Edward Albee’s Last Wish, Clues to the Voynich Manuscript Mystery, 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:

Playwright Edward Albee, who died last fall at age eighty-eight, left explicit instructions in his will for his executors to destroy his incomplete manuscripts. The New York Times looks at various moral and legal controversies surrounding the author’s decision: “You may feel a moral obligation to do as you’ve been asked,” says estate lawyer John Sare, “but that may be in competition with a moral obligation to do what’s best for the history of arts and letters and a legal obligation to conserve the assets of the estate for the beneficiaries.”

We may be closer to uncovering the mystery of the author of the Voynich manuscript—the illustrated fifteenth-century book that scholars and code-breakers have been unable to decipher for the past hundred years. Medieval scholar Stephen Skinner claims that visual clues throughout the book suggest the author was an Italian Jewish physician and herbalist. (Guardian)

The Academy of American Poets has announced that the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than twenty nonprofit poetry organizations throughout the U.S., has received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. The two-year grant will “enable the founding members of the coalition to produce national programs on themes of social importance that feature leading contemporary poets.”

In more poetry news, poets Franny Choi and Danez Smith host a new podcast at the Poetry Foundation called VSwith episodes posted every other Tuesday. About the project, the poets write, “We wanted to talk to poets who are reimagining how and for whom poetry lives in the world. And we wanted to talk not just about craft and mechanics, but about the why—about the questions that drive poets to the page.”

Los Angeles Times Books editor Carolyn Kellogg writes about the guilty pleasure of reading Hollywood memoirs. “The Hollywood memoir is not going to portray the past in a clear light. But like Sriracha on the table, it’s going to bring the heat and make the meal better.” Read more about Kellogg’s literary tastes in our Reviewers & Critics series.

The Washington Post features a detailed history of the Beat Generation, accompanied by audio and video clips from Beat authors such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, and more.

Sudanese fiction writer Bushra al-Fadil has won the 217 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away.” Read the full story, translated into English by Max Shmookler, on the Caine Prize website.

An archive of Soviet children’s books is now available online. A project of the Cotsen Collection at Princeton University’s Firestone Library, Playing Soviet: The Visual Languages of Early Soviet Children’s Books, 1917-1953 provides a “first-hand look at the mediation of Russia’s accelerated violent political, social, and cultural evolution.” (Open Culture)