Claudia Rankine Awarded “Genius Grant,” Books on the American Immigrant Experience, 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:

Writers Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Sarah Stillman, and Gene Luen Yang are among this year’s twenty-three recipients of MacArthur Fellowships, also known as “genius grants.” The MacArthur Foundation awards annual fellowships of $625,000—which are distributed over a period of five years—to individuals who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity of self-direction.”

“The MacArthur is given to my subject through me. The subject of trying to change the discourse of black people being equated with criminality and murdered inside a culture where white fear has justified the continued incarceration, murder of blacks and other people of color. I do feel like I am just incidental in a certain way to the prize, and that the prize is being given to the subject—that I am completely invested in.” Claudia Rankine considers what receiving a “genius grant” means for her continued creative project of interrogating racial issues in America. (Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, Smithsonian historian David Ward reflects on the history and significance of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too,” which is displayed on the wall of the newly opened National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. The poem also appears on an entire page of today’s print edition of the New York Times. (Huffington Post)

The New Yorker features a profile of Carla Hayden, the new librarian of congress. Hayden is the first woman and first African American to hold the position.

In an interview at Bookforum, poet Adam Fitzgerald talks about his second collection, George Washington, and writing after queer theory.

Imbolo Mbue, author of the acclaimed novel Behold the Dreamers, recommends ten books on the American immigrant experience. Read and listen to an excerpt of Behold the Dreamers in Poets & Writers’ “First Fiction 2016” roundup. (Electric Literature)

Award-winning author Emma Donoghue discusses what Emily Dickinson’s poem “Wild Nights! – Wild Nights!” taught her about overwhelming longing and visceral expressions of romantic and erotic love. “The slightly unhinged feel to her adds to the reader’s thrill. [Dickinson] appears to be offering images of safety and comfort and home, but there’s this crazy edge.” (Atlantic)