Carolyn Forché and the Great Work of Poetry, Lost Charles Dickens Portrait, and More


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

“When we think of the question of the writers’ responsibility to the state and society, I think we have the same responsibilities that all citizens have. There’s nothing special about that. But the degree to which we have poetic gifts and give them back, I think they are a blessing on society.” Carolyn Forché talks to Ploughshares about her new memoir, What You Have Heard Is True, and how poetry is “the human soul’s response to history.”

In the United Kingdom, the Charles Dickens Museum in London has raised £180,000 (approximately $224,646) to purchase a previously lost portrait of the author. Painted by Margaret Gillies when Dickens was thirty-one, the portrait disappeared in 1886. It reemerged 130 years later in an auction in South Africa, where the very moldy painting was sold for the equivalent of $34—a bargain that also included a metal lobster, an old recorder, and a brass plate. (Guardian)

“All of this probably would have baffled the authors themselves, none of whom lived to see that they were laying the foundations of something called Asian American culture.” Hua Hsu on the reissue of novels by Carlos Bulosan, Younghill Kang, John Okada, and H. T. Tsiang, and a new study on Asian American identity and the melancholy of broken narratives. (New Yorker)

At the Atlantic, fiction writer and critic Chuck Klosterman explains his desire to entertain rather than arbitrate. “I really don’t think much about how the things I write will legitimately shape someone else’s experience. I just hope they enjoy the thing I wrote.”

“The notion of being taught language has always been oxymoronic because language is in a constant state of flux, a restless, malleable, impatient entity that, like the idea of now, can never be fixed in place.” Jonathan Russell Clark on why style guides will never make you a better writer. (Vulture)

In a hearing held at the San Francisco federal court earlier this week, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys argued that activist José Bello, who has been held at Mesa Verde detention center since May 14, was detained in retribution for criticizing U.S. immigration policy in his poem “Dear America.” Bello’s bail bond has been set to $50,000, an amount that the ACLU says is highly unusual. (Hyperallergic)

“Call me Ishmael. I can’t tell you my real name, or I’d have to kill you.” Literary Hub reinterprets the first lines of classic novels by male authors as “dude lit.”

And poet Tina Chang talks to Jerome Ellison Murphy about influence, imagination, and her new collection, Hybrida. “We have already seen truth twisted, shaped, and contorted to fit a political agenda. Poetry works against this because poetry has no true agenda.” (Poets & Writers)