Marilynne Robinson on the Importance of Humanities, Neruda’s Cause of Death, 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:

“What is at stake now, in this rather inchoate cluster of anxieties that animates so many of us, is the body of learning and thought we call the humanities.” Marilynne Robinson writes about the history and importance of humanism and art. (New York Review of Books)

A panel of international scientists says they are “100 percent convinced” that Pablo Neruda did not die of prostate cancer, as his official cause of death states. The scientists are continuing to analyze bacteria found in Neruda’s body, which was exhumed by the Chilean government in 2015 after Neruda’s chauffeur told the press that the poet, who died in 1973, might have been killed by a third party. (Guardian)

“I think the silences in poems do a lot, the spaces where there is no writing does a lot. Or maybe it’s just where we get to allow these other things to echo and expand, or to grow a little bit before they’re countered or followed up by something else.” Tracy K. Smith visits Beijing and talks about the power of silence in poetry, her new post as U.S. Poet Laureate, and her forthcoming co-translation of a collection by Chinese poet Yi Lei. (

Xerox and the 92nd Street Y have collaborated on an anthology of writing and songs about the American workplace, Speaking of Work: A Story of Love, Suspense and Paperclips, which is available for free today. The anthology includes pieces from musician Aimee Mann and writers Joyce Carol Oates, Gary Shteyngart, and Billy Collins. (New York Times)

“Writers have been sitting around tables talking about craft for more than eighty years. Are there other conversations we could be having?” At the New Yorker, Pasha Malla looks to the lectures of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar to inspire different ways of teaching writing.

“Dear Generals Three: / If he asks for The Football, / Link arms: Take a knee.” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has announced the winners of his Trump-inspired poetry contest, which received 2,750 entries.

Meanwhile, Rachel Stone argues that the election of Trump has led to an increase in erasure poetry, which enables poets to “reassert power over language that has typically been used to determine who does and does not belong.” (New Republic)

In the wake of women coming forward last week to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, Publishers Weekly speaks with women in the publishing industry about sexual harassment.