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.
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“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.
The Academy of American Poets, the 68-year-old literary nonprofit, has made headlines recently, but not for its latest party or prizewinner. In September the organization, best known for founding National Poetry Month, announced that Executive Director William Wadsworth had been asked to resign by board of directors president Henry Reath. And on November 7, the board voted to lay off eight of the Academy's seventeen employees and to subdivide its new office and rent out half of the space, which the group had renovated and moved into in August.
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.
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."
In honor of poet Robert Bly's 75th birthday last month, the Minneapolis-based Loft Literary Center, in conjunction with the McKnight Foundation, revived Bly's innovative literary magazine—originally titled The Fifties, in honor of the decade in which it was founded—by publishing the first issue of The Thousands.
A number of literary magazines—APR, Fence, McSweeney's, Open City, Pearl, Pleiades, and Verse—have in recent years pursued book publishing ventures, usually ones that include an annual book contest. Putting an electronic twist on that trend is the bimonthly online literary magazine Slope. This spring, founding editor Ethan Paquin is making the jump from Web journal to print press by launching Slope Editions, which will publish two or three books of poetry annually.
The short story collection Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee, to be published later this month by Verse Press-the nonprofit literary publisher that also publishes the triannual literary poetry journal Verse-represents a significant shift in focus for poet James Tate. The author of numerous books of poetry, including Worshipful Company of Fletchers (Ecco Press), which won a National Book Award in 1997, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning Selected Poems (1991), Tate has tackled a new genre, as well as a new way of thinking about writing.
Approximately two hundred editors, writers, and readers of small literary magazines published in the Bay Area gathered at the Black Box, a trendy Oakland theater art gallery on Sunday, November 18, for the Small Press Soiree. Dulcey Antonucci, the editor of Area i, a literary magazine that takes its name from the parking designation for residents of downtown Berkeley, collaborated with local editors to plan the evening in an effort to introduce the audience to new publications.
After 15 years of publishing, Zoland Books has ceased operations. The independent Cambridge, Massachusetts-based publishing company produced approximately 125 books by authors such as Bill Berkson, Rudy Burckhardt, Lisa Jarnot, Ha Jin, Sheila Kohler, Ange Mlinko, John Yau, and Kevin Young.
Daniel Menaker's career moves are well known in publishing circles. After twenty six years at The New Yorker-he started as a fact checker and copy editor before serving as senior editor for twenty years-Menaker moved to the position of literary editor at Random House, where he worked for the past six years. Last month, he announced that he was joining HarperCollins Publishers as executive editor of the HarperCollins imprint. Menaker will report directly to Susan Weinberg, senior vice president and editorial director of HarperCollins, Perennial, and Quill.
The term “creative communities” often evokes sequestered environments at far-flung artists’ colonies or graduate school MFA programs. This traditional notion was challenged, expanded, redefined, and reinvented during "The Future of Creativity" symposium in Chicago.
On the evening of October 29, more than seventy-five people crammed into The Red Wheelbarrow, a newly opened Anglophone bookshop, to inaugurate a reading series and celebrate two literary magazines: Upstairs at Duroc, published at the Anglo cultural center WICE, and Pharos, edited collectively by poet Alice Notley’s workshop at the British Institute in Paris. The enthusiastic crowd spilled onto the cobblestone street, smoking cigarettes and craning their necks for a view of the proceedings.
Elizabeth Alexander's new collection, Antebellum Dream Book, deals with the image of the body, a theme she visits often in her previous works. "If you let a body speak," she says, "it gives you access to all sorts of concrete sensations that are vital, the stuff of poetry, the way a poem convinces." In this interview with Natasha Trethewey, Alexander speaks to her use of race, urban life, history, and of course, the body.
“We can’t say it’s the end of irony,” said poet Carolyn Kizer, in light of the terrorist attacks on September 11. “It’s the beginning. But irony is seldom appreciated by American culture.”
Brenda Hillman's new book of poems, Cascadia, will be published by Wesleyan University Press in October. In it, Hillman returns to the ancient landform that preceded present-day California to excavate a poetics of place. Cascadia is a study of geologic as well as internal space, and the seismic shifts that occur in time through each.
With over sixty books published during a career that spans more than half a century, Robert Creeley is one of the most prolific and influential figures in American poetry. This month New Directions is publishing Just in Time: Poems 1984-1994, which collects three of Creeley’s previous books.
In such a saturated culture, how can a poet clear away uninfluenced space from which to write a poem that is authentic, original?
The author of the story collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia talks about working in a slaughterhouse, Monty Python as validation, earnestness as the enemy, and his uncanny ability to find humor in unlikely places.
Bob Wolf's Publishing House.
Poet Joy Harjo talks about how the women’s movement, jazz, and Native American and mainstream U.S. culture have influenced her work.