Poet and Nuyorican Café Founder Miguel Algarín Has Died, Barnes & Noble Announces Book of the Year, and More


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.

Barnes & Noble has named Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s essay collection, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, its 2020 Book of the Year. The annual title is bestowed upon the book Barnes & Noble booksellers “are most proud to sell.”

Nezhukumatathil recently spoke with poet Ross Gay in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Miguel Algarín died on Monday at the age of seventy-nine. A poet and professor, Algarín was one of the driving forces behind the Nuyorican Poets Café, an iconic performance space in New York City that blossomed into a literary arts movement. Ed Morales remembers him as someone who “had a fearless sense of pride and was a champion of the underprivileged.” (New York Times)

Novelist Alison Lurie died yesterday at the age of ninety-four. Lurie was known for her comedies of manners, including her novel Foreign Affairs, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. (Washington Post)

Camilla Townsend has won the 2020 Cundill History Prize for her book Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs. McGill University annually awards the $75,000 prize to a nonfiction book that “embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal.”

“Sometimes you have a truth that you have to do both the living and the reading in order to be able to say it right one day.” In the latest installment of Back Draft, poet Danez Smith talks about revising their poem “waiting on you to die so I can be myself,” writing about family and childhood, and “Frankensteining” old work into new work. (Guernica)

“Like firefighters waiting in a quiet station for the call to duty, they embraced the Times assignment quickly and wholeheartedly.” New York Times editor Felice Belman reflects on asking the poets laureate of nearly every state in the country to describe what they have been grateful for this year in the feature “Verses vs. Virus: What These Poets Laureate Are Thankful For.” 

“Amid the uncertainty, however, is one thing I’m absolutely certain of: reading saved my sanity. Not the tweets, the breaking news blurbs, the protest signs, the think pieces, the text messages and emails that ended with some variation on the phrase ‘hope you are doing as well as one can in a time like this’—but the books.” Writer Zak Salih describes his year in reading. (Millions)

Smithsonian scholars share their favorite books of 2020, titles that “served as an antidote to doomscrolling, a path to enlightenment, a way to surface lost histories or biographies, or to peer deep into the future to find the footprints of our civilization in the fossil record.” (Smithsonian)