John Ashbery Has Died, Literary Agents in D.C., 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:

Poet John Ashbery died on Sunday at age ninety. At the New York Times, David Orr and Dinitia Smith remember Ashbery, who published twenty-eight poetry collections, won all major American book prizes, and is considered by many to be the preeminent poet of his generation. “If some poets remind us of the richness of American poetry by blending seamlessly into one of its many traditions, Mr. Ashbery has frequently seemed like a tradition unto himself. It is a cliché to praise a writer by saying no one has ever sounded quite like him, and yet: No one has ever sounded quite like him.”

“But instead of locking feelings in cages, Ashbery went around opening hatches. His poems’ meanings were always running away, leaving footprints that were alluring and funny and hard to parse.” At Slate, Katy Waldman remembers the poet and his famously difficult poetry.

Meanwhile, at the New Yorker, poetry editor Paul Muldoon pays tribute to Ashbery: “It seems that he almost singlehandedly not only changed the rules of the game but also remapped the field on which the game was played.”

Publishers Weekly covers the world of literary agents in Washington, D.C., and how the industry’s most respected and experienced agent for political memoirs, Robert Barnett, is facing competition from new agencies.

The Poetry Foundation has announced the five recipients of its 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. The $25,800 awards are given annually to poets under the age of thirty-one.

Novelist Claire Messud talks with the Guardian about what it’s like to lose a friend, how people might stop reading novels in fifty years, and her latest novel, The Burning Girl.

“To think of political poetry as a trend, or light-heartedly, is to dismiss the potential consequences of political action and to minimize the losses given by generations of freedom fighters.” At Harriet, poet Christopher Soto considers what constitutes political poetry.

Novelist Susan Vreeland died on August 23 at age seventy-one from complications related to heart surgery. Vreeland wrote several novels that blended together history and art, including her best-selling 2000 novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. (Los Angeles Times)