Poets & Writers Blogs

Guggenheim Announces Twenty-Seven Literature Fellows

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named yesterday the winners of its 2011 fellowships for writers in the United States and Canada. The writers receiving awards, which last year averaged $36,867, are most in the middle stages of their careers, with two or more books published. Award amounts vary based on a writers' individual budget requests.

The fellows are, in poetry:
Peter Campion
Claudia Emerson
Paul Guest
Kimberly Johnson

Eleanor Lerman
Maurice Manning
Bill Porter (translation)
D. A. Powell
A. E. Stallings
Matthew Zapruder
Cynthia Zarin

In fiction:
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Jonathan Dee
Christie Hodgen
Clancy Martin
Valerie Martin
Karen Russell
David Vann
Lara Vapnyar
Brad Watson

In creative nonfiction:
Eula Biss
Mary Cappello
John D’Agata

Rosemary Mahoney
Katherine Russell Rich
Patricia Volk

In the video below, fiction fellow Lara Vapnyar, who emigrated from Moscow in the early nineties, describes her experience as a writer in America.

Bellingham Review Extends Deadline

The Washington State–based literary journal Bellingham Review is offering an extension for submissions to its poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction contests. Having received fewer submissions than they have in the past, the journal opted to accept entries until April 15.

Judging this year's entries will be poet Lia Purpura, author of King Baby (Alice James Books, 2009); fiction writer Adrianne Harun, author of the story collection The King of Limbo (Mariner Books, 2002); and creative nonfiction writer Ira Sukrungruang, author of Talk Thai: The Adventures of a Buddhist Boy (University of Missouri Press, 2010).

Last year's winners were Jennifer Perrine for her poem "When the Dazzle Isn't Gradual," Jacob Appel for his story "Bait and Switch," and Angela Tung for her essay "An Old Man on the Frontier Loses His Horse," selected by Allison Joseph, Jess Walter, and Rebecca McClanahan, respectively.

Complete guidelines for entry and samples of work published in the journal are available on the Bellingham Review Web site.

New Fifty-Thousand-Dollar Poetry Prize Has Global Ambitions

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.

Booker Finalist Declines Nomination

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 Launches Creative Nonfiction Book Award

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.

Charles Simic and Dinaw Mengestu Win Prize for Foreign-Born Writers

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.

American Poet's Debut Wins German Award

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.

Man Asian Literary Award Goes to Chinese Writer

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.

Lammy Longlist Culled From Record-Breaking Entry Pool

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.

Eisenberg Wins PEN/Faulkner for Stories, Plus Twenty Top Women Novelists

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.

Wright, Egan, Strauss Take NBCC Awards

Last night the National Book Critics Circle celebrated its favorite books of 2010, announcing National Book Critics Circle Award winners in poetry, fiction, and autobiography. C. D. Wright took home the prize in poetry for One With Others (Copper Canyon), a work of verse journalism investigating the Civil Rights movement in the poet's native Arkansas.

"She’s developed a new form, if not a new genre," says NBCC board member Craig Morgan Teicher in a review of Wright's book, "that allows for a new blending of fact and feeling, one which could help us tell our stories going forward, if only we’ll let it school us."

In fiction, Jennifer Egan won in fiction for A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf). Board member Collette Bancroft says of Egan's time-leaping novel-in-stories, "A Visit From the Goon Squad wraps big themes—art and its relationship with technology, the fluid nature of the self, love and its loss—in stories with a satiric edge, believable but never predictable characters, and a range of styles masterfully rendered."

In autobiography, Darin Strauss won for Half a Life (McSweeney's Books), a memoir of the author's life after a devastating accident involving one of his high school classmates. "What might have been exploitative instead feels important, and dearly won," says board member Karen Long.

In the video below, filmed last week, Wright reads from her winning volume at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Postcard Lit Mag Takes Submissions Live in Miami

Abe's Penny, a "micro-magazine" that presents stories and poems serialized on postcards along with images, is looking for poems to accompany four series of photographs it will present in a Miami exhibition this April. The magazine will accept entries live at the New World School of the Arts' ArtSeen gallery on April 2, opening night of its exhibition featuring works by photographers Robby Campbell, Francie Bishop Good, Lee Materazzi, and Samantha Salzinger (and, incidentally, poetry readings by Gabby Calvocoressi and Denise Duhamel).

Writers will also have to opportunity to submit work during poetry and music events promoting the exhibition's run, which ends on April 26. (The show is held in conjunction with the new, monthlong, O, Miami literary festival, and information about all events is available on the festival Web site.) At the end of April, Abe's Penny will select one collaboration to publish as an issue of its magazine, which will be published piece-by-piece over the course of four weeks. 

Writers visiting the gallery are invited to pen their poetry in "utopian but functional" workspaces created by New World School students. In order to offer writers more time to interact with the photography, the gallery will open to poets one hour prior to each scheduled event. There is no fee to submit poems, and the events are free and open to the public.

Book of Memory and the Self Wins Story Prize

The winner of the 2011 Story Prize, the annual twenty-thousand-dollar award for a collection of short fiction, was announced on Wednesday night. Idaho author Anthony Doerr received the honor for his fourth book and second story collection, Memory Wall (Scribner), a series of stories investigating memory and its relation to sense of self.

Judges John Freeman, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Marie du Vaure selected Doerr's book from a three-strong shortlist that also included Yiyun Li's Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House) and Suzanne Rivecca's Death Is Not an Option (Norton). Li and Rivecca each received five thousand dollars.

Memory Wall also won the Pacific Northwest Literary Award and made recommended reading lists at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Doerr has received numerous honors for his previous work, including two O. Henry Prizes, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize.

Here's what critics had to say about Memory Wall.

"Doerr is daring, yes, and compassionate, but more than anything, the four stories and two novellas in this collection are imbued with, and fueled by, a deep, almost anachronistic-seeming respect for his twin muses: memory and the natural world." Jeff O'Keefe for the Rumpus

"The impetus of a Doerr story is always a movement toward transcendence, and the process is what matters, not the vehicles: not the metaphors, not the tricky plots, not the local color, not the occasional bursts of melodrama. It’s the flow of experience toward something resembling meaning, a sense of one’s place in time." Terrence Rafferty for the New York Times Book Review

"[Doerr] has a scientist's eye, a lyrical sensibility, and an impressively global canvas." Justine Jordan for the Guardian

In the video below, Doerr discusses books that blew his mind. 

[Correction: Story Prize winner Anthony Doerr received an award of twenty thousand dollars, not ten thousand dollars, as previously reported.]

Egan and Gordon Get Nods for the PEN/Faulkner

The finalists for this year's PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, which carries a prize of fifteen thousand dollars, were announced today. The shortlisted authors are Jennifer Egan for her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Deborah Eisenberg for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador); Jaimy Gordon for her National Book Award-winning novel Lord of Misrule (McPherson); Eric Puchner for his novel Model Home (Scribner); and Brad Watson for his story collection Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (Norton).

The titles were selected by authors Laura Furman, William Kittredge, and Helena Maria Viramontes from among 320 novels and short story collections published in 2010 by more than 125 publishers.

How does a judge manage to winnow all those entries? "There's a little sound a hardback book makes when it's first opened, not exactly a squeak but almost, and that sound became familiar," says Furman. "When I felt unsure, groggy, or worst, compromising, my fellow judges were there—as were the best of the books—to remind me to keep to the strictest of standards, those of my heart, instinct, and intelligence."

The winner of the thirty-first annual award will be announced during a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. on May 7.

In the video below, Egan reads from her nominated book at New York City's Franklin Park Reading Series.

Innovator of American Verse Wins Bollingen Prize

The Yale University Library announced yesterday the winner of the one-hundred-thousand-dollar Bollingen Prize for a poet's lifetime contributions to the art. The award goes to "fierce elegist" Susan Howe, author of works of poetry and lyric prose that weave together "history and mysticism, Puritan New England devotional writing and the Irish folk Ballad, visual lyricism and dramatic narrative, scholarship and memoir."

According to judges Peter Gizzi, Marjorie Perloff, and Claudia Rankine, Howe's most recent book, That This, published by New Directions in December, "makes manifest the raw edges of elegy through the collision of verse and prose, visionary lyricism and mundane incident, ekphrasis, visual patterning, and the reclamation of historical documents." Howe wrote the book after the sudden death of her husband, scholar Peter H. Hare, in 2008.

Howe's oeuvre also includes the poetry collections Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007), The Midnight (2003), The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems (2002), Pierce-Arrow (1999), Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974–1979 (1996), The Nonconformist's Memorial (1993), all published by New Directions, and Singularities (Wesleyan University Press, 1990). She is author of the prose volumes The Birth-Mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (Wesleyan University Press, 1993) and My Emily Dickinson (North Atlantic Books, 1985).

The Bollingen Prize has been given biennially since 1948 to honor American poets. Past winners include John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and Adrienne Rich.