Writers Call for Reforms at Poetry Foundation, Jericho Brown Makes the Case for Radical Action, and More

by Staff

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.

A group of thirty poets has published an open letter to the Poetry Foundation signed by more than 1,500 writers that criticizes the organization’s response to ongoing state-sanctioned violence against Black people and the current protests against anti-Black racism. The signatories—many of whom are former recipients of the foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship—write that the foundation’s statement of solidarity was “worse than the bare minimum,” and further note the institution’s ongoing failure to “redistribute more of its enormous resources to marginalized artists.” The letter concludes with several demands, including a call for the resignation of foundation president Henry Bienen and board chair Willard Bunn, III. The thirty poets pledge to no longer participate in partnerships with the foundation or submit to Poetry until the demands “have been met to a substantial degree.”

Poet Phillip B. Williams, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellow from 2013, has written his own letter in response to the group petition. While he emphasizes his letter is not “in opposition of the original petition,” he critiques the writers for not fully accounting for their complicity as beneficiaries and former defenders of the Poetry Foundation. Along with personal pledges for how he will conduct himself in any future interactions with the foundation, Williams includes an apology to the poetry community: “I am sorry for not doing more with my affiliation with the Poetry Foundation to make it more equitable and safer for all of us to be included in equal measure.” 

“Peaceful protest alone has never brought progress, fairness or justice to Black people in the United States.” Jericho Brown considers the history of Black resistance in America and makes the case for radical action. (Guardian)

Writers are sharing information about their book advances on Twitter using #publishingpaidme. Writer L. L. McKinney coined the hashtag to specifically call on white authors to disclose their pay, in an effort to highlight the disparity between what Black writers and white writers are offered for their work. (Guardian)

“My country has made an unreliable witness out of me—too black, too biased, too ‘close’ to the story; the obituary they keep trying to write for us—but I still wanted to tell you what I’ve seen.” Saeed Jones reflects on the “ghostly pain” of living through the present moment and witnessing America’s ongoing disregard for Black lives. (GQ)

Publishers Weekly surveyed New York City publishers about their plans for reopening physical offices. Many companies are considering a phased approach, and no company anticipates a substantive reopening before September 1. 

Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to be an Antiracist, has announced he will be moving to Boston University to launch a new center for antiracist research. Most recently, Kendi worked at American University, where he directed the Antiracist Research and Policy Center. (CNN)

The shortlist for the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award was announced over the weekend. The £30,000 prize honors a single short story written in English, and this year’s shortlisted authors are Niamh Campbell, Louise Kennedy, Daniel O’Malley, Namwali Serpell, Alexia Tolas, and Shawn Vestal. 

Tina Jordan revisits archival clippings from the New York Times to see how Americans mourned Charles Dickens’s death in 1870

And the Daily Shout-Out goes to the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference for adapting their programming for the pandemic era by hosting “Dream Loaf,” a special week of free live and pre-recorded programming from June 9 to 14.