National Book Award Finalists, Ocean Vuong’s Story, 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:

The National Book Foundation has announced the 2017 National Book Award finalists  in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature. The winners will be announced on November 15.

Speaking of the finalists, Major Jackson considers the “cosmopolitan and intellectual sophisticate Frank Bidart,” whose latest collection, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965­–2016, is a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry. Jackson says that Bidart offers “a wholly new approach to autobiographical material,” and “avoids the pitfalls of therapeutic poetry by ennobling thought itself.” (New York Times)

Meanwhile, the Cut profiles poet Rupi Kaur, whose second book, The Sun and Her Flowers, came out yesterday. “She is, deeply and truly, a poet of Instagram: In the manner of that medium, her work is human experience, tidily aestheticized and monetized, rendered inspirational and relatable in perfect balance.”

“The big lesson for me as an artist is that life is always more complicated than the headlines allow; poetry comes in when the news is not enough.” Poet and former refugee Ocean Vuong shares the story of how his family came to be in America and what poetry means to him. (Guardian)

At the Washington Post, Ron Charles dissects the phrase “thoughts and prayers” by looking at books about prayer, spirituality, and magic.

Rabih Alameddine talks about being an atheist, as well as Arab identity, gay stigma, and his latest novel, The Angel of History. (Rumpus)

Poet Andrew Motion describes meeting Philip Larkin and their ensuing “friendship with holes in it.” (New Yorker)

The Bethesda, Maryland house of William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, is up for sale for $3.2 million. Julie Blatty, the author’s widow, has stated that the house might be home to the ghost of the couple’s son, who died at age nineteen. (Los Angeles Times)