Hisham Matar Wins £20,000 Rathbones Folio Prize

Hisham Matar has won the 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize for his memoir, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between (Random House, 2016). Formerly known as the Folio Prize and given exclusively to fiction books, the annual £20,000 prize is now given for a book in any genre written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year.

The Return, which also won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize, follows Matar’s return to his native home of Libya in search of answers to his father’s disappearance. About the book, Folio judges Ahdaf Soueif, Rachel Holmes, and Lucy Hughes-Hallett said, “The Return shows what a novelist at the top of his game can do with nonfiction. It gives the reader the same aesthetic, the same satisfaction of the great literary works that enter our lives and stay with us forever.” In addition to The Return, Matar is the author of two acclaimed novels, In the Country of Men (2008) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2012).

The seven finalists were The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez by Laura Cumming; This Census-Taker by China Miéville; The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan; The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson; Golden Hill by Francis Spufford; Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien; and Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution & War by Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab. The finalists were chosen from sixty-two books nominated by the Folio Prize Academy, an international group of writers and critics.

Shin Yu Pai on Acts of Literary Resistance and Beyond

Shin Yu Pai is the current poet laureate of Redmond, Washington and a speaker for the Humanities Washington Speaker Bureau. She is the author of eight books of poetry and serves as poetry editor for Lawrence & Crane Publications. In addition to her work as a poet, she has published personal essays and exhibited photography and book arts at galleries and museums. She is a former poet in residence for the Seattle Art Museum and her poems have been commissioned by the Dallas Museum of Art and Yakama Nation Museum.

During National Poetry Month, I inevitably overbook events and find myself scrambling to meet my commitments. Though I love meeting new audiences, by the end of the month, I’m very ready to go back to being an introvert. Two of my favorite events this spring were programs that Poets & Writers helped to make possible.

I’ve been touring a talk for Humanities Washington that focuses on the evolution of my work as a writer—moving from the practice of ekphrastic writing to doing collaborative work with photographers, archivists, musicians, and sound engineers to arriving at a hybrid creative practice that brings together my passion for photography, sound, installation, and text in public art projects installed on bike trails and apple orchards. The talk, which includes a slide show and poetry reading, attracts people from wide backgrounds. At my program in the Seattle suburb of Burien, I talked with painter and experimental filmmaker Ken DeRoux about how working as a former museum curator and museologist has influenced my work. And sculptor Phillip Levine and I chatted about the ways in which the visual and the textual intersect. I can’t wait to visit his studio.

This past week, I visited community college students in Jared Leising’s English class at Cascadia College. I talked to students about the idea of an artful, expressive life versus putting any definition around poetry or visual arts. Before my presentation, I toured a small gallery connected to the lecture hall to view works of art responding to the theme of “resistance.” They ranged from images of protestors in Seattle’s many recent marches to more subtle takes on issues like immigration, Black Lives Matter, and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Afterwards, Jared and I talked about the strategy of ekphrastic writing—how it invites a response to an object or thing, though the thing can just as easily be a concept or idea. We spoke of how a beginning writer might enact their own resistance on the page by responding to some deeper issue or calling that brings forth some desire to speak.

As I pulled together my belongings to leave, a trio of students stopped me to ask me about translation. Linda had been translating her teacher Jared’s poems from English into Chinese and they didn’t make sense. We talked about how cultural context and story run deeper than words. Though it took me a minute to find my bearings, I remembered that the act of writing about visual arts is its own kind of translation. As we parted, Linda’s friend from Sichuan province said that they so rarely see Asian visitors in the classroom. “We’re so proud of you,” he said. His comment brought me back to the joy of public speaking—that this sharing of work need not be self-indulgent, but what it must be is a gesture towards greater connection and generosity.

Support for Readings & Workshops in Seattle 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.

Photo: Shin Yu Pai (Credit: Piper Hanson Photography).

History of a Hometown Hero


What do Ancient Rome, Western Civilization, the History of China, Early Middle Ages, the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. Constitutional History, and Dolly Parton have in common? They’re all the subjects of courses offered this past year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “Dolly Parton’s America: From Sevierville to the World” is a history class that uses Parton’s life as a lens through which to view pop culture in the twentieth century, cultural politics, and the history of the Appalachian region. Choose a local celebrity from your city, region, or state, and write a personal essay that explores the intersection of the pop icon’s cultural context and your own memories of time spent in this locale.

Legends of the Flora


In Fijian legend, a young girl falls in love with a boy from a neighboring village to the disapproval of her parents, and her tears of despair transform into red and white flowers. The hanging clusters of the elusive tagimoucia blossoms—only found regularly on one specific mountain ridge on the island of Taveuni—are the subject of a number of local Taveuni stories, several of which involve young women whose tears turn into the petals of the flower. Write a short story that revolves around an imaginary legend or folk tale about local flora. How does the story gain significance as it’s transmitted among peers and between generations? What sort of unexpected ramifications does the legend have on your characters? Who falls under its spell, and who remains immune to its powers?


Upcoming Poetry Contest Deadlines

Poets—if you’re ready to submit a poem or two to writing contests, look no further! The following contests, open to poems or groups of poems, are considering entries until June 1. Each award includes a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

Boston Review Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Boston Review is given annually for a poem or group of poems. Mónica de la Torre will judge. Entry Fee: $20

Boulevard Emerging Poets Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Boulevard is given annually for a group of poems by a poet who has not published a poetry collection with a nationally distributed press. The Boulevard editors will judge. Entry Fee: $16

Southern Humanities Review Auburn Witness Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Humanities Review is given annually for a poem of witness in honor of the late poet Jake Adam York. The winner also receives travel expenses to give a reading at Auburn University in Alabama in October. Naomi Shihab Nye will judge. Entry Fee: $15

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition: A prize of $5,000, publication in the 86th annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in August in New York City to meet one-on-one with four agents or editors is given annually for a poem, a short story, or an essay. The winner will also be interviewed in Writer’s Digest, and will receive a subscription to the Writer’s Digest Tutorials video series. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also given in each genre, including rhyming poetry and non-rhyming poetry. Entry Fee: $20

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Check out our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction,

A Rhyme Time


“’It wasn’t a rhyme time,’” said Gwendolyn Brooks in 1968, as quoted in Major Jackson’s essay “Anatomy of a Pulitzer Prize Letter” in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Brooks was speaking about her decision to move away from the sonnet and other traditional verse forms in favor of allying more closely to the black community and politically conscious poetry. Do you consider the contemporary moment a “rhyme time”? Why or why not? How might you transform the style and/or meter of your poetry to reflect your own evolving creative interests, priorities, and influences? Write a poem that marks some sort of departure from your typical work, in spirit and purpose.

End of May Prose Contest Deadlines

Attention fiction and creative nonfiction writers! You have until May 31 to submit your essays, short stories, and novels to the following contests, which offer prizes of at least $1,000 and publication:

Crab Orchard Literary Prizes: Two prizes of $1,250 each and publication in Crab Orchard Review are given annually for a short story and an essay. Entry fee: $12

Bridport Arts Centre Bridport Prize: A prize of £5,000 (approximately $6,250) each and publication in the Bridport Prize anthology is given annually for a short story. A prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,250) and publication is also given for a work of flash fiction. Peter Hobbs will judge in fiction; and Kit de Waal will judge in flash fiction. Entry fees: £10 (approximately $13) for fiction and £8 (approximately $10) for flash fiction.

BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by BOA Editions is given annually for a short story collection. Peter Conners will judge. Entry fee: $25

University of Georgia Press Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of Georgia Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Entry fee: $30

Elixir Press Fiction Award: A prize of $2,000, publication by Elixir Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a short story collection or a novel. The editors will judge. Entry fee: $40

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Carving Stories from Trees


Think of a memory in a beautiful landscape—maybe from a family vacation, or your favorite childhood destination. Now think of a scene from a story, novel, or movie that describes a landscape, and that has stuck with you. What makes these moments special? So many of the memories and stories we share are connected to place—to the landscapes of the Earth and the landscapes of our own imaginations. Write a lyric essay in which you explore the connections between literature, landscape, and your own memories. For inspiration, look at Montreal-based artist Guy Laramée’s newly released collection of sculptures, in which the artist creates landscapes from old books. 

Fashion Statement


The Met Gala is an annual fundraiser held in May to celebrate the opening of the Costume Institute’s fashion exhibit. The Gala is known for the elaborate attire of its guests, like the 2017 looks from pop icons Rihanna and Zendaya. Write a story that includes a scene in which a character briefly wears an elaborate outfit or costume. How might the clothing change the way they understand themselves? How might it change the way other characters view them? 

End of May Poetry Contest Roundup

Poets! The end of May will arrive before we know it, so it’s time to get those poems, chapbooks, and full-length manuscripts ready to submit. The following contests are open for submissions until May 31, and offer prizes of at least $1,000 and publication.

Crab Orchard Literary Prize: A prize of $1,250 and publication in Crab Orchard Review is given annually for a poem. Entry fee: $12

Southern Poetry Review Guy Owen Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Poetry Review is given annually for a poem. Entry fee: $20, which includes a subscription to Southern Poetry Review.

Anhinga Press Anhinga–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000, publication by Anhinga Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner is also invited to participate in a reading tour at select colleges in Florida. Eduardo C. Corral will judge. Entry fee $25 ($28 for electronic submissions)

Backwaters Press Backwaters Prize: A prize of $2,500 and publication by Backwaters Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Bob Hicok will judge. Entry fee: $30

Oberlin College Press FIELD Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Oberlin College Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $28, which includes a subscription to FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs