Poem Drafts, NEH Announces 2017 Grants, 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 Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), despite its uncertain future in light of the Trump administration’s push to eliminate the agency, has announced the recipients of the 2017 NEH grants today. The agency will award more than $39 million in grants to 245 humanities projects, including books about everything from Sylvia Plath to wiretapping to the first women to receive medical degrees in the United States. (Washington Post)

Six contemporary poets, including Billy Collins, Jenny Zhang, and Marie Howe, each share a draft of a poem with their handwritten notes and revisions. (New York Times)

“We knew each other for such a long time. Our ways could not be defined or dismissed with a few words describing a careless youth. We were friends; good or bad, we were just ourselves.” Patti Smith remembers Sam Shepard, who died last week. (New Yorker)

The Association of American Publishers reports that sales of adult trade books rose 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016. Sales in higher educational course materials rose 24.3 percent, but sales in e-books, religious publishing, and children’s and young adult books all fell. (Publishers Weekly)

Steve Graham, an expert on how young people learn to write, offers an approach for nurturing good writers: Ask questions instead of offering a critique, encourage textual analysis instead of just reading, and don’t worry about kids using social media. (New York Times)

The Poetry Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2017 Dorothy Sargent and Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships, annual awards of $25,800 given to poets between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one.

In other awards news, Grace Talusan has won the 2017 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing for her memoir, The Body Papers, which details what judges Anjali Singh and Ilan Stevens describe as “the delicate and fraught contours of her own life as an immigrant and survivor of trauma and illness.” The $10,000 award is given annually for a debut book of prose by a first-generation writer.

“We’re so focused on trying to be writers and saying the things that need to be said. It’s sometimes easy to miss the ways in which singling out and sharing excellent lines from a poem helps you and everyone else become a better writer. Simply being an avid reader and a generous reader makes you a better writer.” Adrian Matejka talks with Divedapper about being a good literary citizen, great poets who wrote under severe social or economic pressure, and the difference between writing poems using a historical persona and one’s “emotional geography."