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From May 19 to June 9, 2011, P&W-supported poet D. E. Connelly, author of the manuscript "A Twisted Balance: One-Line Haiku & a Few Senryu," taught a haiku workshop at the Armory Park Senior Center in Tucson, Arizona. We asked her to say a few words about the experience.

D.E. ConnellyThe poet-sage Matsuo Bashō, born 1644, wrote in memoriam of a friend, “never think of yourself / as someone who did not count— / festival of the souls.” Ueda translated this Japanese haiku into English. The poet-artist Marlene Mountain, born 1939, wrote “white sugar white flour white male”—no translation necessary: It was originally written in U.S. English. Mountain’s haiku reflects the three word-cluster device of classic one-line Japanese haiku as well as its device of image juxtaposition: The first and second word clusters are specific images; the third word cluster, “white male,” is metaphoric, resembling one (including males of color and all females) who, offering no nourishment, choose instead to promote oppressive practices that strip people and things of their inherent value. As Bashō’s tone was of his time and place, Mountain’s is of ours—and each poet agitates the soul: Will I be remembered?  How will I remembered? 

Poets & Writers remembered those of us in the Arizona desert at a time when recognition of each individual’s contribution was being white-washed. With its support and encouragement, the Armory Park Senior Center in Tucson was able to host In The Spirit of Haiku: Three Workshops & A Public Reading. Like water in the desert, sponsorship of a poetry workshop at the Center is wonderful, but rare. 

Workshop One, focusing on the haiku of Bashō (as translated by Sato), reviewed the classic poetic devices compressed within this seemingly simple one-line poem (e.g., two unequal phrases; a strong cutting word between; each phrase with its own specific imagery, which might portray the “what,” “when,” and “where” of the poet’s experience; a seasonal reference—all combined to best convey emotion in a syntax natural to the poet). 

workshop participantsWorkshop Two, focusing on the haiku of Marlene Mountain, explored how the initial haiku in U.S. English (introduced, arguably, in the 1950s) evolved into what is currently promoted in English as a form of ten-to-fourteen syllables. Throughout, but mostly in Workshop Three, attendees shared original work: One participant incorporated calligraphy; another haibun; another read haiku in German, demonstrating how sound patterns, even without sense, can convey emotion.

The public reading gave participants a chance to interact with an audience, which included a few people in their twenties from Tucson Youth Development. One youth was deeply moved by an elder’s seasonal allusion of being in her life’s “December,” with feet on fire from pain as well from an urgency to experience fully and profoundly what remains of her life.

A deep bow to Poets & Writers, the workshop participants, the audience, as well as the Armory Park Senior Center who published the participants’ haiku in its July newsletter.
   
Photos: (Top) D. E. Connelly. Credit: Tom Wuelpern; (bottom) workshop participants. Credit: D. E. Connelly.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Tucson 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.

Earlier this summer, the Guardian asked book lovers to weigh in on what title was excluded from publishers' entries for the Guardian First Book Award. While the one hundred thirty six formally submitted titles are still being read and considered, readers' recommendations have helped the prize committee select its first book for the longlist. After "lively debate" and "a fair amount of logrolling," Mexican-born author Juan Pablo Villalobos's novel, Down the Rabbit Hole, translated by Rosalind Harvey, was chosen for the first of ten semifinalist spots.

Villalobos's debut, a look at Latin America's narcotics culture from the perspective of a drug baron's son, was published in England by a new small press, And Other Stories. The indie outfit derives much of its funding from subscribers, who helped launch the press with two translations, Down the Rabbit Hole and Clemens Meyer's All the Lights (translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire), both scheduled for publication next month.

A suggestion by Guardian website commenter Teregarciadiaz was the first to alert the prize committee to Villalobos's book, which appeared last year in Spanish as Fiesta en la madriguera (Anagrama) and has since been translated into seven languages. "Reading this novel in the bloody climate that rains and thunders every day in Mexico is like walking a tightrope," Teregarciadiaz wrote. "Villalobos reminds us that we are vulnerable on the tightrope, but that the strength, imagination, and humor it's spun from hold us up over the abyss of reality and, in spite of atrocity, prevent us from falling."

The Guardian will announce the remaining debut titles longlisted for the ten-thousand-pound prize (worth roughly sixteen thousand dollars) later this month, and the winner will be revealed in the fall.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize committee announced today that its first Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award will be given to novelist and nonfiction writer Barbara Kingsolver. The ten-thousand-dollar prize, formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award but renamed to honor the late U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, celebrates an author for a body of work that promotes peace and understanding.

Kingsolver is the author of, most recently, The Lacuna (Harper, 2009), a novel examining the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Among her other works are the memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007), coauthored with her husband and daughter, and the novels The Poisonwood Bible (HarperFlamingo, 1998) and The Bean Trees (Harper and Row, 1988).

The author will receive her award on November 13 at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, the site of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. The finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction, will be revealed later this month, and the winners will be honored alongside Kingsolver.

In the video below, Kingsolver discusses nationhood, news and gossip, and schadenfreude in The Lacuna, which won the 2010 Orange Prize.

For the month of August, Washington, D.C.–based poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Shahid Reads His Own Palm and the memoir A Question of Freedom blogs about poetry in D.C. schools, Busboys and Poets, as well as his memory of being P&W-supported.

The Pen/Faulkner Foundation does great things across the district. Not only does the organization bring writers into the classroom, it also purchases a class set of the writer's book for students to read before the writer's visit. I am amazed at the many ways in which teachers and school leaders are able to tap resources and use them to provide students with a literary outlet such as this one.

Another program of note is the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop. For more than a dozen years, and under the guidance of Nancy Schwalb (the organization's founder and current executive/artistic director), the workshop has placed writers-in-residence in classrooms at Hart Middle School, Ballou Senior High School, and Simon Elementary School. The program's drama club also rewrites classic dramas, then presents their adaptations as motion pictures at the end of each school year. It’s not surprising that the workshop is excellent, what is surprising is that it has become a strong component in the academic life of so many students and is a component that lasts beyond the students' elementary, middle, or even high school years. Former students come back each year to volunteer or say hello.

Finally, there is the Folger Shakespeare Library's Poetry in the Schools program. Teri Cross Davis coordinates the program and does a fabulous job of bringing writers into classrooms across the city for four to six week sessions. All of these programs are amazing, but I’ll add this about the Folger program... I was once sent to Dunbar High under their auspices and, ironically, had the pleasure of working with an English teacher whose first year teaching was the same year my mother graduated high school. A program that is able to reach out to young teachers as well as older, more established teachers is one that should definitely be praised.

Photo: Reginald Dwayne Betts. Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washinton, 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.

Melville House Publishing, pioneer of book-trailer appreciation, is offering its entire novella library to the literary filmmaker who can come up with "the most awesome book trailer of all time." The challenge? Create a video that embodies five novellas by major international authors, all titled The Duel.

The independent press has just released the suite of novella reprints, by Giacomo Casanova, Anton Chekhov, Joseph Conrad, Heinrich von Kleist, and Alexander Kuprin, as part of its forty-two volume Art of the Novella series (the official publication date for the five is in August, but books are available now from the press). The winner of the trailer competition will receive the entire collection celebrating the "renegade art form" that doesn't often make its way into a stand-alone book, including titles by classic authors such as Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Herman Melville.

Entries, which should first be posted on YouTube, can be created using any media, from crayons to computer-generated imagery, and must be under three minutes. For all the details on how to submit a video (there is no entry fee), as well as descriptions of each version of The Duel, visit the Melville House site.

In the video below, Melville House throws the gauntlet.

Go for a walk, paying careful attention to your surroundings, until you find something that doesn't belong. It could be a piece of garbage on the street, a coin, an animal, a car battery in the woods, anything out of place. Tell the story of how it got there.

The late English poet Philip Larkin was born eighty-nine years ago this month. Begin a poem using the first lines of Larkin's oft-studied poem "Church Going," from The Less Deceived (Marvell Press, 1955): "Once I am sure there's nothing going on / I step inside, letting the door thud shut."

The Man Booker Prize panel has announced its 2011 "Booker dozen," the semifinalists for the fifty-thousand-pound novel award (approximately eighty-two thousand dollars). Among the thirteen are four first-time novelists: Yvvette Edwards, whose A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld) was more than twenty years in the making; Stephen Kelman for Pigeon English (Bloomsbury), which emerged from an agency slush pile and made its way into a bidding war; Patrick McGuinness, who has previously published two books of poetry, for The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books); and journalist and memoirist A. D. Miller for Snowdrops (Atlantic Books).

The other longlisted titles are The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape) by thrice-shortlisted author Julian Barnes; On Canaan's Side (Faber and Faber) by Sebastian Barry; Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate Books); The Sisters Brothers (Granta Books) by Patrick deWitt; Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail); The Stranger's Child (Picador) by Alan Hollinghurst, who won the Booker in 2004; Far to Go (Headline Review) by Alison Pick; The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press) by Jane Rogers; and Derby Day (Chatto & Windus) by D. J. Taylor.

Members of U.K. publishing's Independent Alliance made a strong showing, with Canongate Books of Edinburgh and London-based Atlantic Books, Faber and Faber, Granta Books, and Serpent's Tail all represented on the longlist. Also flying the indie flag are Sandstone Press in the Scottish Highlands and Seren Books, the first Welsh publisher to have one of its titles considered for the Booker.

The judging panel, chaired by Stella Rimington, former director of British intelligence agency MI5, consists of novelist Susan Hill, journalists Matthew d'Ancona and Gaby Wood, and politician Chris Mullin. It took roughly two hours of "impassioned debate, but without any acrimony and with a great deal of humor," according to Rimington, for panelists to select this year's titles from one hundred thirty-eight under consideration.

The Booker shortlist will be announced on September 6, and the winner will be named on October 18. The annual award, considered one of the most prestigious for literature in English, is given to a citizen of the British Commonwealth, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

The video below is a trailer for Kelman's Pigeon English. For further visual access to the semifinalists' works, the Guardian has the longlist in pictures.

In a radio interview this week on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, fiction writer Donald Ray Pollock, whose most recent novel, The Devil All the Time, was published this month, talked about how he learned to write by typing out a story by an established author once a week. Use Pollock’s strategy this week, typing a story by an author whose writing you admire. After typing it out, print out a copy and carry it with you, reading and rereading it, making notes along the way. Let the process reveal the story’s gifts to you. Then begin a story of your own.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest announced, for the twenty-ninth year running, the worst sentence submitted to its annual race for the most wretched first line of an imaginary novel. The writer of this year's worst opener is professor and admitted punster Sue Fondrie, who teaches in the curriculum and instruction program at University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. She will receive as her prize "a pittance."

Fondrie took top honors for the line—the shortest to win in contest history—"Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

The sentence joins a cast of other misfits, run-ons, and purple prose creations in genres such as crime, historical fiction, and romance, as well as a collection of "vile puns," selected for this year's auxiliary honors. The notable lines are posted on the Bulwer-Lytton website.

The contest, established 1982 by English professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, is named for Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, the author of the familiar opening line "It was a dark and stormy night." Entries are accepted via e-mail throughout the year.

Poet Olga Garcia, author of Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas and the chapbook Lovely Little Creatures, blogs about her experience facilitating a P&W-supported workshop at Southwest Bakersfield Library in Bakersfield, California.

When the California Center for the Book's David Gernand first connected me with Southwest Bakersfield Library to facilitate a memoir writing workshop, I had a sudden flashback.

When I was eight, my parents packed all five of us kids into an old, avocado-green station wagon and drove us to Bakersfield to pick onions. Once there, we toiled in the vicious heat, snapping enormous green scissors, filling coarse brown sacks with dusty white onions. One foreman came by every so often to halfheartedly shoo us kids off the field. Within minutes after he disappeared, we’d run back to our parents to help with the onion picking or the dragging of sacks that inevitably grew heavier with each added onion.

We were supposed to work the fields for several weeks that summer, but at night while we camped out and fought over the bare mattress laid out at the back of the station wagon, we beseeched our parents to take us home. The smell of onions permeated our clothes, skin, and hair. It burned our eyes and lingered on our tongues. After a few days, my father shook his head in defeat, saying we were the worst workers he had ever seen. As we drove out of Bakersfield, we waved goodbye to the onion fields from the rear window, promising never to return.

Thirty-three years later I’m in Bakersfield again, standing before a group of workshop participants at Southwest Library. It’s a small, ethnically diverse group of nine and their ages range from twelve to sixty. Some of them have aspirations of memoir writing; others have come simply to practice writing. I share my onion story as a means to discuss memoir writing (how place, sound, smell, and taste trigger snapshots of what we’ve lived). We do several exercises to probe into the personal stories archived in their bodies.

One exercise asks participants to write about a memorable place. Another asks them to use one of Sandra Cisneros’s vignettes as a springboard to write about their names. Both exercises produce intimate recollections, and it is through the sharing of these intimate recollections that we connect with one another.

Maria, the library branch supervisor, reveals a long-kept secret. “Well, you see,” she says “my name isn’t actually Maria.” The name was given to her by a group of Catholic nuns in the Philippines and it stuck. A great beginning to a memoir. Maritza, from Guadalajara, Mexico, was named after a character in a Brazilian soap opera. And Gene, the middle-aged man whose Mexican parents didn’t speak a word of English, was named after Gene Autry, the American performer known as the "Singing Cowboy." As Gene shares his story, his wife leans into him and mumbles, “I never knew that.”

Photo: Olga Garcia. Credit: Weenobee.com.

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

Approach a poem (or revise an existing poem) as if you were writing a fable. Keep a third-person point of view. Address the anthropomorphic qualities of the objects you introduce. Invite an animal or creature into the poem. Allow an invisible force to alter time and space. Instead of ending with a lesson or moral, try closing the poem with a question.

Earlier this month the Guardian revealed the one hundred thirty-six nominees for its annual First Book Award, posing the question, "what have we missed?" After inviting readers to suggest fiction and nonfiction titles not yet entered by publishers—who must pay an entry fee of one hundred fifty pounds (nearly two hundred fifty dollars) to submit each title—the newspaper collected more than a hundred responses, but the forum for discussion is still open.

On Monday the Guardian posted responses from a group of literary bloggers weighing in on the question. Asylum's John Self named Teju Cole's novel, Open City (Random House) as his missing title, and Bookslut's Jessa Crispin suggested Vanessa Veselka's novel, Zazen, and nonfiction title Who Is Anna Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (Feminist Press), among others. Nic Bottomley of Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights and Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles both called out the novel Snowdrops by A. D. Miller (Atlantic Books).

Fictionbitch blogger Elizabeth Baines, looking for "books that don't fit the conception of the 'market' but, with the oxygen of a prize win, have the power to capture readers' imaginations and indeed change the terms of the market," selected as one of her titles James Franco's "brilliantly written" story collection Palo Alto, published by Faber in the United Kingdom and Scribner in the United States.

For the bloggers' full lists and to offer your own nominations, visit the Guardian's website. The long- and shortlists for the prize, worth ten thousand pounds (roughly sixteen thousand dollars), will be rolled out in the coming months, with a winner announced in the late fall.

Create a main character assigning basic characteristics, such as gender, age, and physical attributes. Imagine this character having dinner with three other people. At the end of this dinner, the character will have lost something significant—a job, a partner, a home. Write this scene at dinner, and then use it as a turning point for a larger story

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia has announced its 2011 fellows in the arts. Poets CAConrad and Pattie McCarthy are among the twelve Philadelphia-area artists, musicians, and innovators awarded sixty-thousand-dollar fellowships.

Conrad, who has lived in Philadelphia for twenty-five years, is a self-taught writer for whom "poetry and other art disciplines are forms of courage.” Innovator of a type of writing he calls "(Soma)tic poetry""instructions and recipes that invite the reader-listener into deeply embodied experiences," Conrad is the author of six books including The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2009), The City Real & Imagined (Factory School, 2010), Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press, 2009), (Soma)tic Midge (Faux Press, 2008), and Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006). His latest, (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises & Poems, is forthcoming from Wave Books this fall.

McCarthy studied creative writing at Temple University, where she earned her M.A. in 1998. Experimenting with language and narrative, her collections include Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (2010), Verso (2004), and bk of (h)rs (2002), all published by Apogee Press, and she is currently at work on a project involving various Marys of history and fiction (from the Virgin Mary to Marys who figured into the Salem Witch Trials, for instance).

The awards, now in their twentieth year, are given to Philadelphia-area artists and writers at any stage in their careers. While there is an entry process for nominees, those who may apply for the annual fellowships are selected by an anonymous panel familiar with artists working in the region.

In the video below, Conrad reads from his most recent collection, The Book of Frank.

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