Astronomy Software Dates Sappho Poem, Lena Dunham Releases Surprise Book, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Using an advanced astronomical software package called “Starry Night,” researchers have discovered the time of year that ancient Greek poet Sappho witnessed the Pleiades star cluster, which she described in her “Midnight Poem.” Originally published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, the findings are examples of the developing science of forensic astronomy. (Smithsonian)

“The most disappointing revelation about the books world: even an intellectual is susceptible to clickbait.” Jessa Crispin, founder of literary blog and magazine Bookslut, which recently closed its digital doors, discusses what she sees as the decline of online book culture. (Guardian)

Korean author Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian (Portobello Books), translated by Deborah Smith, has won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction. The £50,000 prize—split equally between author and translator—is given for a work of fiction in any language translated into English. This is the first year the prize is awarded to a single book instead of a body of work. Read about the winning author and translator at the Grants & Awards Blog. (CNN)

Last night in New York City, best-selling author J. K. Rowling was awarded the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award at the PEN American Center’s literary awards gala. Her speech, which noted the importance of freedom of expression, is reproduced in full at the Wall Street Journal.

Do you find it difficult to sit through twenty minutes of a literary reading? Don’t fret, so did Dostoyevsky. As his narrator in Demons claims, “Generally I have observed that at a light, public literary reading, even the biggest genius cannot occupy the public with himself for more than 20 minutes with impunity.” (Literary Hub)

Writer, director, and actor Lena Dunham released a surprise book today. Is It Evil Not to Be Sure? is a collection of essays based on journals that Dunham kept from 2005 to 2006. All profits from the publication will support Girls Write Now, an organization that Dunham says “gives young women…the chance to tell their own story and become, in Nora Ephron’s words, th[e] protagonists of their own lives.” (Bustle)

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, poet Brendan Constantine talks about his fourth collection, Dementia, My Darling, the idea of the poetry collection as a “total statement” greater than the sum of its parts, and the complicated structure of memory.