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The Academy of American Poets announced this afternoon that Anna Moschovakis has received its 2011 James Laughlin Prize. She receives the honor, which comes with a prize of five thousand dollars, for her second collection, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, published by Coffee House Press.

"Moschovakis boldly writes as though Plato had never kicked poets out of the Republic," says judge Brian Teare. "In You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, she takes up the citizen's task of thinking through political and existential issues relevant to lives lived in increasing dependence on Internet access and globalization both."

Beneath their controlled and imperturbable surfaces, her poems perform the painful experience of the complicity with injustice that comes with citizenship—while lamenting colonization, opportunism, and capitalism, her poems search themselves for the common root of the urge toward empire, asking: 'Is it more than you would have done?'"

Teare was joined in the selection of the winning book by poets Juliana Spahr and Mónica de la Torre.

Moschovakis, who splits her time between New York City and the Catskills, is also an editor with the Ugly Duckling Presse publishing collective and a translator. Her first book is I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone (Turtle Point Press, 2006).

The Academy awards the James Laughlin Prize annually to recognize a second poetry collection.

Anna Moschovakis Reads from You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake (Feb. 2011, Coffee House Press) from CoffeeHousePress on Vimeo.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, established nearly a century ago, was awarded over the weekend to California author Tatjana Soli for her first book, The Lotus Eaters (St. Martin's Press, 2010). Soli received the award, which carries a prize of ten thousand pounds (more than sixteen thousand dollars) and is administered by the University of Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

A panel of University of Edinburgh professors and postgraduate students selected Soli's Vietnam War–era novel from a shortlist that included David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Random House) and two other debut novels, Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge (Knopf) and Michael Nath's La Rochelle (Route). Orringer also hails from the United States (Mitchell and Nath are from the United Kingdom).

Past winners of the award include Nadine Gordimer, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Muriel Spark, and Evelyn Waugh. The prize was founded in 1919 by the widow of publisher James Tait Black to honor novels published in the previous calendar year.

In the video below, Soli discusses her origins in the short story and how she built her novel over time, as well as what she's learned about the importance of being an advocate for one's own work. "The career is so hard," she says, "that I wanted to wait and write the kind of stories that I want to write. And so I thought...if the novel gets published, good, and if it doesn't, at least I did what I wanted to do."

In Peter Schjeldahl's article, "Roots: Hopper's House," which appeared in the July 11 & 18, 2011, issue of the New Yorker, he describes the history of the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, New York, mentioning that performance artist Karen Finley conducted writing classes there this summer, during which she assigned her students to "imagine and describe their personal summer interiors." Now that the season is coming to a close, imagine your summer interior and write a poem that describes it.

Since 2007, P&W has supported literary events in Houston, Texas. Literal, Latin American Voices, an award-winning bilingual magazine, was among the first Houston organizations supported by P&W. We asked its founder and director, Rose Mary Salum, author of the short story collection Spaces in Between, to share her experience as a presenter of Latin American literature and art.

What was your most successful literary program?
One of the most successful programs we hosted this year was Poetics of Displacement: Latin American Émigré Writers and the Creative Imagination. When Gisela Heffes invited us to collaborate with Rice University on this series, we immediately agreed. The response was amazing, especially to Sergio Ramírez, who I introduced! People approached me to express their absolute satisfaction. 

What makes your programs unique?
We invite established authors from Latin America, who are perhaps not as well-known in the United States. Everyone is familiar with the boom authors—the García Marquezs and Vargas Llosas. Besides these magnificent authors, there is a vast array of writers who are innovative and at the vanguard of literature. We have always questioned the practice of promoting writers familiar to our audiences to minimize the risk of failure. Ultimately, the quality of work is what must win in the end. Having a magazine with these characteristics (bilingual with Latin American subject matter, but still international) puts us in the peculiar place of voicing a de-centered point of view that steers away from the dominant culture, and we want to keep going this way. The United States is becoming more and more aware of the vast repository of literature that exists “down there.”

How do you find and invite readers?
I carefully choose dates and venues to make it easy for people to visit. There’s a huge niche for Latin American writers and readers in the United States, but we are scattered. Houston is a gateway at the perfect geographical point of connection between a continent with two languages. The mission of Literal is to exploit this location and get these cultures closer to each other.

Has literary presenting informed your writing life?
Every time I research new authors and read their books, their work has such an impact on me that some of my guests become characters in my fiction.

What is the value of literary programs in your community?
We cannot ignore the globalized world where influences roam freely. A program about literature is all about exchanging ideas, perspectives, and culture. Having said that, the programs we organize are always centered on the idea of being a platform for dialog, even if we are not familiar with other cultures within our own borders. “There is a tendency to abstract and aestheticize the colossal displacement of peoples and their cultures generated by globalization,” explains Lorraina Pinnell. A publication like Literal has a special role in addressing, in concrete terms and forms, cross-cultural contacts whirling through Canada, the United States, and Latin America. For our part, we are dedicated to resisting this tendency to abstract an entire reality; the publication and, moreover, the events we organize present distinct regions of the Americas in their various and sometimes clashing embodiments.

Photo: P&W-supported writer Sergio Ramírez with Gisela Heffes of Rice University. Credit: Enrique Vazquez.

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.

The shortlist for the Guardian's 2011 Not the Booker prize, the newspaper's "rambunctious" answer to the major U.K. fiction award, was announced yesterday, with a novel from Brooklyn-based press Melville House among the finalists. Lars Iyer's Spurious, excerpted here, came in fifth among six titles voted on by the Guardian's readership.

To celebrate, Melville House is offering the e-book version of the novel for one dollar and eleven cents. The publisher says it will also give away advance chapters of Iyer's next book, Dogma, forthcoming in February 2012, to the first one hundred buyers of a print copy of Spurious.

The other novels up for the prize—a Guardian coffee mug—are Jude in London by Julian Gough (Old Street Publishing), The Dead Beat by Cody James (Eight Cuts Gallery Press), Fireball by Tyler Keevil (Parthian Books), English Slacker by Chris Morton (Punked Books), and King Crow by Michael Stewart (Bluemoose Books). All of the novelists are, following standard Man Booker Prize guidelines, citizens of the British Commonwealth, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

In the coming weeks, the six shortlisted titles will be discussed on the Guardian website and readers who submitted reviews of the longlisted books will be offered the chance to vote for a winner. The winner will be named a week prior to the Man Booker Prize announcement, on October 11.

The winner of this year's Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, the largest U.K.-based award for a single poem, was announced earlier today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Scottish poet Jane McKie, who runs the small publisher Knucker Press, was chosen from an all-female shortlist to win the five thousand pound prize (roughly $8,250) for her poem "Leper Window, St. Mary the Virgin."

Judge Kona Macphee says the poem, while relatively brief at forty-seven words, "epitomizes everything I love about poetry. It revels in the musicality of language and is magnificently concise, evoking a whole lost world in a dozen elegantly understated lines."

McKie has been previously honored for her debut collection, Morocco Rococo (Cinnamon Press), which was awarded the Scottish Arts Council's prize for a first book in 2007. To read her Morgan Prize–winning poem, visit the Guardian's website.

The annual prize, named for the late Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, is given for a poem by a writer of any nationality.

A man and a woman in a room. This is Salina, Kansas. He wears cufflinks on his white shirt sleeves, a silk tie. She seems preoccupied. She holds a glass in her hand. Write their story in three hundred words. Use the word "salvation" and the word "light." Make one of the pair the central character and construct the story from his or her point of view.
This week's fiction prompt comes from novelist John Dufresne, author, most recently, of the book Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months (Norton, 2010).

Washington, D.C.-based poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Shahid Reads His Own Palm and the memoir A Question of Freedom, blogs about participating in the P&W-supported reading at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. in April 2010.

Kim Roberts's anthology, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, D.C., brought D.C. poets together at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. on a sunny April Sunday in 2010. 

As soon as I arrived, I began reading a poem for Mississippi Avenue. The poem is about a couple of kids I once knew. They would play what we use to call throwback. Throwback is a game in which players would toss a football (or any ball) into a crowd of people, and then begin chasing the person who caught it. If the ball is memory, then the boys doing the chasing are hungry to remember. Full Moon on K Street is a little like that: memories we toss into crowds, then chase down. 

Just as good as the reading was Roberts's welcome. She relived the history of the project and the tidbits of D.C. history that can be found within the book as an accompaniment to the poems. Full Moon on K Street is history and poetry. Truth is, Roberts's anthology is about making memories live in the present...that’s what the reading was about too.

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.

Transcribe five sentences that you find interesting from a book or a magazine or newspaper article. Send the first half of each to a friend via e-mail and ask him or her to finish the sentence and send it back to you. Use the responses, or portions of them, as the beginnings of poem. 

The National Book Awards, a literary institution for more than sixty years, broke through their traditional submission guidelines recently, accepting for the first time an exclusively electronic book as a nominee. According to National Book Foundation (NBF) executive director Harold Augenbraum, although the rules stipulate that eligible books must be printable on paper—and the app in question, designed for the iPad, contains features such as graphics and video—the foundation reviews its guidelines annually, and broadening them to include e-books may be a natural next step.

"I wonder whether the tablet reader will lend itself to a new phase in the type of literary abstraction," Augenbraum told book culture website inReads, noting that the nominated app "combines text, graphics, and video in a seamless story. That will have an effect on the way we read. There will be people who will only want to read text, or watch video, and then there will be combinations."

Among the other books nominated for this year's awards are 191 poetry collections, 311 novels, and 441 nonfiction books.

For more of Augenbraum's behind-the-scenes perspective on the National Book Awards, check out the full interview at inReads. And stay tuned this fall as the NBF whittles down its list of nominees; the finalists for the ten-thousand-dollar prizes will be announced on October 12.

Located in Chula Vista, California, Southwestern College (SWC) hosts a Guest Writers Series. Francisco Bustos, poet, musician, member of the spoken word/music collective Frontera Drum Fusion, and professor of English composition at SWC blogs about the P&W-supported reading series.

Every month SWC invites California-based writers to share their work. We have one bilingual reading and several Spanish language readings each semester. Many writers hail from San Diego County as well as the border cities of Tijuana, Baja, and California, Mexico. Being so close to the U.S.-Mexico border gives us a unique environment, rich in culture and aesthetic diversity. Our invited writers read in various styles, from English to Spanish and from Spanish to Spanglish (a mix of Spanish and English). It is not uncommon to hear audience members switch between languages in the middle of a conversation with a writer. 

On occasion, I participate as a poet/musician in literary and cultural events on both sides of the border. This gives me opportunities to network with writers from North County, San Diego, (the U.S. side of the border) as well as writers from Mexicali (the Mexican side of the border). Because of festivals like the Tijuana Book Fair and other festivals sponsored by the Tijuana Cultural Center, I also get to meet (and subsequently invite) writers who live far from our border region. We've had writers from as far as Mexico City!

This fall we are working on a reading that will involve Uberto Stabile, Spanish editor of the poetry anthology "Tan Lejos de Dios/So Far From God," a compilation of poetry from the Mexican side of the border region. Stabile will be presenting his book across the Mexican border region this November—hopefully, if all works out, with a pit stop at our very own SWC Guest Writer Series.

Photo:  Francisco Busto.  Credit: Gerardo Navarro.

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

The winners of this year's Poetry Society of America (PSA) Chapbook Fellowships were announced this week, with two out of the four winning poets having honed their craft with Asian American poetry collective Kundiman. The two New York Fellowships, given to writers under thirty who live in the five boroughs of New York City and have not published a book, were awarded to Alison Roh Park for What We Push Against, selected by Joy Harjo, and Angela Veronica Wong for Dear Johnny, In Your Last Letter, selected by Bob Hicok.

When the announcement of the winners was made, according to Kundiman cofounder and poet Joseph O. Legaspi, the joy was palpable on the Kundiman listserv, populated by student writers, known as "fellows," and mentors who have served on the faculty of the organization's annual summer retreat. "Both winners accepted the accolades with sincere appreciation and their usual grace," Legaspi says. "They also expressed that they are carrying on the torch ignited by Hossannah Asuncion, another Kundiman fellow, who won a 2010 PSA National Chapbook Fellowship for Fragments of Loss. I love how this chosen family empowers each other."

"Over the years Kundiman has built a strong community of Asian American poets," Legaspi adds. "As for the winners, they are aesthetically very different, but they comprise the complexities of voices of the Asian American diaspora. Ultimately, the PSA Chapbook Fellowships help create a wider audience for Asian American poetry."

The national awards, which are awarded to writers of any age and from anywhere in the country who have not had a book published, went to E. J. García of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for Your bright hand, selected by Gerald Stern, and Marni Ludwig of Saint Louis for Little Box of Cotton and Lightning, selected by Susan Howe. The four winners, all of whom are women poets, will see their chapbooks published next year and will each receive one thousand dollars.

In the video below, Wong reads at a Lantern Review event held in conjunction with this year's Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference.

Go to a thrift store, explore an attic, or exchange with a friend three unfamiliar items: a piece of clothing, an object you can do something with—such as a coffee cup, a screw driver, or a letter opener, and a photograph or postcard. Wear the piece of clothing, use the object, and place the image in your work space where you can see it. Then write a scene about a character who is wearing the piece of clothing, while using the object, and has a memory filled with conflict conjured by the photograph or postcard.

The winners of the 2011 Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award have been announced. The publication prize, which has bolstered authors such as Ha Jin and Antonya Nelson early in their careers, was awarded to E. J. Levy of Washington, D.C., and Hugh Sheehy of New York City. Each will receive one thousand dollars, and the University of Georgia Press will publish their books in the fall of 2012.

Levy, whose stories and essays have appeared in the Paris Review, the New York Times, and the Nation, among other publications, won for her collection, My Life in Theory. She is also the editor of Lambda Award–winning anthology Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers (Harper Perennial, 1995).

Sheehy won for The Invisibles, which series editor Nancy Zafris described as a collection of “eerie tales extraordinarily narrated.” The title story from his winning manuscript appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2008, edited by George Pelecanos.

Along with Zafris, authors M. M. M. Hayes, Bruce Machart, Kirsten Ogden, and Lori Ostlund served as judges. The competition will accept submissions for the next O'Connor competition from April 1 to May 31, 2012.

In the video below, past winner Antonya Nelsonwho received the O'Connor Award in 1989 for what became her debut collection, The Expendables—discusses the story behind her stories.

Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Shahid Reads His Own Palm and the memoir A Question of Freedom, blogs about Washington, D.C.-based writers who are making marks.

"Flat Langston" made quite an uproar last year during the Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference. For those who are unaware, there was once a cardboard cutout of Langston Hughes at the Busboys and Poets 14th Street location. It was there before poet, photographer, go-go aficionado, and D.C. native Thomas Sayers Ellis relieved it of its duties. The uproar isn’t as important now, forgotten as most things are forgotten.

All that to say, I love listening to stories of the District's past—about spots along the U Street corridor that once housed poetry, about Toni Asante Lightfoot’s legendary reading series, and nights when Holly Bass, Kenneth Carroll, Brian Gilmore, Brandon Johnson, Ernesto Mercer, Joel Dias-Porter, and others could be found with a sheaf of poems in hand burning the night sky. I dig those stories. I dig, too, that nostalgia is the curse that ruins us. While we celebrate the folks who have made marks on the cultural scene of the District, it seems much too easy to forget about the folks who are making marks right now.

Alan King and Derrick Weston Brown, for instance, have both been putting in work as poets and workshop leaders around the city, working with the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop at Hart Middle School and Ballou High School, respectively. Fred Joiner, a jack of all trades,  along with Jon West-Bey, Executive Director of the American Poetry Museum, engineered a cultural exchange with Belfast. Add to that Kyle Dargan,  assistant professor of creative writing at American University and editor of Post No Ills. Add still Simone Jackson of Sulu DC, Silvana Straw of DC Writer’s Corp and the Marpat Foundation. More? Melanie Henderson, forth generation D.C. native and winner of the Main Street Rag prize for her lovely collection of poems, Elegies for New York Avenue.

Still want more? Kim Roberts holds it down. Sarah Browning does her thing. So does Melissa Tuckey. Sandra Beasley. All of whom are wonderful, wonderful writers. Maybe this isn't a renaissance, but it damn sure isn't a drought.

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.

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