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Just before National Poetry Month kicked off last week, word began to spread about a major new poetry prize out of Canada. The fifty-thousand-dollar Montreal International Poetry Prize, funded by an anonymous donor, isn't honoring a poet's lifetime achievement or a major new book, but a single poem.

The prize purse is highly unusual for a single-poem competition—similar contests tend to offer a few thousand dollars, at most. (The winning poem and forty-nine finalists will also be published in a "global anthology" by Véhicule Press in the fall, and an e-book featuring one hundred additional poems is planned, as well.) We asked prize director Len Epp how he might respond to writers skeptical of the magnitude of this new contest, which Epp hopes will be able to offer the same amount annually.

"I would tell them that single works of art are often given a much greater value than fifty thousand dollars," Epp wrote in an e-mail, "and that we're trying to tell the world that a poet who can produce an excellent poem deserves an excellent reward as much as any other artist. To doubt this is to undervalue poetry in a very unfortunate way."

He added that the prize organization has "done a lot of work to establish our credentials, and we are proud of our advisory and editorial boards," which include international poets Valerie Bloom, Stephanie Bolster, Frank M. Chipasula, Fred D'Aguiar, Michael Harris, John Kinsella, Sinéad Morrissey, Odia Ofeimun, Eric Ormsby, Don Paterson, and Anand Thakore, and fiction writer Ben Okri. Former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion will judge.

The contest, looking to cull entries from international poets writing in "the various Englishes of the world," will charge an entry fee based on a sliding scale (writers in designated developing countries may pay a lower rate) ranging from fifteen to twenty-five dollars. When asked why the competition is charging a fee, Epp responded, "While we are actively seeking traditional forms of support through big sponsors and patrons, we are also committed to a self-sustaining community funding model, which would maximize our independence. As with all other poetry competitions that charge fees, entry fees go towards covering our costs, improving the prize, and guaranteeing its future."

In addition to awarding the prize, the organization has long term ambitions to provide direct funding to poets and establish a global poetry center.

More information about the Montreal International Poetry Prize and details on how to enter are available on the prize Web site. The deadline is July 8, and a discounted entry fee is available for poems submitted by April 22.

In the video below, Motion reads two poems at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival.

Take a cue from Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, which tells a single narrative in ninety-nine ways, and write a poem based on what happened just after you got up this morning. Then use one or more of these filters to revise the poem: onomatopoeia (integrating the sounds of your morning into the language of its telling), litotes (a supremely understated start to the day), overstatement (embellishing every detail), olfactory (emphasizing the morning's smells), tactile (emphasizing the morning's physical feel), gustatory (emphasizing the morning's particular taste).

Take a book off the shelf and write down the opening line. Then substitute as many words as possible with your own words, keeping the syntax and parts of speech intact. Then keep writing. Performing this kind of literary "Mad Lib" often creates a useful starting place for a story, especially when the sentence contains an intersection of character, setting, and situation. Or try using these opening lines, from Faulkner, García Márquez, and Plath, respectively:

Through the [concrete noun], between the [adjective] [concrete noun], I could see them [verb ending in "ing"].

It was inevitable: the scent of [adjective] [plural noun] always reminded him of the [noun] of [adjective] [noun].

It was a [adjective], [adjective] [season], the [same season] they [transitive verb, past tense] the [family name, plural], and I didn't know what I was doing in [city].

This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.

The finalists for the Man Booker International Prize have been announced, but if one nominee's wishes were honored, the shortlist would have to be clipped further. Best-selling author John le Carré has refused his nomination for the prize honoring achievement in fiction, saying simply that, while flattered by the recognition, he does not compete for literary awards.

Despite le Carré's request to be removed from the list of contenders, he could still be given the honor, which is offered at the discretion of a judging panel. "Le Carré's name will, of course, remain on the list," says chair of the judges Rick Gekoski. "We are disappointed that he wants to withdraw from further consideration because we are great admirers of his work."

Unlike its sister award, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the International Prize does not accept outside nominations. The finalists and winner of the sixty-thousand-pound prize (approximately ninety-six thousand dollars) are determined by a closed judging process.

In addition to le Carré, the finalists for the seventh annual award are Wang Anyi and Su Tong of China; Juan Goytisolo of Spain; James Kelman and Philip Pullman of the United Kingdom; Amin Maalouf of Lebanon; David Malouf of Australia; Dacia Maraini of Italy; Rohinton Mistry of India and Canada; and U.S. authors Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, and Anne Tyler. The winner will be announced on May 18 at the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia.

In the video below, the Daily Beast's Tina Brown speaks with Roth about the future of the novel as a literary form.

Zone 3 Press, housed at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, is accepting entries for a new book competition "open to anyone who can carve an artful exposition, drive a factual narrative, or strum a lyric sentence." One creative nonfiction manuscript will be selected for publication by the press, and the winning writer will receive one thousand dollars.

The judge is Baltimore poet and essayist Lia Purpura, author of the prose collections Increase (University of Georgia Press, 2000), On Looking (Sarabande Books, 2006), and Rough Likeness, which is forthcoming from Sarabande Books in 2012. Her poetry collections include The Brighter the Veil (Orchises Press, 1996) and King Baby (Alice James Books, 2008).

Eligible manuscripts should be 150 to 300 pages, and writers are encouraged to submit works that "embrace creative nonfiction’s potential by combining lyric exposition, researched reflection, travel dialogues, or creative criticism." The entry deadline is May 1. Complete deadlines can be found on the press's Web site.

In the video below, Purpura, whose prose works have been referred to as "lyric essays," reads from her latest collection of poetry.

Spend a few moments examining an old photograph—a found image, a photo from childhood, an iconic shot from history—and give it a title. Then put the photo aside and write a poem using this title.

The Vilcek Foundation has selected poet Charles Simic and fiction writer Dinaw Mengestu as recipients of the sixth annual Vilcek Prizes honoring foreign-born writers, artists, and scientists now living in the United States. Former U.S. poet laureate and recent Robert Frost Medal–winner Simic, born in the former Yugoslavia, received the one-hundred-thousand-dollar prize for lifetime achievement, and Mengestu, born in Ethiopia, won the twenty-five-thousand-dollar prize for creative promise.

Author of twenty poetry collections, Simic's most recent work is Master of Disguises (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). Mengestu is the author of the novels How to Read the Air (Riverhead Books, 2010) and the widely praised The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (Riverhead Books, 2007), which won the Guardian First Book Award.

The finalists for the prize for emerging writers, each receiving five thousand dollars, are poet Ilya Kaminsky (born in the former Soviet Union) and fiction writers Simon Van Booy (born in England), Téa Obreht (born in Croatia), and Vu Tran (born in Vietnam).

The literature honorees will participate in a panel, The New Vernacular: Immigrant Authors in American Literature, at New York City's Housing Works Bookstore Café on April 5. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated.

In the video below, Mengestu discusses his latest novel.

In the third person, write a scene using three different modes of narrative distance. First, using an objective point of view, describe a woman boarding a bus. Use only actions, expressions, and dialogue; make no judgments about the scene or about her interior life. Then, using the omniscient point of view, describe the woman striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to her. You can still describe what you see on the "outside," but now, reveal something "inside" that only a privileged narrator would know. (Is she late for work? Is she worried about something? Is she bored by the conversation?) Finally, shift into stream of consciousness as the woman gets off the bus. Continue to access the woman's thoughts, feelings, and memories, but use the language of the character herself, revealing "the process as well as the content of the mind," as Janet Burroway says. This wide range of voices may be extreme, but it allows for a full portrait of a character's inner and outer life—and reminds us that no point of view is static.
This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.

Kansas-born poet Ben Lerner, author of Mean Free Path (2010), Angle of Yaw (2006), and The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), has become the first American poet to win the Preis für International Poesie der Stadt Münster, a poetry translation award given biennially by the city of Münster, Germany. Lerner, whose books are all published by Copper Canyon Press, won for his debut collection, translated into German by Steffen Popp as Die Lichtenbergfiguren and published by Germany’s Luxbooks.

Past winners of the prize, given since 1993, include Tomaž Šalamun, Hugo Claus, Zbigniew Herbert, and Inger Christensen. Lerner was selected for the tenth award by judges Urs Allemann, Michael Braun, Cornelia Jentzsch, Johan P. Tammen, Wendela Beate Vilhjalmsson, and Norbert Wehr.

In the video below, Lerner reads from The Lichtenberg Figures at the College of New Jersey.

Write a poem on a page of today's newspaper, allowing your eye to wander slightly and take in the language on the page, and for your text to overlay the text on the page. If you fix your eye on a specific word or phrase, incorporate it into the composition.

For the third time in the prize's short history, the Man Asian Literary Prize has been given to an author from China. On Thursday Bi Feiyu received the thirty-thousand-dollar honor for his novel Three Sisters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), set during China's Cultural Revolution of the late sixties. The book's translators, Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin, each received five thousand dollars.

"Picking a winner from the selection of novels as rich and varied as those before us has made for an embarrassment of riches," said judge and literary critic Homi K. Bhahba during a speech at the award ceremony in Hong Kong. "For the house of fiction, as the novelist Henry James once called it, is a wondrous thing. Each window looks out on a different view. Each room provides an alternative way of living. Each door opens onto another country."

The Man Asian Literary Prize, which had for the past three years been given for a book of fiction not yet published in English and written by a citizen of one of twenty-seven Asian countries or territories, is now given for a volume already published in English. Past winners are Miguel Syjuco (Ilustrado) of the Philippines and Su Tong (The Boat to Redemption) and Jiang Rong (Wolf Totem), both of China.

Yesterday the Lambda Literary Foundation announced the finalists for its twenty-third annual "Lammy" literary awards. Books are considered on the basis of their being authored by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writers or depicting LGBT characters. 

Below are the contenders for prizes in poetry, fiction, and debut fiction, selected from a record pool of entries: 520 titles submitted by 230 publishers. The full lists of finalists in the additional Lammy categories, including biography, anthology, and erotica, are available on the Lambda Literary Foundation Web site.

Gay Poetry
darkacre by Greg Hewett (Coffee House Press)
then, we were still living by Michael Klein (GenPop Books)
Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Pleasure by Brian Teare (Ahsahta Press)
The Salt Ecstasies: Poems by James L. White (Graywolf Press)

Lesbian Poetry
Money for Sunsets by Elizabeth J. Colen (Steel Toe Books)
The Inquisition Yours by Jen Currin (Coach House Books)
The Sensual World Re-emerges by Eleanor Lerman (Sarabande Books)
White Shirt by Laurie MacFayden (Frontenac House)
T
he Nights Also by Anna Swanson (Tightrope Books)

Gay Debut Fiction
XOXO Hayden by Chris Corkum (P. D. Publishing)
Probation by Tom Mendicino (Kensington Publishing)
Bob the Book by David Pratt (Chelsea Station Editions)
The Palisades by Tom Schabarum (Cascadia Publishing)
Passes Through
by Rob Stephenson (University of Alabama Press)

Lesbian Debut Fiction
Alcestis
by Katharine Beutner (Soho Press)
Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard (The Permanent Press)
The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge (Counterpoint Press)
One More Stop by Lois Walden (Arcadia Books)

Bisexual Fiction
Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard (The Permanent Press)
If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous (Harper Perennial)
Krakow Melt by Daniel Allen Cox (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes (Harper Perennial)
Pride/Prejudice: A Novel of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Their Forbidden Lovers by Ann Herendeen (Harper Paperbacks)

Gay Fiction
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer (Soft Skull)
Consolation by Jonathan Strong (Pressed Wafer)
The Silver Hearted by David McConnell (Alyson Books)
Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett (Doubleday)

Lesbian Fiction
Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (University of Wisconsin Press)
Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle by Zelda Lockhart (LaVenson Press)
Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall (House of Anansi), also a finalist in the transgender fiction category
Homeschooling by Carol Guess (PS Publishing)
Inferno by Eileen Myles (OR Books)

The winners will be honored at a gala held at the School of Visual Arts in New York City on May 26.

In the video below, Lesbian Fiction finalist Eileen Myles discusses her nominated book.

Find a story you admire, one with a tight, linear structure. Stories by Flannery O'Connor or Tobias Wolff would be good choices. Read the story slowly and thoroughly five times, so that you are emotionally detached from the narrative, so that you are able to recognize every sentence as a moving part that contributes to the overall design. Then read it again, for a sixth time, with a notebook next to you. Chart the architecture of the story. Indicate a new paragraph with a dotted line running across the page. Separate every instance of white space with a bold line. Track each paragraph, noting every relevant element. Example: Opens with a description of setting that clues us in to the mood of despair. Character A introduced with a line of dialogue that reveals his selfishness. And so on. When you finish, write your own story that bears no resemblance to the original except in its design. Paste new flesh on an old skeleton. For canonical examples of this, compare "Mexico" by Rick Bass to "The Prophet From Jupiter" by Tony Early or "The Lady With the Pet Dog" by Anton Chekhov to "The Man With the Lapdog" by Beth Lordan.
This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Benjamin Percy, whose most recent novel, The Wilding, was published in September 2010.

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, which offers a prize of fifteen thousand dollars, was announced yesterday. MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Deborah Eisenberg received the honor, for which she will be feted at a ceremony in May, for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador). The four other finalists, including recent National Book Critics Circle Award winner Jennifer Egan, will receive five thousand dollars each.

In other fiction news, the longlist for the Orange Prize, given for a novel by a woman writer published in the United Kingdom during the previous year, was announced today. Among this year's standout authors are nine debut novelists, including much-celebrated Téa Obrecht for The Tiger's Wife (Random House) and Karen Russell—whobroke out onto the literary scene in 2006 with the story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Knopf)—for Swamplandia! (Knopf). Samantha Hunt, whose The Seas appeared in the United Kingdom six years after it debuted in the United States, is also a contender for the thirty-thousand-pound prize (approximately forty-eight thousand dollars).

The finalists, with their U.K. publishers noted, are:
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador)
The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury)
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber)
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Corsair)
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury)
The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape)
Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre)
The Seas by Samantha Hunt (Corsair)
The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (Faber and Faber)
Great House by Nicole Krauss (Viking)
The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus)
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Viking)
Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile (Serpent's Tail)
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus)
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (Serpent's Tail)
The Swimmer by Roma Tearne (Harper Press)
Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape)

"There is a scope to this list," says one judge, Susanna Reid. "If anyone has a preconception about what a woman writes about, or what a woman's novel is, I think that this will blow it away. These novels cross continents, cross generations, cross decades, and there is no subject that these writers are not willing to tackle."

The Orange Prize winner will be announced on June 8.

Choose a poem that you are in the process of revising. Draw a map of that poem, paying attention to the details of its landscape, its realities and abstractions, its landmarks, the spacial relationships among its features. Use the map to guide a revision of the initial work.

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