Langston Hughes’s Lost Essay, Samanta Schweblin’s Strange Truths, 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.

“Gradually, before the lights of Savannah came in sight, in answer to our many questions, he told us his story.” A lost essay by Langston Hughes recounts meeting the escaped prisoner of a chain gang in 1927. Previously published in Russian, the essay can now be read in its original English at the Smithsonian.

In her new story collection Mouthful of Birds, Samanta Schweblin uses narrative to conjure the strangeness of truth. “For me, writing is thinking about what matters, exposing myself to my darkest fears, testing my own limits, and learning precious lessons, vital lessons, things that could really change my point of view, personal behaviors, or decisions.” (Los Angeles Review of Books)

While Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing may have topped the best-seller lists for the first half of 2019, the novel is one of only six fiction books to make the top twenty sellers for the year in books so far. (Publishers Weekly)

In Australia, author and oyster farmer Matt Zurbo is more than 280 days into a year-long challenge: In honor of his baby daughter, Zurbo is writing a new children’s book every day. (New York Times)

At the University of Alaska, thousands of students have been notified that their grants and scholarships are in limbo as lawmakers continue to tussle over funding for higher education in the state. The university is home to two MFA creative writing programs. (Alaska Public Media)

At Electric Literature, readers weigh in on recent book jacket designs: hardcover or paperback? The covers considered include Jamel Brinkley’s short story collection, A Lucky Man, and Elaine Castillo’s novel, America Is Not the Heart. 

From Khizanat al Qarawiyyin in Morocco—where books have been housed since 859—to the gravity-defying National Library of Sejong City in South Korea, Book Riot surveys the great libraries of the world.

And in the United Kingdom, police and booksellers are puzzling over a literary vandal who has torn the pages of hundreds of books in stores and libraries in Herne Bay, Kent. Locals have pieced together that the culprit—who tears pages in half before replacing the volume on the shelf—is likely one person (with a “distinctive rip”) who has been committing the dastardly deeds for some months now.