Rita Dove on Inaugural Poets, the Future of American Literature, 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:

“When you hear a poem, you both feel it enter you, but you also have to rise to meet it. That pulls the citizen in you out, into the air. That’s why I think it’s important and meaningful to have a poem read at a swearing-in of a president.” Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove speaks with CNN about the impact of poetry in “moments of national significance,” and why Donald Trump’s choice to not feature a poet at his presidential inauguration was a missed opportunity.

On September 26, Doubleday will release an expanded version of the “only written remnant of a children’s fairy tale from [Mark] Twain,” The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. The fairytale fragment was discovered by a visiting scholar at the University of California in Berkeley in 2011.

Paul Beatty, whose satirical novel, The Sellout, was the first American book to win the Man Booker Prize, says Trump’s rise to the presidency is not shocking, and that race relations have improved very little over the years. “This is nothing new. To me that’s the part that feels disingenuous. When people go, I don’t recognize this place. And I’m like, where have you been?” (Guardian)

Meanwhile, Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, reflects on the first year of her tenure and the role of American literature in the new political era. “People keep saying we’re post-fact, and I think that books are the special place where we can go to understand the world that we live in.” (TIME)

Thirteenth-century Muslim poet Rumi is the best-selling poet in the United States, but his Muslim background is often ignored and he has become, Alexander C. Kafka writes at the Washington Post, the “warm and fuzzy ecumenical poet of choice for weddings, coming-of-age ceremonies, and funerals.” Kafka considers a new biography of the poet that “restores Rumi to the glories and hardships of his momentous age.” 

At the Times Literary Supplement, Devony Looser considers the various attempts to “modernize and politicize” novelist Jane Austen, as seen in many iterations of critical books on the author as well as in annotated editions of her works.

Novelist and memoirist Paul Auster is interested in becoming the president of PEN America in 2018, noting Trump’s election and the new administration’s plans to abolish the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowments of Humanities as catalysts to “work out how to live my life in the years ahead.” (Guardian)