Imagining Hopeful Narratives, Franz Wright Tribute, 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:

“I think it’s very important at this moment to begin to think of hopeful futures…if we only think of the terrifying futures, we’re likely to become depressed, to recoil from the future, and when we do that, we are vulnerable to xenophobes and demagogues and people who have nostalgic visions of politics.” Mohsin Hamid talks with the Rumpus about writing hopeful narratives, how all writing is political, and his most recent novel, Exit West.

The Poetry Foundation has appointed Margarita Engle the new Young People’s Poet Laureate, a two-year-term that comes with a $25,000 prize. Engle, who succeeds poet Jacqueline Woodson, will work to share poetry with children and plans to theme her platform on peace. (Publishers Weekly)

“He may have earned some infamy for burning bridges in the academic and literary spheres, but he was constantly erecting new ones privately, quietly, out of the spotlight, with young and unestablished writers who had nothing to offer him but their poems and their sincere gratitude.” Kaveh Akbar remembers poet Franz Wright, who died two years ago, in his introduction to Pleiades’s weeklong tribute to Wright.

Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined shot to the top of the Amazon bestsellers list this week after Bill Gates recommended the book on Twitter as the “most inspiring book I’ve ever read.” (Los Angeles Times)

Andrzej Franaszek argues that Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz’s analysis of the totalitarianism of twentieth-century Europe and its “seeking-out of enemies responsible for our economic and political crises, the lure of false ideals that promise comfort and sense in our lives” is still relevant today. (New York Times)

CBC Radio interviews Hal Niedzviecki, who recently stepped down from his position as editor of the Canadian magazine Write after penning the controversial editorial “Winning the Appropriation Prize,” in which he denied the idea of cultural appropriation and encouraged writers to write what they don’t know. 

Josef Sorett considers the legacy of poet Robert Hayden, the first black poet laureate of the United States, and how because of his “refusal to neatly align himself with racial orthodoxies, he was often relegated to the margins of black cultural life even as he was welcomed into the annals of American poetry.” (Religion & Politics)

Open Culture shares the letter Helen Keller wrote to the Nazis upon learning they were burning copies of her essay collection How I Became a Socialist in 1933. “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” she writes. “Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here.”