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In November, P&W-supported writer Douglas Kearney gave a reading at The Art League and led a workshop at Project Row Houses in Houston, which he writes about below. Kearney is a poet/performer/librettist based in Southern California’s Santa Clarita Valley, where he lives with his family and teaches at California Institute of the Arts. His second collection, The Black Automaton (Fence Books 2009), was a National Poetry Series selection. Red Hen Press will publish Patter in 2014.

Douglas KearneyBack in April, I had a Skype exchange with poet/activist John Pluecker and a poetry group he led at Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward. It went well enough that JP decided to get me down there to do a reading and workshop. Cool. I hadn’t been to Houston in a minute and hadn’t done much touring in the South to promote The Black Automaton. He was awarded funds from the Readings/Workshops program, which, with help from Project Row Houses, was enough to fly me down and provide a stipend. The reading was slated for Kaboom Books and the workshop, for Project Row Houses. Straightforward. But. BUT! It just so happened Houston was a great big X on the African-American Arts treasure map on November 16, 2012. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was opening “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” and The Art League was opening STACKS, a group exhibition of emerging artists curated by Robert Pruitt for five week-long residencies.

JP has his finger on the pulse of such things and wondered whether we might be able to tap in to the visual arts audiences and more of the African-American folks he hoped would come to my reading at Kaboom. So, with a week to go before the reading, hatched a plan, he did. He asked Kaboom whether they might be willing to give me up that evening. With their gracious permission, he contacted Pruitt about creating some kind of collaboration that would allow me to join the Art League artists for their opening. With his enthusiastic blessing, JP contacted me. It happened I know Pruitt’s work from a commission connected to Studio Museum in Harlem’s 2005–6 Frequency show.

So, yeah, I was interested.

The Art League opening, which featured artists Jamal Cyrus, Nathaniel Donnett, Autumn Knight, Phillip Pyle II, and M'kina Tapscott, involved a woodchipper and the woodchipper’s effect on objects that signify Blackness®. We decided I would perform eulogies for some of these objects. I thought it would be a nice processual kick in the behind to compose new work for the occasion. After all, preachers don’t get much time to write them. Ultimately, I eulogized a pair of sneakers, an afro pick, a box of Nag Champa, some bootleg t-shirts with hip hop memes on them, and a Malcolm X X-hat. You can see the ceremony here.

The next afternoon, I did a more traditional reading (with digital projector and audio) at Project Row Houses and then launched into a workshop with JP’s group, about twenty strong. The workshop—Unsung & Remixed: Using Song Lyrics in Poems—continued the multimedia/interdisciplinary theme of the visit, directing participants to write poems using Afaa Michael Weaver’s Bop form; integrate parodies of a song they were sick of; or compose a “cover” of a song they loved. An eight-year-old brought the house down and a sixty-something-year-old built it back up.

The Readings/Workshops program in conjunction with a coalition of Houston’s arts community made a fantastic trip possible. Excellent! Plus, I got to eat BBQ. Y’all need a Readings/Workshops/BBQ program. Trill.

Photo: Douglas Kearney. Credit: Eric Plattner.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Houston 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.

Write a story about the following scenario: One woman knocks on the door of another woman's house. She wants something. She lies to get what she wants. Who is she? Does she get what she wants? How does the woman who answers the door respond? Do they know each other?What happens next? 

Write a poem that is a list of people, places, and/or things that you long for. 

Kristen E. Nelson is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona. P&W has co-sponsored the center's Weekend Residency program for the past four years. Nelson is the author of Write, Dad (Unthinkable Creatures Chapbook Press, 2012), and has recently published work in Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Tarpaulin Sky Journal, Trickhouse, Dinosaur Bees, and Everyday Genius.
 
What makes your organization and its programs unique?
The mission of Casa Libre en la Solana is to support and enhance the creativity of professional and novice writers by providing a community venue for classes, readings, and other professional development opportunities.

The diversity of our programs and high level of community involvement is what makes Casa Libre stand out. In addition to our own creative writing workshops and reading/performance series, we provide an event base for many other Tucson groups, including Kore Press, Queer People of Color, Pan Left Productions, Read Between the Bars, and the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam.

What recent program have you been especially proud of?
Participants in our program Made for Flight, a transgender youth and ally empowerment workshop series, walked in the annual All Souls Procession in Tucson, a huge community procession to honor the lives of ancestors and loved ones who have passed away.

Made for Flight incorporates transgender history, ally development, creative writing, and kite building to commemorate the lives of the transgender individuals who have been murdered in the last year. TC Tolbert, Casa Libre’s assistant director, began this program three years ago, and this year we had approximately one hundred people show up to help us carry the kites that Tucson youth created in the procession.

It is inspiring to see the large number of allies who show up to lend their support to bringing awareness to the disproportionate number of transgender people (specifically women of color) who are murdered each year.

How do you find and invite writers?
Our organizational structure is a bit like an octopus. Each arm functions independently and in collaboration with the main body of the organization. Each of our programs is curated by a different local writer drawing from a diverse group.

I curate our Weekend Residency programs and through personal or professional connections have invited Camille Dungy, Samuel Ace, Maureen Seaton, and most recently Rebecca Brown to lead a weekend full of workshops and reading series. All of these Weekend Residencies could not have happened without the generous funding provided by Poets & Writers.

How has literary presenting informed your life and writing?
Casa Libre is my life. I live on the grounds in a community of seven households of writers and artists. Since I founded this place nine years ago, the programs and people who are a part of it have shaped who I am. This community is full of thinkers and creators. Every day there are conversations in our courtyards about writing projects, creative inspiration, and new programs. The Casa Libre community extends far beyond our grounds into Tucson and across the country. Passionate people who care about writing and creating come here. This is a nourishing place that I am proud to be a part of and call home.

What do you consider to be the value of literary programs for your community?
The staff and board members of Casa Libre are deeply invested in fostering creativity. We are devoted to honoring and making space for thinking, writing, conversation, art-making, and performance in a world dearly in need of artistic vision, creative solutions, and celebration of the human mind. Because we believe expression is a vital part of nourishing the human spirit, Casa Libre inspires writers and artists to take risks and manifest their artistic dreams.
 
Photo: Kristen E. Nelson. Credit: Sarah Dalby. Photo: Casa Libre's Weekend Residency with Rebecca Brown (at left). Credit: Samuel Ace.
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.

In the January/February 2013 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, memoirist Debra Gwartney offers guidance on how to write about traumatic experience. "When the action is hot, write cool," Gwartney says. "Stand back. Let your prose breathe. Don't try to convince the reader to feel a certain way—avoid yanking on the easy emotion. Instead, trust the language you've selected, the images you've constructed, the relevant detail, and give the reader plenty of room to reach the feeling independently." Write an essay about a traumatic experience from your life or the life of someone close to you, following Gwartney's advice.

Write a story using second-person narration. For an example of the use of second-person narration, read the opening lines of Jay McInerney's novel Bright Lights, Big City.

The Hong Kong-based Man Asian Literary Prize recently announced the long list for its 2012 prize. The international award is given annually for a novel by an Asian writer, written in or translated into English and published during the previous year. The winner, who will be announced in March, will receive $30,000.

The list includes Goat Days (Penguin Books India) by Benyamin of India; Between Clay and Dust (Aleph) by Musharraf Ali Farooqi of Pakistan; Another Country (Fourth Estate) by Anjali Joseph of India; The Briefcase (Counterpoint Press) by Hiromi Kawakami of Japan;Thinner Than Skin (HarperCollins Canada) by Uzma Aslam Khan of Pakistan; Ru (Clerkenwell Press) by Kim Thúy of Vietnam and Canada; Black Flower (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Young-Ha Kim of South Korea; Island of a Thousand Mirrors (Perera Hussein) by Nayomi Munaweera of Sri Lanka; Silent House (Knopf) by Orhan Pamuk of Turkey; Honour (Viking) by Elif Shafak of Turkey; Northern Girls (Penguin China) by Sheng Keyi of China; The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books) by Tan Twan Eng of Malaysia; The Road To Urbino (Abacus) by Roma Tearne of Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom; Narcopolis (Faber and Faber) by Jeet Thayil of India; and The Bathing Women (Blue Door) by Tie Ning of China.

Thúy and Tearne were eligible this year under the Prize’s new rule regarding writers who have lost their Asian nationality through state action.

In a press release, David Parker, executive director of the prize, said: “This list testifies to the strength and variety of new writing coming out of a culturally emergent Asia. It is full of stories the world hasn’t heard before and which the world needs to hear. It brings together seven books in English translation, which means that, as well as introducing exciting debut novelists, the Prize is also bringing to international attention some best-selling and important writers who are little known outside their own language communities.”

The chair of judges, international journalist and cultural critic Maya Jaggi, is joined by Vietnamese American novelist Monique Truong and award-winning Indian novelist Vikram Chandra.

The fifteen long-listed candidates will be narrowed down to a shortlist on January 9, and the winner will be announced on March 14 at a celebratory dinner in Hong Kong.

Established in 2007, the Man Asian Literary Prize is sponsored by the Man Group, which also oversees the Man Booker Prize for British literature and the Man Booker International Prize. The 2011 winner of the Asian Literary Prize was South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin for her novel Please Look After Mom (Knopf). She was the first woman and first South Korean writer to win the prize.

Visit the Man Asian Literary Prize website for more information and submission guidelines, and to find out more about the long-listed novelists.

In the video below, watch the longlist announcement from David Parker and a Q&A with Maya Jaggi. 

Today, write an elegy, a poem that is a lament for the dead. For more information about the poetic form, read the Academy of American Poets' description and examples of the elegy.

The Princeton, New Jersey-based National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its annual Open Competition. Each of the five winning poets will receive $1,000, and the winning books will be published by participating presses in the summer of 2013.

The 2012 recipients are the meatgirl whatever by Kristin Hatch of San Francisco, California, chosen by K. Silem Mohammad and to be published by Fence Books; The Narrow Circle by Nathan Hoks of Chicago, Illinois, chosen by Dean Young and to be published by Penguin Books; The Cloud that Contained the Lightning by Cynthia Lowen of Brooklyn, New York, chosen by Nikky Finney and to be published by University of Georgia Press; Visiting Hours at the Color Line by Ed Pavlić of Athens, Georgia, chosen by Dan Beachy-Quick and to be published by Milkweed Editions; Failure & I Bury the Body by Sasha West of Austin, Texas, chosen by D. Nurkse and to be published by HarperCollins.

Established in 1978, the National Poetry Series is a literary awards program that publishes five new books of poetry each year through its Open Competition. Previous winners include poets Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, Naomi Shihab Nye, Eleni Sikelianos, and Terrance Hayes. 

To enter the 2013 competition, United States residents may submit previously unpublished book-length poetry manuscripts, typically between forty-eight and sixty-four pages in length, with a thirty-dollar entry fee by February 15, 2013. For complete submission guidelines and to learn more about the Open Competition, visit the National Poetry Series website

Lee Meitzen Grue lives in downtown New Orleans. Her most recent book of poetry, Downtown, is published by Trembling Pillow Press and is made up of new and selected poems chosen for their reference to the old neighborhoods of New Orleans, including Treme, The French Quarter, Marigny, Bywater, and the Lower Nine. The book is dedicated to her friends and neighbors in the Ninth Ward, who suffered from Katrina. Grue is also former director of the New Orleans Poetry Forum and editor of the New Laurel Review. She teaches writing at the Alvar Library.

I live in the Bywater, which is part of the Ninth Ward. When we moved to the neighborhood after Hurricane Betsy, many residents were moving out. We were able to buy an Edwardian house over one hundred years old. With some renovation, we built a small West Indies–styled building and began The First Backyard Poetry Theatre.  For nineteen years, I directed the New Orleans Poetry Forum Workshop, and we held readings in the theatre until 1991. Since Katrina, we’ve hosted two art shows and continued to host readings with local and internationally known poets and musicians.

I have an MFA in writing but don’t consider myself an academic. I enjoy the world of small presses and teaching in the community. A few years ago, I discovered Poets & Writers was offering grants for readings and workshops in New Orleans. Since the Alvar Library was my neighborhood library in the Ninth Ward, I approached librarian Mary Ann Marx about applying for a grant to host some workshops. Happily she did.

Although the library was flooded after Katrina, and many of its books were ruined, the people of Bywater rallied, remodeled, and revived the library. It now features artwork by neighborhood artists, new books and programs, and a beautiful garden.

The students who attend my workshops range in age from eighteen to eighty-eight, all hues. I teach fiction and poetry classes. For fiction, I get the class writing in the first workshop and ask each writer to talk about their writing.

In poetry classes, I suggest the students read a list of books, which have included The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetics, Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, and Louis Untermeyer’s The Golden Treasury of Poetry, a book that my aunt drove fifty-five miles to Beaumont, Texas, to buy when I started writing poetry at the age of nine. It was the 1940s, but that book included women poets!

We’ve also asked the library to get us books, including Kalamu ya Salaam’s In The Bend of the River and books by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Yusef Komunyakaa, who is from Bogalusa, Louisiana. And, I recommend they read Poets & Writers Magazine, to which the library subscribes. 

We’ve collected stories for an anthology we hope to publish. Most remarkable have been the number of older students who have written books: Maggie Colllins has published a number of short stories and her novel Celestial Skies was a finalist for the William Faulkner Writing ContestEdmunc Mazeika published Peace Is Possible online. Sean David Hobbs wrote a memoir about living in Turkey, called Sex and Homeland.

Thanks to Poets & Writers, we’re now the Alvar Writers. And, thanks to Henri, the librarian at the Alvar Library, we're always stocked with a few healthy snacks and some delicious chocolate!

Photo: Lee Meitzen Grue.  Photo credit: Henri Fourroux.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in New Orleans is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. 

Choose a subject that has cultural currency: consumerism, American decline, Internet overload, trends in pop culture, celebrity fascination; take a position on it; and write an essay that explores that position. Read Christy Rampole's New York Times essay "How to Live Without Irony" as an example. For more examples, read Best American Essays Series editor Robert Atwan's "The Top 10 Essays Since 1950" in Publishers Weekly.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based literary magazine cream city review is currently accepting submissions for its annual poetry and fiction contest. Winners in each genre receive a $1,000 prize and publication in the Spring 2013 issue. The deadline for entry is December 31.

Poets and fiction writers may submit three to five poems or up to twenty pages of fiction, along with a $15 entry fee, which includes a copy of the contest issue, to cream city review, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Submissions must be typed, double-spaced (poetry may be single-spaced), and should include the author’s name and address. Winners will be announced on the cream city review website in the spring. The magazine’s annual nonfiction contest has been discontinued.

Founded in 1975 by Mary Zane Allen, cream city review is a volunteer-operated, non-profit literary magazine published twice yearly, in the spring and fall, by the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Boasting an international readership, the magazine is “devoted to publishing memorable and energetic pieces that push the boundaries of literature” and seeks to “explore the relationship between form and content.” The magazine publishes poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, comics, book reviews, literary criticism, author interviews, and original artwork. Approximately four thousand submissions are received each year from emerging and established writers. Past contributors have included Aimee Bender, Charles Bukowski, Robert Olen Butler, Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Tess Gallagher, Joy Harjo, Bob Hicok, Allison Joseph, Audre Lorde, Ben Percy, Adrienne Rich, and Alberto Ríos.

The journal’s name pays homage to Milwaukee, whose moniker “The Cream City” refers to Cream City brick, a light-yellow-colored brick made from clay native to the city, which was first produced in the early nineteenth century. For more information about cream city review and for complete submission guidelines, visit the website

Write a work of flash fiction, a story that contains the classic elements—a main character who faces a conflict that is resolved—but one that is only three hundred to one thousand words in length. For guidance, read David Gaffney’s advice in the Guardian or visit the literary magazine Flash Fiction Online.

Make a list of ten words by flipping randomly through any book—a dictionary, a poetry collection, a novel, an encyclopedia–and choosing a word you see on the page. Incorporate these words into a poem made up of three stanzas composed of five lines each.

PW-funded poet Thomas Lux blogs about Bill Knott's new collection Selected Poems. Lux is Bourne Professor of Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has two new books out this fall—the poetry collection Child Made of Sand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and his nonfiction debut From the Southland (Marick Press).

If you want to read the best poems by a poet who’s been struck by lightning at least twenty-two to twenty-three times, and you have $3.94 (three dollars and ninety four cents for a handsomely produced 192 pages!), order this book. The poet is Bill Knott, and the book is Selected Poems. I’ve loved Knott’s poems since I first read The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans, as an undergraduate in 1968. Many poems in this book I still think of as the most penetrating short lyrics of the last fifty years or so. I believe I’ve read everything he’s published since then. He’s always shifting, changing, yet always maintaining a sharp poignancy along with having an ear like a fucking angel! He plays, he dodges, and darts. Many of his poems move through me like electric eels. He’s published several books over the years—from BOA, Random House, University of Iowa Press, University of Pittsburgh Press, etc., and, most recently, in 2004, The Unsubscriber, from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Selected Poems opens with a few pages of what I’ll call anti-blurbs. They make a kind of lacerating found poem. “Bill Knott should be beaten with a flail” is one of my favorites. Nullius in verba: Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. It seems Knott’s poems piss some people off. Someone (I think S.J. Perlman) said: “What’s the point of writing if you don’t piss some people off?” Let the reader know: There are just as many positive quotes he could have used, and the prominent words that occur in those are “original” and “genius.”

Full disclosure: I know Bill Knott and saw him quite frequently—in Boston/Cambridge, Chicago, and other locales—during the ’70s and into the early ’80s. Sporadically since then. He’s also been painting for over twenty years and I have some of his artwork from the early ’90s in my house and office. We’ve been in touch recently, and he’s sent me several more paintings. They’re mostly abstract, with an occasional figurative moment, and often the ghost of a figure. I love their colors. I sense some correlation between the music/voice of his poems and the way he uses color, though I am unable to articulate that.

A small press I edited from 19701975, Barn Dream Press, published two of Knott’s early books, Nights of Naomi and Love Poems to Myself. Young poets often did that in those days (and young poets still seem to be doing it today, in print magazines, and now too with the great advantage of the Internet): you started a magazine, a small press, a reading series. The one unwritten rule then (at least to my understanding) was that you didn’t publish yourself. I reiterate: $3.94. Bill Knott, Selected Poems. One thing I remember him saying, several times: “Poetry’s an art form, it’s a craft.” Indeed it is, and he is a master of that craft. Get this book. Read the anti-blurbs first. Then decide for yourself. If you don’t find it worth $3.94, I’ll refund the money myself (if you send me the book), and I’ll refund, as well, my memories of you.

Photo: Thomas Lux

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.

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