Staff From Black Mountain Institute and the Believer Pen Open Letter, John Murillo Wins Four Quartets Prize, and More

by Staff
5.5.21

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.

An anonymous group of current and former employees of the Believer and Black Mountain Institute (BMI) have issued an open letter to detail “harmful working conditions” under Joshua Wolf Shenk, who resigned earlier this week from his roles as the editor in chief of the Believer and the executive and artistic director of BMI after a February incident in which he exposed himself to colleagues on Zoom. The letter specifically critiques the recent Los Angeles Times report on Shenk’s resignation, which framed the act of exposure as an accident. The employees contend, instead, that it was an act of sexual harassment that was “the culmination of a yearslong pattern of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior.” In closing, the group calls on the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, which houses both the magazine and BMI, to “take real action towards building healthy, equitable workplaces,” among other demands. (Desertnote/Medium)

John Murillo has won the 2021 Four Quartets Prize, which honors “a unified and complete sequence of poems,” for “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn,” which appeared in his latest book, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry. Administered by the Poetry Society of America and the T. S. Eliot Foundation, the prize includes a $21,000 purse.

“I was one of these people coming to Lahiri in hopes of gaining some greater understanding about the current state of the world. She had, through her work, given me a balm for my suffering.” Scaachi Koul reflects on what authors can and cannot give their readers in her profile of Jhumpa Lahiri. (BuzzFeed News)

Han Zhang of the New Yorker writes about the poetic legacy of Yi Lei, who died unexpectedly in 2018. Tracy K. Smith, who recently cotranslated a book of Yi Lei’s poems alongside Bi Changtai, has helped introduce her work to English readers.

“To find myself moving more and more to the inside is really confusing. I don’t want to lose that outsider vision.” Alison Bechdel discusses the arc of her career and the writing of her latest graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength. (Los Angeles Times)

“I remember saying to a friend, I want to do a book on microaggressions, but that’s, like, so old. Is it even worth doing?” The New York Times profiles Aminder Dhaliwal, whose latest graphic novel, Cyclopedia Exotica, features cyclops that endure xenophobia and hate. 

“The mother and son relationship is complex—fraught with pain, hurt, love and triumph.” Keisha Bush spotlights mother-son narratives in various artistic works, including six books, two films, and one album. (Electric Literature)

Julianne Pachico, author of The Anthill, recommends ten books to “acquaint readers with depictions of Colombia beyond the headlines.” (Guardian)