Richard Blanco on Inaugural Anniversary, B. J. Novak as Literary Star, and More

Evan Smith Rakoff

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:

Amazon is expanding its business into central Europe with new warehouses in the Czech Republic and Poland. Operations director Tim Collins said, “In terms of unions themselves, we don’t see a need for that.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Waiting to be called up to the podium that day, I knew my life would be changed forever, and that nothing would ever be the same.” On his blog, poet Richard Blanco reflects on the one-year anniversary of his reading at the presidential inauguration.

The New York Times speaks with Michael Proffitt, the new editor of the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary, about the state of our evolving language. (“Unfriending,” by the way, has been in use since 1659.)

Oprah magazine gathered thoughts from various authors, including Meg Wolitzer and Jeannette Walls, about the moment they knew they wanted to dedicate their lives to writing.

Former U. S. poet laureate Billy Collins will appear on the Leonard Lopate Show today. (WNYC)

Carolyn Kellogg reports that actor B. J. Novak signed a two-book deal earlier this week, just shy of the publication of his first collection, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. (Los Angeles Times)

“Every map tells a story, and writers yearning for new ways to tell stories are drawn to them.” Casey N. Cep discusses the importance of maps in literary narrative. (New Yorker)


Freedom and your poetry reading in Aspen today

The free flow of information and those that failingly try to impose an authoritarian regime and feel threatened by the free flow of information….Freedom to communicate will lead not on to success in the Information Age but also to empowerment.” -Walter Issacson, CEO, The Aspen Institute

“The erosion of American democracy has forced people who care about country—who care about civic health, into this box of civil disobedience and local action.” RFK, Jr, 01.21.2011

Dear Richard,

I admire your work and would love to be present at your reading today in Aspen, my home town.

However, if I came, I might be subject to 18 months in jail for you see your sponsor, the Aspen Writers Foundation, part of the Aspen Institute, obtained a restraining order on me for predicting revolution.  

Our Sheriff, like myself, believes freedom of expression is on the decline in the town once home to hippies and the counterculture.   

Once upon a time, Aspen, a 21st century Versailles, was ruled by a mighty billionaire family from Chicago. 

The Royal Family had many friends come to visit them at their winter Kingdom and stay in their castle, the Petit Trianon including their "best friends," the skiing First family of the King of the Drones, Obama,  All was peaceful for many years as they slowly fortified their winter castle kingdom:

That is until a young Robin Hood, a tea partying, Ph.D., union organizing, Sorbonne attending, peon freestyle aerial skier from Texas, pointed out to the overreaching overlords that they did not pay their serfs what they had promised & they were stealing money from the little people.

 Then the Familia banned the troublemaker from all the lands the Familia rented from the King of the Drones for passing out a union flyer.

 And so began the long climb of the banned whistleblower from the State of Colorado.... -------------->

 ..............................................................................................................................................Once Skico/da Crowns gobbled up the fourth and only remaining independent ski hill from Harvard to monopolize Aspen subsequently [cough] approved by our "justice" dept., Aspen is lurching towards its fabulous status as a 19th century despotic company town


As an attorney from Arkansas brilliantly observed on this Times article:

 "SkiCo is the largest employer in Aspen and surrounding area. SkiCo sets the level of income in the area. SkiCo sets the level of rent for housing in the area. If you live in the area and want to ski, but don't want to travel miles and miles away, you must patronize SkiCo. If you want to access the National Forrest in you own backyard, you better make sure you have the permission of SkiCo. You want to speak in glowing terms about your employer, SkiCo? Go right ahead. You disagree with or don't like aspects of your employment with SkiCo? STFU. Or be fired. Maybe sued.

I live in a place some would call a "company town," too. Certainly a much bigger and more lucrative company owns this town... Walmart. That said, I'd choose this place over Aspen and SkiCo any day because Walmart isn't interested in controlling the lives of the residents here and, based on the protesters I see on occasion, Walmart isn't interested in controlling the free speech of others.

Yes, SkiCo is a bully. Congrats... the more SkiCo tries to control thought, action and speech of it's employees, the more negative publicity SkiCo gets." -Tina Adcock, Attorney. Get the pattern here? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->

"If you wish to understand what Revolution is, call it Progress; and if you wish to understand what Progress is, call it Tomorrow."-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.

Aspen's dirty little secret: The billionariosa Familia de Chicago pedals tanks from the ski lifts of Snowmass to the glittering ballrooms of the Aspen Institute overlooking the private castles on Red Mountain. 

The town of Aspen, and its Institute, is controlled by the powerful Crown family out of Chicago. Not only do they own the Aspen Skiing Company, but they also own the merchant of death, the world's 4th largest weapons manufacture, General Dynamics.  They are "best friends" with the Obama family.  

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas. Freedom of expression is used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," occurs whenever people or the government succeeds in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. 

This commitment to freedom of expression is deeply embedded in our national psyche, buttressed by the First Amendment, and supported by a long line of Supreme Court decisions. The ACLU states: "Once you allow the government to censor someone else, you cede to it the power to censor you.... Censorship is like a poison gas: a powerful weapon that can harm you when the wind shifts."

The call for the state to place people in cages for expressing prohibited ideas - the desire to imprison one's fellow citizens for expressing ideas one dislikes - or as Johnny Boyd of the Aspen Daily News states: “In a civilized society the ability to criticize our masters is the last bastion of freedom."

Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald in The GuardianUK stated: "Nothing has been more destructive or dangerous throughout history - nothing - than the power of the state to suppress and criminalize opinions it dislikes. I regard calls for suppression of ideas as far more menacing than - and at least just as hateful as - bigoted Twitter hashtags and online homophobic jokes."
Speech that subverts authority can be deemed to be hateful and even tending to incite violence. The theory advanced by western censorship advocates like French minister Vallaud-Belkacem is exactly the same invoked by Arab tyrants to punish and imprison regime opponents: that such speech is designed to stoke hatred and incite violence. The New York Daily News reported that a Qatari poet was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2012 for a verse that drew inspiration from the Arab Spring. Qatari officials claimed that the poem, 'Tunisian Jasmine', by Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, insulted their nation's emir and encouraged the overthrow of its ruling system. The New York Daily News stated:

"The government's initial reaction came in November 2011, when Qatari officials jailed the poet a few months after a video was posted of him reading 'Tunisian Jasmine', which celebrated the uprising in Tunisia that lit the fuse for the widespread revolt of the Arab Spring. In one of its particularly contentious passages, the poem claims 'We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elite'."



Lee Mulcahy, artist