Danez Smith on Bad Words in Flux, the California Book Awards, 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.

At the Paris Review, Danez Smith examines the word that underpins their poem “my bitch!” published in the journal’s spring issue. “This is the danger that I live for, the bad words with definitions forever in flux, words that show us how tonal and relational English can be.”

The Commonwealth Club has announced the winners of the California Book Awards. Also known as “California’s Pulitzers,” the annual awards honor books written in the state and published the previous year. This year’s winners include Samantha Giles for the poetry collection Total Recall, Rachel Kushner for the novel The Mars Room, and Tommy Orange in debut fiction for the novel There There.

Sixteen-year-old climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize–nominee Greta Thunberg has signed a book deal with Penguin UK to publish a collection of her speeches as a book. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference will be released on June 6. (Forbes)

“I am often surprised when people take something away from my writing or relate to it because I think, ‘No, it’s about me!’” BoJack Horseman–creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg on his debut short fiction collection, Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory. (Atlantic)

Admiral William H. McRaven, author of Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, explains his affection for the John D. MacDonald character Travis McGee in the latest installment of By the Book. “McGee fights for the little guy, takes care of his friends and has a moral code that he lives by—it’s not a perfect moral code, but still the man has integrity.” (New York Times)

At the Los Angeles Times, Rigoberto González surveys the writers who introduced him to the landscape of Arizona and its legacy of conflict, from poets Sherwin Bitsui and Alberto Ríos to novelists Cynthia Kadohata and Hannah Lillith Assadi.

Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone speaks to BOMB about her new collection, Kill Class, and the metaphor of war embedded in our language. “Poetry’s work is to bring these violent ghosts to consciousness, but also to open language and shake it loose—to feel the sharp aroma of words on the page reach our bodies.”

“I probably chop onions the way I write prose: enameled surface, distraction below?” Poet, fiction writer, editor, and New Narrative theorist Robert Glück on ceramics, collaboration, and writing what you really want.