Sing Sing Book Reviewer Identified, Library Snakes, 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 New York Times has identified the mystery Sing Sing prisoner who wrote dozens of “pungent, salty, to-the-point” book reviews in the early twentieth century, such as his review of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair in which he declared, “You’re a lobster if you don’t read this one, and you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

The Georgetown Library in Washington, D.C. was closed for two days after librarians found snakes in the building. (Washington Post)

Jeffrey Lependorf is leaving his post as the executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Lependorf, who led the council for seventeen years, will take up a new job as the executive director of the Flow Chart Foundation in Hudson; he will also continue as the executive director of Small Press Distribution. (Publishers Weekly)

Poet Anya Silver died this week from breast cancer. Silver published four poetry collections and often confronted faith and illness in her work. (Telegraph)

“We often say that we want whites to understand black pain, the black experience, black difference. We want them to empathize. But upon achieving this understanding, white artists, as artists, will naturally seek to express it through their creations. Are we to decree that they must not?” Linguist John McWhorter defends Ander Carlson-Wee’s use of Black vernacular in his poem that was published in the Nation. (Atlantic)

“Acknowledging who you are in relation to your source, and who wrote it, is essential, from the beginning. The idea that all art belongs to everyone, to do whatever they’d like with it, is an idea with roots in the toolbox of white supremacy.” Poet Chase Berggrun talks about the politics of erasure and their debut collection, R E D, which is an erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (BOMB Magazine)

“Books saved me when times were challenging and compounded my joy when times were good.” Fiction writer Lesley Nneka Arimah offers reading and writing advice. (PBS NewsHour)

Poet Eric McHenry has dug up records in the Topeka Plaindealer, an African American weekly newspaper published in the early 1900s, that suggest Langston Hughes was born in 1901, not 1902 as scholars and Hughes himself had previously believed. (New York Times)