Luttrell says he wants the magazine he helped found to outlast him. True support of small presses, he says, has to come in several ways: “If you care enough about a magazine to submit your work there, you should care enough to send a subscription check and know that the magazine will still be there when they get around to publishing your work.”
Once, at Naropa, Luttrell overheard an exchange with one of Ginsberg’s and Kerouac’s old cronies, the poet Gregory Corso. While the famously iconoclastic Corso was chatting with a small circle of friends, a man approached him and said: “Hey, good to meet you, Gregory. I’m a poet too.” Corso shot back: “Oh yeah? You’re a poet? Well, you’re an asshole, too!”
“There was nothing Corso hated more than talking with poets about poetry,” says Luttrell, laughing.
Luttrell often evokes William Carlos Williams’s explanation of a poem (“A poem is a machine made out of words”) as an analogy to the Café Review.
“That’s how I feel about the Café Review, it’s this perfect little machine,” says Luttrell. “Ideas are abundant,” he says of journals that are created by groups of several people and sputter out, “but it takes something else to see those ideas through.”
Man Group, the investment company and hedge fund that sponsors the annual Man Booker Prize, last week announced the finalists of its other high-profile award: the Man Booker International Prize. The biannual award, founded in 2004, is given to a writer of any nationality whose work is available in English. It's worth around eighty-five thousand dollars. The finalists are:
Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (India)
E. L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnošt Lustig (Czechoslovakia)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V. S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong'O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)
The judges are Amit Chaudhuri, Andrey Kurkov, and Jane Smiley. The winner will be announced in May.
Previous winners of the prize are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Below is a video poem by Kadare and Achebe's 2007 acceptance speech.
Every Tuesday the literary trade paperback imprint will choose a new book (published by Picador, of course) and invite readers to discuss it via the social networking and microblogging service—in 140-character text messages called "tweets"—two weeks later.
An avid admirer of the Beats, Luttrell has made many pilgrimages to readings and conferences devoted to the subject. “When I was at Naropa one year, and Ginsberg was still alive,” he says with a smile, “I asked him, ‘Allen, if Jack [Kerouac] had lived and you had died, do you think anybody today would remember the Beat Generation?’ I asked him because we all knew how good of a marketer Ginsberg was. But he just smiled when I asked him.”
The deadline for the 2009 Levis Poetry Prize, sponsored by the independent press Four Way Books, is less than a week away. The annual award, which includes a thousand dollars and publication of a book-length collection, is open to any poet writing in English, regardless of publication history. This year's judge is Mary Jo Bang, author, most recently, of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning collection Elegy (Graywolf, 2007) and the director of the creative writing program at Washington University in St. Louis.
The guidelines for the Levis Poetry Prize are not only practical but also interesting for their description of the press's reading policy, which underscores the lengths legitimate sponsoring organizations will go to ensure that there will be no allegations of unfairness. (Such a description also illustrates how the culture of competition has evolved from what it was four or five years ago, when skepticism and even cynicism about all things contest-related seemed to reach its peak). What's changed, exactly? For starters, the process whereby winners are chosen has become, in many cases, more transparent.
After describing the ways in which poets may submit their work to the contest, the Four Way Books editors end with the following note about a potential submitter's relationship with the judge: "Please do not submit to this contest if you are close enough to Mary Jo Bang that her integrity, your integrity, and the integrity of Four Way Books would be called into question should you be selected as the winner. You may query us if you have questions regarding this matter. We will allow you to submit to us outside of the contest if you feel that you are treading deep water in this regard."
The press's reading policy, which details the path each manuscript travels—from the point at which it's stripped of identifying material to its delivery to preliminary readers to its arrival at the judge's desk—can be read on the Four Way Books Web site.
A new program on youth slam poetry is set to debut on HBO next month. The seven-part series "New Voices," narrated by rapper Queen Latifah, follows forty-four slam teams from seven cities as they advance toward the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival held last year in Washington, D.C.
"They haunt us in their evocation of what has disappeared from view but not from memory," cultural critic Johanna Drucker writes of Waldrop's collages. "How vividly these fragments, exquisitly excised and recombined, proffer their microcosmic scenes and complex ambiguities."