Laila Lalami on U.S. Citizenship, the Conversational Lexicon, 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:

“Though I had many disagreements with the policies of its government, America was also, for me, an idea, a constant struggle toward a more perfect union.” Fiction writer Laila Lalami meditates on her path to citizenship in America. (New Yorker)

At the Harvard Review, poet Major Jackson is editing a “Renga for Obama”—a collaborative poem based on the traditional Japanese renga form and dedicated to former U.S. President Obama. Each day two poets contribute two new stanzas to the poem, with contributions so far from poets including Robert Pinsky, Kimiko Hahn, Gregory Pardlo, Paul Muldoon, and Elizabeth Alexander. The final renga will include lines from more than two hundred poets.

Oslo bookshop Cappelens Forslag has released the latest edition of The Conversational Lexicon, a “subjective encyclopedia” written in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and English. More than eighty artists and writers, including George Saunders, Jonathan Lethem, and Jarvis Cocker, have written playful entries “freed from the demand for factual accuracy” on words such as “asphalt” and “dawdling.” (Guardian)

Renée Loth offers a case for saving the NEA from proposed budget cuts. (Boston Globe)

“Reading is like an erotic encounter, you only need to be committed, you only need to give the thing your attention.” Fiction writer Max Porter talks through the five books that shaped him, the enduring power of fairy tales and classics, and the changing political climate. (Five Books)

At the New York Times, Alexandra Alter profiles Jason Rekulak, the publisher of Quirk Books who helped produce titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

“I think what we are both doing is creating constellations. We deal with moving bodies. Moving reality.” Alexander Kluge speaks with Ben Lerner about writing poetry versus lyric prose. (Paris Review)

Kaveh Akbar interviews poet Carolina Ebeid about the hazards of beauty in poetry, the importance of trusting one’s poetry teachers, and learning to “hear yourself in your daily life.” Read more about Carolina Ebeid’s work and process in the Poets & Writers Magazine Twelfth Annual Look at Debut Poets published in the January/February 2017 issue. (Divedapper)