chang-Rae Lee and journalist-cum-memoirist Wilbert Rideau. Lee received the ten-thousand-dollar award for his fourth novel, The Surrendered (Riverhead Books), and Rideau won for his memoir, In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance (Knopf).
Lee's novel unfolds during the Korean War, examining the repercussions of violence in the decades that follow the event. "This is a big novel which steadily transcends any thematic constraints and steps into real art," says fiction judge Ron Carlson, adding, "the dimensions of the book insist on a gritty and complex understanding of our best impulses in the worst of times."
Nonfiction judge Eric Bates says of Rideau's book, completed after the author spent forty-four years incarcerated in Louisiana prisons, "For his reporting alone, Rideau has made a critical and lasting contribution to our understanding of a prison system that long ago gave up on the notion of rehabilitation. But his memoir goes far beyond the limitations of journalism. He brings to his story a deep devotion to the power of literature, drawing on traditions as diverse as Saint Augustine and Frederick Douglass to craft a dramatic and moving tale that is both deeply felt and richly observed."
The winners will be presented their awards at a ceremony on November 13 in Dayton, Ohio, the seat of the historic Dayton Peace Accords, initialed there in November 1995.
In the video below, Lee discusses his winning book with Leonard Lopate of New York City public radio station WNYC.
Writer Patricia Roth Schwartz blogs about facilitating a memoir writing workshop series in historic Seneca Falls, New York.
It’s a beautiful spring day in historic Seneca Falls. We meet in the town Recreation Center, a low brick building on the canal, which connects to the Erie, where lazy houseboats drift by on the gentle green waters dotted with ducks and waterfowl. The room we have has one enormous windowed wall. Four participants, two middle-aged and two seniors, regulars at most of the literary programs held locally, have gathered.
We plunge into our topic: "Telling the Stories of our Lives: Writing the Personal Memoir." After some discussion, we start an exercise. Following the guided visualization, everyone is asked to write from a childhood memory. As we’re beginning, a woman and her twelve-year-old daughter join us, apologizing for their lateness. I initiate introductions, settle the latecomers into chairs, bring them briefly up to speed, then encourage them both to start writing. The mother goes ahead, but the girl just sits, looking scared and confused. We’d advertised the workshop to all ages, but she's the only youngster. Her mother said she loves to write, but right now I know exactly how she’s feeling, afraid of embarrassing herself, of doing it "wrong."
My background as a psychotherapist jumps into play. "I'll help you," I say, and hunker down beside her. "Who were you thinking of?" "My granddad," she whispers. "Okay—great. Can you write him a letter, telling him what you remember?" She thinks about it. "Yes!" Her pen leaps to the page. "Good—good—keep going," I say. "Put in a lot of details, like you were looking at it in a movie."
Before we knew it, everyone, including the girl, has completed a piece. One by one the writers read aloud. When it's her turn, the girl is pleased with and excited by her letter. She shares it willingly, how her granddad would hoist her up on his shoulders when she was really little and carry her around. The group loves it and tells her as much.
"Okay," I finish. "Now when you go home, write it up really nicely and mail it to him!" The young girl beams.
Transform one of your poems into an artisanal object of some kind using found or recycled materials. Send a photograph of it to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a slideshow. Include Artisanal Object in the subject line.
Poetry and art world icon John Ashbery will be honored in November with the National Book Foundation's twenty-first Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The eighty-four-year-old author of Notes From the Air (Ecco, 2007), Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975), Some Trees (Yale University Press, 1956), and dozens of other volumes of poetry and prose will receive the award along with the winners of this year's National Book Awards at the foundation's annual dinner on November 16.
Also recognized will be Mitchell Kaplan, one of the founders of the twenty-seven-year-old Miami Book Fair International and a former president of the American Booksellers Association. Kaplan will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, previously awarded to advocates of the written word such as Dave Eggers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Terry Gross.
The foundation will announce its finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards on October 12 at Portland's Literary Arts Center, with Oregon Public Radio broadcasting the event locally and online. The winning authors will be revealed on the night of the benefit dinner.
In the video below, Ashbery, who in 2008 won the international Griffin Poetry Prize (sponsored by the Canadian organization the Griffin Trust), reads "Interesting People of Newfoundland" from Notes From the Air.
Read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” and Wells Towers’s story “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.” Both stories integrate the ancient and the contemporary in surprising and disturbing ways. (For another example read Matthew Sharpe’s novel Jamestown [Soft Skull Press, 2007]). Draft a story that does the same thing, blending the past and the present into the fictional elements of plot, setting, dialogue, and character.
This year's MacArthur Foundation Fellows, commonly referred to as recipients of the organization's "Genius" grant, have been announced. Among a class of fellows that includes a virologist, a cellist, an architect, a lawyer for elder rights, an evolutionary geneticist, and a silversmith, poet Kay Ryan is honored for her "deceptively simple verse of wisdom and elegance."
Ryan, who from 2008 to 2009 served as the sixteenth U.S. poet laureate, will receive the five-hundred-thousand-dollar prize, designed to encourage continued work, but with "no strings attached," over the next five years. Author of seven collections, she was honored earlier this year with the Pulitzer Prize for her latest book, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010).
Translator and poet A. E. Stallings, whose work is influenced by her training in classical Greek and Latin, also received the fellowship. Currently living in Athens, Stallings is recognized for "revealing the timelessness of poetic expression and antiquity's relevance for today." Aside from her translations of Plutarch, Lucretius, and other classical writers, her original works include Hapax (2006) and Archaic Smile (1999). A new poetry collection, Olives, is forthcoming in 2012 from TriQuarterly Books.
For biographies of and interviews with the 2011 fellows, who range in age from twenty-nine to sixty-seven and represent ten states, plus Washington, D.C., Greece, and British Columbia, visit the MacArthur website.
In the video below, Ryan describes the impact of the MacArthur grant, especially for a writer at sixty-five, and where she is in her work, "always just beginning."
Ruminate on the following lines by Greek poet Aeschylus: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget / falls drop by drop upon the heart, / until, in our own despair, / against our will, / comes wisdom / through the awful grace of God."
Use these lines as the epigraph to a poem. Once you've finished the poem, delete the epigraph.