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Barbara Crooker’s books of poetry are Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, winner of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and More. She is the recipient of the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships in Literature, has had her poems read many times on The Writer’s Almanac, and is represented in The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Her newest book, Gold, is forthcoming this year from Cascade Books. Barbara blogs about her P&W-supported reading at the Long Island Violin Shop.

This past October, String Poets hosted a Poets & Writers reading in the Long Island Violin Shop in Huntington, Long Island. This was a unique venue for a poetry reading, part of a series that blends both poetry and music. I was paired with Shem Guibbory a member of the First Violin section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who has appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, among other places. He has embarked on what he calls the “Journey of 100,” one hundred performances in a row of J. S. Bach’s Chaconne, a piece that he says “suggests endless depth and profundity.” That night was Number 7 in this string of performances, during which he hopes to discover how his understanding of the work changes through the course of these performances (the first was at Lincoln Center). On his website, he states that “a performer and a listener in live performance have the potential to form a powerful bond: a link between themselves and the music.” And this is the hope of the poet, too, that a bond will form, that an electrical current will arise. In his blog, Mr. Guibbory felt that he was merely operating at 80 percent that night, but I felt the hairs on my head rise ala Emily Dickinson, in the presence of true poetry (in music).

This was an interesting and intimate performance spot, a small room in the middle of a violin shop. Every seat was taken, and I felt a real connection with the audience. Because the space was small, I was able to speak to just about every person present, and I sold a number of books, every poet’s dream. One of the poems that I read was called “Ode to Chocolate.” I’ve made a practice of bringing small squares of dark chocolate to hand out after my readings. This night, it felt very much like communion...

But this was the reading that very nearly didn’t happen. It had originally been scheduled the year before, when a nor’easter suddenly morphed into “Snowtober” or “White Halloween.” This was the only time in my writing life when I had to cancel a performance. I got halfway across New Jersey (I live in eastern Pennsylvania) when I had to pull over and call to say that the number of cars off the road and the lack of visibility made me too frightened to continue. We had over a foot of the heaviest, wettest snow I’ve ever seen, and 250,000 people were without power in my area for over a week. The organizer of the event, Annabelle Moseley, couldn’t have been more gracious, and she rescheduled me a year later. Some bit of insight or foreshadowing made her pick the week before, a gorgeous blue and gold fall weekend. The next week, a year to the day later, a storm called Sandy arrived...

Photos: (Top) Barbara Crooker. (Bottom"Snowtober." Credit: Kathy Morris.

Support for Readings/Workshops in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Write a poem of fourteen lines. Instead of using the first person (I), use only the second person (you).

The Pulitzer Prize board announced the winners and finalists of the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes today in New York City. Of the twenty-one categories, the prizes in letters are given annually for works published in the previous year by American authors.

The winner in fiction is The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House) by Adam Johnson. The finalists were Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Knopf) and Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child (Little, Brown). The winner in poetry is Stag’s Leap (Knopf) by Sharon Olds. The finalists were Collected Poems by the late Jack Gilbert (Knopf) and The Abundance of Nothing by Bruce Weigl (TriQuarterly). The winner in general nonfiction is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys (Harper) by Gilbert King. The finalists were Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House) and David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature (Viking).

Pulitzer Prize Administrator Sig Gissler announced the winners and finalists today at Columbia University. At a ceremony on May 20, each winner will receive $10,000.

The prize board caused a stir last year when it failed to select a winner in fiction, leaving many in the literary world—including Denis Johnson and Karen Russell, who joined the late David Foster Wallace as fiction finalists—feeling slighted, and wondering if this year’s awards would prove different. The 2013 awards were given in all twenty-one categories; visit the website for a complete list of winners.

The Pulitzer Prizes were established in 1911 by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher. A portion of his bequest was used to found the Columbia University School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917.

Submissions to be considered for the 2014 prizes will open in May. 

Poet Joseph O. Legaspi cofounded P&W–supported Kundiman, a nonprofit organization that serves Asian American poetry. He blogs about Kundiman's beginnings and this year's ten-year anniversary celebrations. The author of Imago (CavanKerry Press) and the forthcoming chapbook Subways (Thrush Press), he lives in Queens, New York, and works at Columbia University.

In summer 2002, Sarah Gambito and I were swaying on a hammock at a backyard BBQ in Westchester. Watching the mostly Filipino crowd—families and community—playing games, eating, totally at ease with one another, we were mesmerized and even envious. As recent MFA graduates and young Filipino American poets trying to patch together literary lives in New York City, we felt alone and lost. We wanted to recreate the joyful and safe space that we witnessed in Westchester, but for Asian American artists. I then told Sarah about P&W–supported Cave Canem, a premiere literary organization that hosts a retreat for black poets. Two close friends, January Gill O’Neil and the late Phebus Etienne, attended the Cave Canem Retreat and raved about it. Why not? we asked ourselves, as there was already an impressive model, and in our hearts, we knew there was a void to fill. The rest, as they say, is history.

Kundiman now celebrates its ten-year anniversary! The sole organization of its kind, Kundiman remains dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American writing. In summer 2013, we are hosting our tenth Kundiman Poetry Retreat with faculty members Li-Young Lee, Srikanth Reddy, and Lee Ann Roripaugh teaching workshops to our fellows. Over 120 fellows have attended the annual retreats under the tutelage of such renowned Asian and Asian American poets as Lawson Inada, Bei Dao, Myung Mi Kim, Marilyn Chin, Arthur Sze, Truong Tran, Paisley Rekdal, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Rick Barot, and Tan Lin—many of whom have been supported by P&W over the years. Award-winning Kundiman fellows have published twenty books thus far with more titles forthcoming in 2014, in addition to over twenty chapbooks, and numerous print and online publications. Cofounder Sarah Gambito received the 2009 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. In partnership with Alice James Books, the Kundiman Poetry Prize is set to select its fourth winner this June. P&W–supported Matthew Olzmann’s Mezzanines, the second selection, was released in April 2013.

So, what’s in store for Kundiman’s tenth year? There will be a fundraising campaign with a target goal of $10,000. There will be exciting “10 for 10” events across the country, an NYC gala in the planning stages. Our website has already undergone a redesign. Kundiman’s oral history program, Kavad, will roll out fellow-driven projects that will provide new platforms to present and amplify Asian American voices. Kundiman remains strongly committed to fostering Asian American writing, which, in turn, empowers our marginalized, diasporic communities. Kundiman strives to transform the American literary landscape. Please come celebrate with us.

Photo: (Top) Joseph O. Legaspi. Credit: Emmy Cateral. (Bottom) Kundiman staff, faculty, and fellows. Credit: Dustin Parsons.

Support for Readings/Workshops 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 Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, the Abbey K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

The Toronto–based Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry has announced the shortlist for its 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize. Two awards of $65,000 each are given annually for poetry collections published during the preceding year, one by a poet living in Canada and another by a poet living internationally.

The international finalists include Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems, by Ghassan Zaqtan and translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah (Yale University Press), Liquid Nitrogen by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo Publishing), Night of the Republic by Alan Shapiro (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Our Andromeda by Brenda Shaughnessy (Copper Canyon Press). The Canadian finalists include What’s the Score? by David W. McFadden (Mansfield Press), Sailing to Babylon by James Pollock (Able Muse Press), and Personals by Ian Williams (Freehand Books). 

Judges Suzanne Buffam of Canada, Mark Doty of the United States, and Wang Ping of China each read 509 books of poetry from 40 countries, including 15 translations.

The seven finalists, who will be invited to participate in a reading in Toronto on June 12, will each receive $10,000. The two winners, to be announced at the Griffin Poetry Prize Awards ceremony on June 13, will each receive $65,000.

The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Scott Griffin, along with trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young. Carolyn Forché joined the roster in 2004. Prize judges are selected annually by the trustees, and the prizes are awarded in the spring of each year.

Publishers may submit books for consideration by the annual deadline of December 31. Visit the Griffin Trust website for more information and complete guidelines.

Write an essay about the year that you were born. Research what was happening politically, socially, and environmentally, both in your town or city and around the world. Place yourself and your family among the events of that year, and try to find out where you fit into the picture of what was happening in the world.

In Writers Recommend, author Alix Ohlin writes: “When I’m in direst need of inspiration, I do what I call ‘sentence stealing.’ I find a sentence from a writer I admire and write it down. ‘In the beginning I left messages in the street.’ Or, ‘Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ Then I write my own version of the sentence, focusing only on its rhythms: by which I mean, replacing a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb. What’s left is a ghostly echo of the original sentence with no relationship to its actual content. And I follow that new sentence wherever it takes me, down the road to an unfolding story.” Using Ohlin’s method, write a story of your own.

Choose a word or phrase you find yourself saying often (e.g. like, totally, hate, really, kind of) and write a poem using it as much as possible, turning it over and over, repositioning it, extending it, playing with its uses and the parts of speech into which it can be shaped.

The inaugural Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Georgia Review, is currently open for submissions. A prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the Georgia Review will be given annually for a poem. Poets may submit up to three previously unpublished poems written in English, totaling no more than ten pages, with a fifteen-dollar entry fee by May 15. The editors will judge. 

The winning poem will be announced on August 15, and will be published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Georgia ReviewCurrent subscribers may enter the competition free of charge; nonsubscribers may choose to begin a subscription at the time of entry—thirty-five dollars for four issues, which is five dollars less than the regular price—in lieu of the entry feeSubmissions may be sent electronically or by mail to the Georgia Review, Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, 706A Main Library, 320 South Jackson Street, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. 

Founded at the University of Georgia in 1947, the Georgia Review is a quarterly print journal of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, reviews, and visual art. “Never stuffy and never shallow,” the editors write on the magazine’s website, “the Georgia Review seeks a broad audience of intellectually open and curious readers.” Past contributors have included established writers as Rita Dove, Stephen Dunn, Louise Erdrich, Philip Levine, Barry Lopez, Joyce Carol Oates, Natasha Trethewey, David Wagoner, and Paul Zimmer, as well as many new and emerging voices. 

For more information about the Georgia Review and for complete contest guidelines, visit the website

Poet Joseph O. Legaspi cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization that serves Asian American poets. He blogs about curating P&W–supported Kundiman & Verlaine, a New York City–based reading series that has been running for ten years. The author of Imago (CavanKerry Press) and the forthcoming chapbook Subways (Thrush Press), he lives in Queens, New York, and works at Columbia University.

It started with an experiment. Before the poet Sarah Gambito and I fully conceived of Kundiman, the nonprofit we founded to serve Asian American poetry, there were the poems. At the time, in 2003, we were interested in the idea of poems as physical objects, as solid and tangible art pieces. We were also regulars imbibing lychee martinis at Verlaine, a bar on the lower east side of Manhattan where we befriended Gary Weingarten, a photographer and one of the owners of Verlaine. Presented with our idea, he provided us with the blank canvases: the walls inside Verlaine onto which we hung blown-up prints of poems. Words against a sheer white backdrop loomed large: our poems, as well as others by Prageeta Sharma and Li-Young Lee. Like a gallery, we hosted an opening with an amazing turnout.

When such a partnership presents itself, you run with it. The March 17, 2013, P&W–supported reading marked the tenth year of Kundiman & Verlaine, the only reading series that highlights Asian American poets. Over 130 readers have graced our stage, among them luminaries like Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Kimiko Hahn, Vijay Seshadri, Patrick Rosal, and Cathy Park Hong, along with emerging Asian American talents. In the spirit of community building, we have also invited poets from other literary circles like Cave Canem, LouderArts, and Acentos. Through the years, the series has exemplified the multiplicity and vitality of voices within the Asian American (and greater) literary community. At the March reading alone, for instance, were the following participants: Mandy Gor, a poet, painter, seamstress, and banker raised in Texas; Seni Seneviratne, a Sri Lankan living in England; and Kit Yan, a transgender spoken word phenomenon. The audience, from seemingly divergent backgrounds, were brought together by poetry. The Kundiman & Verlaine reading series embodies this spirit: big-hearted and celebratory. The lounge atmosphere helps, as well as the hour-long open bar before each reading.

The bottom line is that for a literary series to thrive, much generosity is needed: a place for gathering, a co-host/co-sponsor who shares your vision, an open-minded audience, and kind readers. Recently, another act of generosity: Poets & Writers, through its Readings/Workshops Program, has been able to provide honoraria to qualified readers. How lovely it’s been to compensate poets for their time and craft. Kundiman believes in paying poets, but because of our limited funds, we’ve been unable to do so—beyond the gift bags we give to readers as a token of our appreciation. Because of such patronage and generosity, the Kundiman & Verlaine reading series continues to be a welcoming, warm environment, full of heart.

Photo: (Top) Joseph O. Legaspi. Credit: Emmy Cateral. (Bottom, from left to right) Vikas Menon, Kit Yan, Seni Seneviratne, Mandy Gor, and Joseph O. Legaspi. Credit: JP Sevillano

Support for Readings/Workshops 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 Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, the Abbey K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

In the classic essay "Notes of a Native Son," James Baldwin writes about his relationship with his father, against the backdrop of a time of racial violence in America. Write an essay about your relationship with a parent and try to relate it to a larger aspect of the society and culture in which you were raised.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has announced that George Saunders will receive the 2013 PEN/Malamud Award. Given annually for a “body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction,” the award comes with a five-thousand-dollar purse.

Considered a master of the short story, George Saunders’s most recent collection, Tenth of December, was published in January by Random House. A professor of creative writing at Syracuse University, his previous works include the story collections and novellas CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1997), Pastoralia (2001), The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (2005), The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (2005), and In Persuasion Nation (2007), and an essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone (2007). He is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine. Saunders has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and four National Magazine Awards.

“Saunders is one of the most gifted and seriously comic short story writers working in America today,” said Alan Cheuse, a member of the Malamud Award selection committee, which is comprised of a panel of PEN/Faulkner directors. “And his comedy, like most great comedy, is dark….He's a Vonnegutian in his soul and, paradoxically, a writer like no one but himself.”

In addition to the prize money, PEN/Malamud Award winners are also invited to give a reading as part of the PEN/Faulkner Reading Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. This year’s reading will take place in December. 

Established in 1988, the PEN/Malamud Award honors the late writer Bernard Malamud. Past winners have included, among others, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, Grace Paley, Stuart Dybek, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel, Nam Le, Edith Pearlman, and James Salter. 

Listen below as George Saunders discusses Tenth of December for the WNYC talk show Soundcheck.  

Think about a person from history—Anne Boleyn, Martin Luther King Jr., Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln—whose story you find compelling. Write a summary of this person's life, charting the ups and downs that made it remarkable. Using this summary as a plot, write a story that is set in the present and features a main character from your imagination.

Choose a poem—a classic work or something you've newly discovered—and memorize it. As you do so, note the rhythms, sounds, and structure that help you remember it. To test your memory, and in honor of National Poetry Month, consider reciting it to a friend in person, leaving a recording of it on a friend's voicemail, or sending an audio file of it to one or more friends via e-mail. 

The judges for the 2013 National Book Awards were announced today. For the first time since the 1970s, the judges in each category will include not only writers, but also literary professionals such as editors, professors, and booksellers, in an attempt to broaden the reach of one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes. 

The judges in poetry include Nikky Finney, whose collection Head Off & Split won the 2011 National Book Award; Ada Limón, whose debut collection, Lucky Wreck, won the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize; D. A. Powell, who won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Useless Landscape: A Guide for BoysJahan Ramazani, a professor at the University of Virginia whose book Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Craig Morgan Teicher, the poetry reviews editor for Publishes Weekly whose collection Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems won the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry. 

The judges in fiction include Charles Baxter, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000 for The Feast of LoveGish Jen, the author of four novels and a collection of stories, and an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow; Charles McGrath, the former editor of the New York Times Book Review and former deputy editor at the New YorkerRick Simonson, who has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington, for over thirty-five years; and René Steinke, a 2005 National Book Award finalist for her novel Holy Skirts, and director of the MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The judges in nonfiction include Jabari Asim, the author of The N Word and What Obama Means, a former book reviewer for the Washington Post, and an associate professor at Emerson College; André Bernard, vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; M. G. Lord, author of The Accidental FeministForever Barbie, and Astro Turf, for which she received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant; Lauren Redniss, a finalist for National Book Award in 2011 for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout; and Eric Sundquist, author and chair of the English Department at Johns Hopkins University.

“The expansion of the judging pool has given us an extraordinary diversity of voices on our panels,” said Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the annual awards. “We expect spirited discussions throughout the process.” 

The judges for this year’s awards will be the first group in the history of the prizes to select a long list of ten titles in each of the four categories, to be announced on September 12. Twenty finalists from the long list will be announced on October 16, and the winners in each category will be announced at the sixty-fourth annual National Book Awards ceremony in New York City on November 20.  

Louise Erdrich took the 2012 award in fiction; David Ferry won in poetry, and Katherine Boo won in nonfiction.

The National Book Awards have been given annually since 1950 for books published in the current award year. Submissions for the 2013 prizes open today. Using the new online submission system, publishers may submit books published between December 1, 2012, and November 30, 2013, until June 3. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines

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