Poets & Writers Blogs

Poets & Writers’ Seventh Annual Los Angeles Connecting Cultures Reading

Readings & Workshops (West) director Jamie Asaye FitzGerald blogs about Poets & Writers’ seventh annual Los Angeles Connecting Cultures Reading at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California.

Each year for the past seven years, Poets & Writers has held the Los Angeles Connecting Cultures Reading, which astounds audiences with the diversity of its performers and their unique voices, and the power of the work read to redeem, heal, and delight.

We select five organizations that serve culturally diverse groups and have received support from the Readings & Workshops (R&W) program to help curate the event. Each organization chooses readers to represent them at the reading. This year’s event was held at Beyond Baroque on June 4, 2017 and included 826LA, a writing and tutoring center; Beyond Baroque, a literary/arts center; the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, serving homeless and at-risk youth; Bittersweet: The Immigrant Stories, a reading featuring the voices of immigrant writers; and Urban Possibilities, serving the urban poor of Los Angeles. It’s wonderful to witness the general comradery between the presenters as they meet and discover one another’s work.

Among the eleven readers, who all gave strong readings, were four teen writers, including Xolo Maridueña, a fifteen-year-old sophomore who attended a R&W–supported writing workshop with Jeff Chang at the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory in March. Xolo read his first poem ever—a poem about falling in love, in which he wrote: “When I would see her, the butterflies in my stomach would turn into pterodactyls,” an experience I’m sure many in the audience could relate to. Also writing on the theme of love was another teen writer, Ashla Chavez Razzano, representing 826LA, who wrote, “a spider’s web taught me to love.” Nadia Villegas, also representing 826LA, read a poem about how “blue nail polish is freedom,” and Vera Castañada from the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory called the neighborhood around Cesar Chavez Avenue where she grew up, “the West Coast Ellis Island.”

So Hyun Chang, representing Bittersweet: The Immigrant Stories, read in Korean his poem “Sugarcane Arirang,” recounting the first Korean American’s long days in the sugar fields of Hawaii, where they would chant a song of hope, “arirang, arirang,” to help pass the time. Hack Hee Kang read a poem using the Korean dish bi bim bap to convey a sense of loneliness and longing, and Jun C. Kim moved silently as a recording of his poem played over the loud speaker.

Ambika Talwar, who hails from India, read on behalf of Beyond Baroque rich, evocative poems about searching for home and “the true power of your own volition.” Jessica Ceballos y Campbell also representing Beyond Baroque, read her poem from Only Light Can Do That, a collection of stories, poems, and essays published by PEN Center USA in response to the 2016 presidential election and ensuing events. Her poem, dedicated to her parents and “all of the magicians” spoke of those who make “gardens, in a world that would prefer us not to exist” and how “When man, woman, and child pour their bodies across the man-made borders they are executing a willed-intention to change what they know of the world….”

Yvette Jones-Johnson, the executive director of Urban Possibilities, spoke powerfully about homelessness in Los Angeles, citing lifelong poverty, losing everything, life after incarceration, abuse, and military trauma as some of the factors contributing to the high rates. Her readers, Keith Brown and Norma L. Eaton, are both alums of the Urban Possibilities writing empowerment program. Brown, a veteran who hails from the U.K., read a gorgeous pastoral poem reminiscent of Wordsworth, and Eaton astounded the audience with a devastating poem about her experience of homelessness. After the reading, she commented: “I felt as though I was the Reincarnation of Maya Angelou! She Understood ‘Why the Cage Bird Sang’ And I know how it feels to be homeless and destitute, knowing that ‘My Name Is Forgotten.’  I wanted the Message to be conveyed with the hope of transforming the hearts and changing the stigma of homelessness…. Sharing the stage with the other artists was phenomenal.  I sat and feasted at the table of literary Art.”

We give our thanks to the organizations, project directors, and writers who made this event possible, as well as Beyond Baroque, for hosting and for their support.

To keep up with Readings & Workshops news and events, such as Connecting Cultures, please be sure to sign up for our quarterly newsletter, Readings & Workshops Presents.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo (top): Teen poet Xolo Maridueña representing the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory. Photo (bottom): (left to right) Brandi Spaethe, Norma L. Eaton, Keith Brown, Jamie Asaye FitzGerald, Eyvette Jones-Johnson, Ambika Talwar, Hack Hee Kang, audience member, Tanya Ko Hong, Jun C. Kim. (Credit: Craig Johnson Photography).

Upcoming Poetry Contest Deadlines

Poets, start your summer on a high note by submitting your best work to writing contests! Whether you are ready to submit a single poem, chapbook, or full-length collection, the following contests offer cash prizes from $1,000 to $11,600 and publication—all with a deadline of June 30.

Bauhan Publishing May Sarton New Hampshire Book Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Bauhan Publishing, and 100 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Jennifer Militello will judge. Entry fee: $25

Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize Book Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Cider Press Review, and 25 author copies is given annually for a first or second poetry collection. The editors will judge. Entry Fee: $26

Munster Literature Center Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,060) and publication by the Munster Literature Center is given annually for a poetry chapbook. Entry fee: $26

National Poetry Review Press Book Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by National Poetry Review Press is given annually for a poetry collection. C. J. Sage will judge. Entry Fee: $27

Omnidawn Publishing First/Second Poetry Book Prize: A prize of $3,000, publication by Omnidawn Publishing, and 100 author copies is given annually for a first or second poetry collection. Myung Mi Kim will judge. Entry Fee: $27

Parlor Press New Measure Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Parlor Press in its Free Verse Editions series is given annually for a poetry collection. Marianne Boruch will judge. Entry Fee: $28

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize: A prize of $15,000 AUD (approximately $11,600) and publication in an e-book anthology is given annually for a poem. A second-place prize of $5,000 AUD (approximately $3,870) and publication is also given. Billy Collins will judge. Entry fee: $26

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, and nonfiction.

Milkweed Announces Inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize

Milkweed Editions, in partnership with the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, has announced its inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. An award of $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions in April 2018 will be given for a debut poetry collection. Award-winning poet Henri Cole will judge.

Poets currently residing in the United States are eligible to apply. Using the online submission system, submit a manuscript of at least 48 pages with a $25 entry fee between July 1 and August 31. Judge Henri Cole has selected four emerging poets as first readers for the prize: Ruth Awad, Graham Barnhart, Lauren Cook, Allison Pitinii Davis, and Jordan Zandi.

The prize honors the legacy of Max Ritvo, who Milkweed publisher Daniel Slager describes as “one of the most original and accomplished poets to emerge in recent years.” The press published Ritvo’s debut collection, Four Reincarnations, in 2016, a month after he died of cancer at the age of twenty-five. With an award amount of $10,000, the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize is now one of the richest first-book prizes in the United States. Visit the Milkweed website for more information and complete submission guidelines.

For more upcoming poetry and prose deadlines, visit pw.org/grants. Read more about Ritvo in “The World Beyond: A Last Interview With Max Ritvo,” written by poet Dorothea Lasky and published as on online exclusive for Poets & Writers.

Photo: Max Ritvo; Credit: Ashley Woo

David Grossman Wins Booker International Prize

Last night at ceremony in London, Israeli author David Grossman was announced the winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for his novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar (Jonathan Cape). The annual £50,000 (approximately $63,600) award is given for a book of fiction translated from any language into English and published in the U.K. during the award year. The prize will be split between the author and his translator, Jessica Cohen.

The finalists, who each receive £1,000 (approximately $1,270), included French author Mathias Énard for Compass (Fitzcarraldo Editions); Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen for The Unseen (Maclehose); Danish author Dorthe Nors for Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (Pushkin Press); Israeli author Amos Oz for Judas (Chatto & Windus); and Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin for Fever Dream (Oneworld).

Set in a comedy club in a small Israeli town, A Horse Walks Into a Bar centers on a veteran comedian’s act as he confesses past wounds and unravels onstage. Judges Nick Barley (chair), Daniel Hahn, Helen Mort, Elif Şafak, and Chika Unigwe Barley selected Grossman’s novel from a list of 126 titles. Barley commented: “A Horse Walks Into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft.”

Grossman, sixty-three, was born in and currently resides in Jerusalem. He is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, which have been translated into thirty-six languages. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Frankfurt Peace Prize, Israel’s Emet Prize, and the French Chevalier de l’Ordre Arts et des Lettres. He is the first Israeli author to win the Man Booker International Prize.

The Man Booker International Prize was created in 2005 to highlight “one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.” Until 2015, the award was given biennially to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available widely in translation.

Below, watch chair of the judges Nick Barley comment on this year’s winning novel, and visit the Man Booker website for more information about the prize.

The First-Ever Poetry Workshop at Footsteps

Jessica Greenbaum’s most recent book of poems is The Two Yvonnes (Princeton University Press, 2012). Recipient of an NEA award in 2015 and the Poetry Society’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award in 2016, she is a social worker and teaches inside and outside academia, most recently at Barnard, Central Synagogue, Brooklyn Poets, Footsteps, and for 9/11 first responders through the World Trade Center’s Health Program. You can find out more about her work at poemsincommunity.org.

Last winter, Poets & Writers supported a poetry workshop at Footsteps, the only agency in North America providing services for people venturing out of the insular world of Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy. I had heard about Footsteps through a fellow social worker, Jesse Pietroniro, who was a Footsteps staff member—and I was immediately drawn to working with this community.  (A stellar feature piece about Footsteps, “The High Price of Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Life,” was recently published in the New York Times Magazine.) Jesse helped champion the notion of a workshop to his colleagues, but it was clear that any payment was going to have to come from an outside source. Luckily, a friend introduced me to Emily Rubin, a writer who has been supported by P&W for her workshops with cancer survivors, their families and caregivers, at two hospitals in New York City. Emily told me about P&W’s grant program, and after I reached out to the director of Readings & Workshops (East) Bonnie Rose Marcus, it took P&W almost no time at all to recognize Footsteppers—as they call themselves—as an underserved population if ever there was one.

Because we ran the five weeks of workshops as open door sessions, participants often overlapped from the week before, but each week the room held new people and a varied dynamic. One participant had been writing for years, and was just awaiting the publication of her chapbook, while others came as novices. Very little is as refreshing—and instructive—as the passion of a reader without internalized hierarchies. Discussing the poem of a laureled poet one participant said, “I hate this guy!” This same participant also unpacked more exciting ideas from another well-known poet’s six-line poem than I ever had, adding, “I love this stuff!” Because Footsteppers have learned to survive by listening to their true thoughts, they have honed the tools of a poet—an honest listening—before even stepping into the room.

The big decision in such a workshop is: How overtly therapeutic should the workshop feel—and still offer poetry writing as a means of expression for everyone? In order to best serve the Footsteppers, how directly should I address issues of identity, family abandonment, trauma, and the other emotional weather systems in the world of people leaving an insular community? From the work I had done with 9/11 first responders, and in consultation with studies used by the NEA’s writing program for veterans suffering from PTSD, I decided to offer some model poems that would touch on those issues at a slant, but that the workshop would present itself more neutrally, almost like a cooking class, and that I would follow where discussion and concerns wandered.

As so often happens, class prompts allowed participants to have spontaneous, organic responses. When asked to recount, as if telling the story to a friend, an incident from childhood that remained resonant for them, participants found their way to anecdotes that seem to hold whole microcosms of their bigger histories. And a prompt to follow stream of consciousness did the same.

Find a community with a tragic amount unsaid and you’ll find a workshop with a true reason for finding words. Find people who have lost a profound sense of their past in order to shape their true selves, and you’ll find poems that blaze with life force and discovery.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: (top) Jessica Greenbaum (Credit: Leslie Jean-Bart).

Oswald, Abel Win 2017 Griffin Poetry Prizes

Alice Oswald and Jordan Abel have won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prizes, given annually for poetry collections written or translated into English and published in the previous year. Oswald won the international prize for her collection Falling Awake (Norton), and Abel won the Canadian prize for Injun (Talonbooks). They each received $65,000 Canadian (approximately $48,000).

Judges Sue Goyette, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and George Szirtes selected the winners from 617 submissions from 39 countries around the world.

British poet Alice Oswald has written seven poetry collections and lives in Devon, England. “Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake presents as a dark text to (re)turn (in)to, its language of ‘… maybe the last green places[…]’ striking bright inscriptions that may have been ‘falling for a long time,’” write the judges in their citation. “How fortunate we are to tread the paths of myth and that which presupposes it, and us: line, image, lilt.”

Winner of the Canadian prize, Jordan Abel has written three poetry collections, which deal with representation of indigenous peoples in anthropology and popular culture. In their citation of Abel’s work, the judges write, “Jordan Abel’s collection Injun evacuates the subtexts of possession, territory, and erasure…. Words are restored to their constituent elements as countermovements in Abel’s hands, just as they are divested of their capacity for productive violence.”

The shortlisted poets for the international prize were Jane Mead for World of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books), Donald Nicholson-Smith for his translation from the French of Abdellatif Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat (Archipelago Books), and Denise Riley for Say Something Back (Picador). The shortlisted poets for the Canadian prize were Hoa Nguyen for Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books) and Sandra Ridley for Silvija (BookThug). Each of the finalists received $10,000.

The winners were announced on Thursday night at a ceremony in Toronto. During the ceremony, American poet Frank Bidart was also honored with the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Established in 2000, the Griffin Poetry Prize was founded to “serve and encourage excellence in poetry.” Each year the International Prize is given to a poet from any country whose book is published in English; the Canadian Prize is given to a Canadian poet. Submissions for the 2018 prize are currently open.

Naomi Alderman Wins Baileys Prize

British writer Naomi Alderman has won the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for her novel The Power (Viking). Alderman, who was announced the winner at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday night, will receive £30,000 (approximately $39,000). The annual award is given for a book of fiction written by a woman from anywhere in the world and published in the previous year.

“We debated this wonderful shortlist for many hours but kept returning to Naomi Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia—her big ideas and her fantastic imagination,” says Tessa Ross, who chaired the judging panel. The other judges for the 2017 prize were Sam Baker, Katie Derham, Aminatta Forna, and Sara Pascoe.

The shortlisted writers for the prize were Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ for Stay With Me, Linda Grant for The Dark Circle, C. E. Morgan for The Sport of Kings, Gwendoline Riley for First Love, and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

The Power is Alderman’s fourth novel and is set in a dystopian future in which a genetic mutation allows women to electrocute people at will. Critics have likened the book, which Alderman dedicated to Margaret Atwood and her husband Graeme Gibson, to Atwood’s classic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Alderman, who is forty-two and lives in London, also writes video games and teaches at Bath Spa University.

Previous winners of the prize include Lisa McInerney, Ali Smith, Eimear McBride, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, the prize was sponsored by the liqueur company Baileys starting with the 2014 prize. In January of this year it was announced that the prize will no longer be sponsored solely by Baileys but by a group of brands and businesses. The prize will now be called the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

 

It Happens Every Spring in Harlem: A Festival of Poetry

Gregory Crosby is the author of Spooky Action at a Distance (The Operating System, 2014) and The Book of Thirteen (Yes, Poetry, 2016). He teaches creative writing for the College Now program at Lehman College in Bronx, New York.

The Harlem Rhymers are laying it down, beating out the rhythm of the poem with claps and snaps, a row of middle school girls in matching white T-shirts that pop against the red-curtained backdrop of the Marian Anderson Theater stage, bringing the words home and the house down with their choreographed truth:

Pretty hurts, yeah
We know
But these scars aren’t
Here just for show
Work to be skinny
Work to get money
You’re already beautiful enough
That’s the truth, honey!

After the wild applause dies down, these students from PS/IS 180 beam as they pose for photographs with author Jacqueline Woodson, the 45th Special Guest Poet at the City College of New York’s Annual Poetry Festival. Every May for nearly a half-century, students from New York City public schools have gathered to read their winning poems at this day-long celebration of the spoken word, and to hear poets and writers like Woodson (whose appearance was funded in part by the Readings & Workshops program at Poets & Writers) read their work, along with student poets in the MFA Creative Writing program at the City College of New York (CCNY), faculty, and others.

Founded by the poet Barry Wallenstein, the Poetry Festival is the culmination of a year’s work by the CCNY Poetry Outreach Center. Directed by poet and YA author Pamela Laskin, the center sends mentors into New York City schools to conduct poetry workshops; the day’s readings by elementary and middle school poets are the fruit of those sessions. In the afternoon, the winners of the citywide high school poetry contest (sponsored by Alfred K. Knopf), read their poems from the stage. In addition to reading their work aloud for peers and parents, these students enjoy the thrill of seeing their work in print. All poems read on the day of the festival are collected and published in the autumn in the annual anthology Poetry in Performance. Copies are sent to all participants as well as to school libraries around the city.

In the current educational landscape, when poetry as a subject is often sadly shunted aside in favor of mandatory (and seemingly endless) standardized test preparation, CCNY’s Poetry Outreach Center offers many students crucial exposure to the pleasures of writing poetry. Thanks to the contributions of donors, particularly the generous and stalwart support of the Poets & Writers Readings & Workshops program, the center continues its mission, adding new participating schools nearly every year and welcoming returning ones. Every year or two, a new crop of Harlem Rhymers finds the voice that only poetry can give, and takes the stage at the festival to wow another audience with the power of that voice.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Gregory Crosby (Credit: Gregory Crosby). (bottom) Jacqueline Woodson and the Harlem Rhymers (Credit: Lesley Simmonds).

Center for Fiction Announces Fellows

The Center for Fiction has announced the recipients of the 2017 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowships. Nine awards of $5,000 each are given annually to emerging fiction writers living in New York City.

The 2017 fellows are Amna Ahmad, Charlotte Crowe, Dana Czapnik, Erik Hoel, Andrew Mangan, Crystal Powell, Maud Streep, Alexandra Tanner, and Hubert Vigilla.

In addition to the cash prize, the winners will also receive yearlong studio space at the Center for Fiction in New York City and the opportunity to meet with agents and editors, and will give two public readings. Manuel Gonzales, Alexandra Kleeman, and Téa Obreht judged. Visit the Center for Fiction website to find out more about the winners.

Since 2010, the Center for Fiction’s Emerging Writer Fellowship program has supported sixty-two New York City–based early-career fiction writers. Writers living in any of New York’s five boroughs are eligible to apply each year.

(Top row from left: Amna Ahmad, Charlotte Crowe, Dana Czapnik; Middle row: Erik Hoel, Andrew Mangan, Crystal Powell; Bottom row: Maud Streep, Alexandra Tanner, and Hubert Vigilla)

 

Upcoming Fiction and Nonfiction Contest Deadlines

Fiction and nonfiction writers—if you’re sitting on a finished story, essay, or book-length manuscript of prose, check out the following contests with deadlines in the next week. Each contest offers a cash prize, from $1,000 to $5,000, and includes added benefits such as publication and paid trips to conferences.

American Short Fiction Short Story Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in American Short Fiction is given annually for a short story. Lauren Groff will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Crook’s Corner Book Prize: A prize of $5,000 is given annually for a debut novel set in the American South. The winner is also entitled to receive a free glass of wine every day for a year at Crook’s Corner Café and Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Eligible novels must be set primarily in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, or the District of Columbia. Elizabeth Cox will judge. Entry fee: $35. Deadline: June 1.

Nowhere Magazine Travel Writing Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Nowhere Magazine is given twice yearly for a short story or essay that “possesses a powerful sense of place.” Porter Fox will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Salamander Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Salamander is given annually for a short story. Christopher Castellani will judge. Entry fee: $15. Deadline: June 1.

Southern Indiana Review Thomas A. Wilhelmus Short Prose Award: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Southern Indiana Review Press is given annually for a chapbook-length story collection, novella, novel excerpt, or work of creative nonfiction. David H. Lynn will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Willow Springs Books Spokane Prize for Short Fiction: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Willow Springs Books is given annually for a short story collection. Entry fee: $27.50. Deadline: June 5.

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 personal essay, genre short story, literary short story, and inspirational writing. Entry Fee: $30. Deadline: June 1.

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, and nonfiction.

Desert Poetry: A Response to the Political Present

Feliz Lucia Molina was born and raised to Filipino immigrants who ran crisis heterotopias (board-and-care facilities) in San Fernando Valley, California. She holds a BA from Naropa University, an MFA from Brown University, and will be joining the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago this fall. A poetry editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, her books include Undercastle (Magic Helicopter Press, 2013), The Wes Letters (Outpost19, 2014), and the forthcoming Thundercastle and Roulette. Her work has appeared in Jacket2, Open Space, Fence, PEN America, and elsewhere. She is based in Chicago and the Southern California desert.

Desert Poetry was conceived and organized by me (Feliz Lucia Molina), Ben Segal, Joseph Mosconi, and Harmony Holiday. The idea for this event transpired at the beginning of nationwide marches and uprisings during the first one hundred days of the number forty-five administration. We sent out a call for the sole purpose of offering space for poets and writers to gather in the Southern California desert (Joshua Tree and Landers) to share concerns, thoughts, practices, and research on issues that are in direct response to the political present. The response to our call was overwhelming as it culminated into a series of twenty-four workshops, readings, and presentations during the weekend of April 7–9. People traveled from far distances including Chicago, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Santa Cruz, New York, Wisconsin, San Diego, and Los Angeles. It was an immediate collective and collaborative atmosphere as people volunteered to help with various tasks.

We created a private Facebook event page to share updates and information regarding the event. Noah Cicero, a writer based in Las Vegas, wrote on Facebook of the event: “Yesterday I went to Desert Poetry in Joshua Tree…. There were like forty poets in the desert, some came as far as upstate New York and Chicago, some with doctorates, some just getting their undergrad, but everyone was allowed to speak and be listened to on an equal footing. I have probably never seen a group with such a lack of hierarchy in my life.” While there were closer to eighty people in attendance, it is true that the mood was indeed non-hierarchical; this was not a goal, but was something that arose in the moment as the urgency to gather and convene was realized.

Poets & Writers provided a number of workshop grants that made it possible to host Joy KMT, Lily Hoang, Cathy Linh Che, and Harmony Holiday who led marvelous and thought-provoking workshops on Black Quantum Futurism Poetics, radical self-care, embodied fairytale magic-making, and the possibilities collectivity within a present-future Black Arts Movement.

We are so grateful to the following presenters for leading us through a collective re-alignment in the great expanse of the Southern California desert.

Zack Haber with an exercise on playful relation with the body; Jeanine Webb with Guided Stargazing and Radical Cosmology; Trinie Dalton with Hi-Desert Wildflowers, Hummingbirds, Rainbows; Elisabeth Houston with BABY; Raquel Gutiérrez with improvisational dialogic dyads & The bordering nowhere of difficult terrains; Amanda Ackerman and Michelle Detorie with Feral Writing Practices: Writing across species boundaries and across the terrestrial terrain; Mg Roberts with The bits of life. Everything. Fluxes. Fevers. (Here.) A poem.; Lisa Fishman and Richard Meier with Teaching Against Commodification; Saehee Cho with Making Flatbread While Camping (absent at the last minute but there in spirit); Suzanna Zak with How to Sleep and Eat Outside; Emerson Whitney with Trans non-assimilationism and radical alterity; Vi Khi Nao with The Ethics of Deportation; Veggie Cloud (Kate Wolf and Courtney Stephens) with a film-screening of Robert Kramer’s “MILESTONES;” Ben Segal with Open Discussion on Entering Local Politics; Avi Varma with Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts; Danielle Pafunda and Reagan Wilson with Working Through Pain; Jennifer Scappettone with Boom, Strike, Bust-Reocuppy Mining, & Weighing the Cloud; ARMED RADII and Mayakov + sky Platform with Post-crisis Poetics: Writing the World System; Anthony McCann with Hike & Reading (to Samuelson Rocks); Melissa Mack with Sonic Meditations; and a distributed molecular guide to the Mojave exploring the poetics of scale as a tactics of resistance to dominant desert representations by Brett Zehner and Kylie King.

For more information about the full program of Desert Poetry, please visit: armsandhugs.tumblr.com. Another event in 2018 is in the planning stages to be announced soon.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: (top) Feliz Lucia Molina (Credit: Feliz Lucia Molina). Photo: (bottom) Desert Poetry event (Credit: Feliz Lucia Molina).

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).

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, and nonfiction.

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.