Listening to John Ashbery, R. O. Kwon on Momentum, and More

by
Staff
10.30.19

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.

In celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the 92nd Street Y launched “75 at 75,” a series in which contemporary authors were invited to listen to recordings from the center’s archive and share reflections. In the latest installment of the series at the Paris Review Daily, professor of writing and performance arts Marit MacArthur revisits the center’s many recordings of John Ashbery. MacArthur notes that Ashbery was not known for his performance skills—he openly disliked his own voice and believed poetry ought to be encountered on the page—but finds much to analyze and admire all the same. “His own voice and performance style changes—perhaps more than we would have thought—poem by poem and over the years.”

R. O. Kwon talks to the Creative Independent about her writing process and maintaining momentum during long projects. “I try hard to write first thing in the day. Sometimes that’s just one sentence. But at least I know that I’ve broken that seal.” 

Alexander Chee considers the question, “Do you have any advice for writing about people who do not look like you?” Pointing to writers who have already shared nuanced advice for “writing the other”—Nisi Shawl, Brandon Taylor—Chee then asks writers to rewind: Before asking “how,” consider why you want to tell the story in the first place. (Vulture)

Helen Garner burned her early diaries in a backyard bonfire, but adapted and published her later journals from 1978 to 1987 as Yellow Notebook this year. Something had shifted in the writing, breaking her records into two eras: “It seemed that in 1978 I had sat up and taken a proper look around.” (Guardian)

“People are complex, much more complex than I could ever show on the page. I could spend my whole life writing about these people and never do them justice.” In an interview at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jaquira Díaz discusses her memoir, Ordinary Girls, and knowing the limits of her own point-of-view. 

Reyna Grande retraces when and how she lost proficiency in her mother tongue, Spanish. After enduring the American education system that forcefully supplanted her Spanish with English, she explains how, in the present, choosing to translate her own work instead of hiring a professional translator offers the opportunity for an imperfect, yet reparative return. “Perhaps now my book is flawed, but I can live with that. What I cannot live with is not trying to reclaim what I once lost—my first language, my first love.” (Literary Hub)

Ahead of Halloween, Elizabeth Sulis Kim has curated a list of famous writers who were inspired by the occult, including Sylvia Plath and Shirley Jackson. (Electric Lit)

This November will mark the twentieth annual National Novel Writing Month. At the New York Times, J. D. Biersdorfer advises writers on how to write fifty thousand words in one month.