On Famous Last Words, #ActualAsianPoets, 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:

If there is a silver lining to the controversy surrounding the 2015 Best American Poetry anthology—in which contributor Yi-Fen Chou was revealed to be a pseudonym for white poet Michael Derrick Hudson—it is the call for readers to seek out the work of real Asian American poets. The Asian American Writers’ Workshop has tweeted the names of Asian American poets using the hashtag #ActualAsianPoets, and author Jenny Zhang’s BuzzFeed article, in which she listed names of poets “we ought remember long after we forget this white guy in yellowname,” has garnered a flood of positive feedback. (Guardian)

Seamus Heaney’s son, Mick Heaney, offers insight into the “last words” convention by examining the last words of his father—the Latin phrase “Noli timere,” which translates to “Don’t be afraid.” “My father had done what writers do best: boiled down our anxieties and fears in a way that makes sense….The written word, like any great art, can allow us to process complex or difficult subjects, illuminating truths in a way no other field of endeavor can do.” (Irish Times)

This morning, the National Book Foundation announced the longlist for the National Book Award in poetry. Ross Gay’s Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, Terrance Hayes’s How to Be Drawn, Marilyn Hacker’s A Stranger’s Mirror, and Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things are among the ten finalists. The shortlist will be announced on October 14, and the winners will be announced on November 18. 

In more awards news, the six shortlisted titles for the Man Booker Prize for fiction have been announced. Among the finalists is Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel, The Fisherman, which was featured in Poets & Writers fifteenth annual First Fiction roundup (July/August 2015). Check out G&A Blog for more details about the finalists. (BBC News)

Does the “Novel of Ideas” exist in today’s fiction? At the New York Times, Pankaj Mishra and Benjamin Moser discuss the current state of philosophical novels, and the difficulty of characterizing the genre. “A novel with ideas is one thing: Any good novel, and indeed any bad novel, has plenty. A novel of ideas is something else. Ideas, after all, so easily slide into ideology.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill has named eleven new contributors to its “Cultivating Thought” series. New stories by Anthony Doerr, Jonathan Franzen, Sue Monk Kidd, Colson Whitehead, and other acclaimed writers will now appear on the company’s disposable cups and bags. Previous participants include Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, and Jeffrey Eugenides. (Los Angeles Times)

“Do not wait for the poem, run with the poem and then write the poem.” In an interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne, U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera discusses his childhood, his writing process, and his advice for writing poetry.