This is not an essay. Though maybe, in a way, it is. Because it's a strange thing about essays—even talking about them, trying to get at what they are, it's hard not to cleave to the spirit of the essay, that inconclusive, most outwardly formless of forms, which spills and seeps into so many other kinds of writing-memoir, feature, commentary, review—and punctuates every assertion with a qualification, a measure of doubt, an alternate possibility.
Articles from Poet & Writers Magazine include material from the print edition plus exclusive online-only material.
Writers, publishers, and bookstore owners who have profited a great deal from the success of Oprah's Book Club reeled from the announcement on April 5 that Oprah Winfrey had made her last monthly book club selection, for nothing else could elevate a book to the status of best-seller quite like it.
Poet and editor Dave Smith will resign in July from The Southern Review, the literary journal based at Louisiana State University that he has been co-editing since 1990. Smith, who turns 60 in December, will leave Baton Rouge and the literary post of his hero, the poet Robert Penn Warren who started the journal, for a Chair in Poetry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The move will allow him to remain in the South, his home and the inspiration for much of his work.
W. S. Merwin made his first appearance at the Village Voice bookstore on May 27, the same evening a hailstorm hit Paris. Merwin is the author of 20 books of poems, four books of prose, and nearly 20 books of translations, including one of the Middle English Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is scheduled for publication in October by Knopf.
Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works, edited by Jenny Penberthy, a professor of English at Capilano College in Vancouver, was published in April by the University of California Press. The collection presents all of her surviving poetry and plays.
On April 1 Tree Swenson took up the post of executive director of the Academy of American Poets, the New York City–based membership organization responsible for founding National Poetry Month. Swenson succeeds William Wadsworth.
A new publishing model is emerging. Companies like Context Books, MacAdam/Cage, and McSweeney's Books are breaking with what has become standard publishing practice, and authors, agents, and the media are taking notice.
This year the Poetry Society of America is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Poetry in Motion—the program that brings poems to subways and buses across the country. The 92-year-old literary nonprofit is printing newly designed posters, sponsoring a poetry contest, and hosting readings in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City.
Public allegations of plagiarism are leveled at unsuspecting authors at least once a year, but their frequency doesn't diminish the calamitous results: bruised reputations, soured accusers, disenchanted readers, and riled media. This spectacle isn't, however, an invention of our media-saturated age. Public fascination with plagiarism is as old as our appetite for scandal.
The appearance of Karen Volkman's first book of poems, Crash's Law, selected for the National Poetry Series in 1995 and published by Norton the following year, signaled the arrival of a startling and canorous voice in American poetry. In the introduction to the book, series judge Heather McHugh called Volkman "an analyst of love," and remarked that the book "bespeaks a mind attuned no less to the accidents than to the orders of a sensual life."
Claudia Keelan was born in 1959 in Anaheim, California. She is the author of three books of poetry, Refinery (Cleveland State University (1994), The Secularist (University of Georgia, 1997), and Utopic (Alice James, 2000). A graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Keelan directs the MFA program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Laura Mullen was born in Los Angeles in 1958. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and currently teaches at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She is the author of The Surface (University of Illinois, 1991) and After I Was Dead (University of Georgia, 1999). Her writing has won many awards including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Wyatt Mason's Rimbaud Complete, published by Modern Library in March, is a translation of the complete writings of French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891). The book contains all of his poetry—from his earliest juvenilia to his later poems, which Rimbaud wrote in his early twenties, before he stopped writing poems altogether. The volume contains fifty pages of previously untranslated material, including all the poet's earliest verse, a school notebook, and a rough draft of his best known poem A Season In Hell.
Donald Revell grew up in the Bronx, New York. He received his Ph.D. from SUNY-Buffalo, and splits his time between Nevada and Utah, where he is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Utah. Wesleyan University Press published Revell's seventh book of poems, Arcady, in February. Written as a response to the death of his sister and only sibling, Roberta, in 1995, Arcady draws its vision from the well of Arcadia—the utopic Greek realm described as paradise by Virgil, painted by Poussin, scored by Charles Ives, and contemplated by Thoreau.
Katherine Towler spent eight years writing her first novel Snow Island, published in February by MacAdam/Cage, an independent press in San Francisco. The novel tells the story of 16-year-old Alice Daggett and a reclusive World War I veteran, George Tibbits, who live on a New England island during the first years of World War II.
So how did John Dufresne—the eldest of four children of French-Canadian parents, a boy who grew up in the Catholic, blue-collar Grafton Hill neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts, a boy for whom it was beyond imagining that a man might find his vocation in words—become a noted short story writer, a sought-after teacher of creative writing, and the author of three acclaimed novels, two of which are set well below the Mason-Dixon line? In part, the answer is a keen ear for the music of language and an eye for the telling detail.
Graywolf Press, a 26-year-old literary nonprofit publisher based in St. Paul, has entered into a new distribution deal with New York publishing giant Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Now that the explosive growth of the dot-com industry has abated, many are wondering if the same fate awaits electronic publishing. At the annual Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, where a sober crowd gathered in October 2001, just weeks after the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Pollyannaish predictions of recent years about e-books were replaced by a more uncertain tone.
Thirty-six years after his death, John Steinbeck—the Nobel Prize–winning author of American classics like The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden—is the focus of the largest-ever centenary celebration for a single author. Born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902, Steinbeck is being remembered with a yearlong program of over 175 events in 39 states.
On February 2, over 170 writers, editors, agents, and publishers from five continents attended a two-day writers conference in Geneva, Switzerland—an intensive weekend of workshops, readings, panel discussions, and networking.
On December 8, 2001, Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali died of brain cancer at the age of 52. Ali taught creative writing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for seven years, and published eight books of poetry, including Rooms Are Never Finished (Norton, 2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A posthumous collection of poems, Call Me Ishmael at Midnight, will be published by Norton in 2003.
“I am annoyed when I’m reading through the 16th century and come across underwear that did not exist,” said Margaret Atwood, who explained to a standing-room-only crowd at the Village Voice bookstore in Paris why she’s a stickler for historical accuracy in her work.
In February New Directions will publish New Collected Poems by George Oppen. Born almost a century ago, Oppen fought and was injured in World War II, published his first book when he was in his mid-twenties, then stopped writing and joined the Communist Party. Twenty-five years later he resumed writing and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his book Of Being Numerous. He died in 1984.
Ethiopian exile Nega Mezlekia's memoir, Notes From the Hyena's Belly, details his remarkable boyhood in Jijiga, a city in the eastern part of the Horn of Africa built on a "dry, sandless desert where even the smallest wind creates devils—whirlwinds of dust that rise high into the heavens and are visible from miles away."
The Great Books Foundation, which for more than 50 years has been reminding the public that a book replete with sophisticated ideas and a "good read" are not mutually exclusive, has brought that same philosophy to a new magazine. The Common Review aims to deliver the riches of intellectual engagement to a general reading audience.