Reading for Wellbeing, National Haiku Writing Month, 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:

A new online course titled Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing—which begins February 1—will explore the ways in which reading literature and poetry can help people cope with mental health problems. The course, taught by Paula Byrne and Jonathan Bate, is being delivered through the University of Warwick in association with the British charity ReLit, which focuses on “bibliotherapy.” As part of the course, British actors Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, and broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg gave interviews about the poems and literature that have helped them with their personal struggles. “It seems language and poetry, which one takes to be the highest expression of language, is a natural way for me both to grapple with demons but also to escape from them,” said Stephen Fry. (Futurelearn, Independent)

Janet Malcolm, New Yorker writer and author of The Silent Women: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes, wrote a biting, negative review Jonathan Bates’s recently published biography, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorized Life in last week’s New York Review of Books. Malcolm accuses Bates of manipulating facts and relying too heavily on gossip, and takes him to task for sensationalizing Hughes and turning him “into a kind of extra-large sex maniac.” The review has already sparked responses in the literary sphere. (Literary Hub)

“There are times poems do not come and life is too heavy to be placed on the page, or life is so deliciously light and joyful you must suck it down before anyone notices. That is okay.” Poet Ada Limón writes at Richard Blanco’s blog about the value and pleasure writers should allow themselves in moments spent not writing.

Bomb’s Spring Books Preview features several writers, including Ken Chen, John Keene, and Dawn Lundy Martin, sharing the upcoming books on their radar.

Fiction writer Sarah Gerard interviews poet Brett Fletcher Lauer about his debut memoir, Faked Missed Connections: Divorce, Online Dating, and Other Failures, purging his journals, how he mined material for the book, and the experience of writing in a new form. (Hazlitt)

PEN American Center announced yesterday that the organization will honor best-selling author J. K. Rowling at its annual awards gala on May 16 in New York City. Rowling will receive the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, which is given annually to a critically acclaimed writer whose work “embodies [PEN’s] mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity.” PEN will also honor Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch for his “leadership in the fight against censorship.”

Perhaps you couldn’t commit to writing 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but in February, the shortest month of the year, you may be able to tackle writing the shortest poetic genre each day. Yes, February 1 begins National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo). Though short in form, haikus pose their own difficulties; NaHaiWriMo’s website features a quote from Roland Barthes: “Haiku has this rather fantasmagorical property: that we always suppose we ourselves can write such things easily.”