Tracy K. Smith on Listening, the Communal Palace of Public Libraries, 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.

“Unlike politics, poems don’t get you fired up in a position of authority and judgment over others. You’re not arguing something down when you’re talking about a poem. You’re saying, let me listen to this.” U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith on the importance of poetry in divided times. (NPR)

At New York Review of Books, Sue Halpern joins Eric Klinenberg, Susan Orlean, and filmmaker Frederick Wiseman in praise of that rare communal space where strangers share knowledge and the entertainment is free: the public library, palace of the people.

“The dystopian scenes in the book were imagined, I believe, to be a prophylactic hex against those scenes becoming real.” Brenda Shaughnessy on poetry as a boundary, a source of knowledge, and a “non-document” in her latest collection, The Octopus Museum. (Literary Hub)

At the New York Times Magazine, Robert A. Caro shares his approach to writing the biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, as outlined in his new book, Working. “I don’t believe that I’m writing a ‘great-man theory of history.’ I believe that what I’m writing about are the rare individuals who can harness political forces and bring something out of them, either for good or for ill.”

Surveying the industry’s low wages, unpaid overtime, and lack of diversity, Bethany Patch concludes that it’s time for book editors to demand change and stop saying “I put up with it because I love my job so much.” (Guardian)

“I wasn’t laboring over making the sentences pretty.” Instead, it’s the plot that rolls into curlicues in Susan Choi’s new novel, Trust Exercise. (Vulture)

The Marshall Project has launched a new print publication dedicated to journalism by and about the lives of incarcerated people, to be distributed for free inside U.S. prisons and jails. The first volume of the News Inside is currently circulating in thirty facilities in nineteen states.

And while the BBC reports that Catholic priests in Poland have burned copies of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in condemnation of their portrayal of magic, Forbes finds that in the United Kingdom, an early edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has sold at auction for £68,812 (approximately $90,000).