What We Ought to Do: THE SONG OF IMBOLO MBUE
In her second novel, How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue uses the chorus of voices in a small African village fighting for justice in the shadow of an American oil company to sing in celebration of community, connection, and enduring hope.
Pandemic Pen Pals
Nupur Chaudhury, a public health strategist living in New York City, grew up in the nineties sending letters through the mail. She received weekly aerograms from relatives in India; she corresponded with a pen pal in Texas; her father even took her to admire the post office’s new stamps every month. But as she grew older, Chaudhury says, “E-mail became more popular, and I really put that writing part of me to the side”—that is, until she came across the pen pal exchange Penpalooza on Twitter in August 2020.
Neither muscle nor mouth
Neither muscle nor mouth / devoted to one way of speaking. Every language // I borrow from somewhere else,” writes Threa Almontaser in The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press, April 2021), winner of the Walt Whitman Award. In her debut Almontaser summons the language of her ancestors and family members, poets both contemporary and historical, experimental rock bands and rappers, and many more, to fashion an idiom that is both rebellious and reverent. Dedicated to the people of Yemen, the book offers a portrait of a country and its history and future. “Yemen has such an ancient and rich history, but with its current collapse, search engines show only the sad photos of starving kids,” says Almontaser. “I wanted to portray not only the war, but the beauty of Arabia Felix, of what it could still return to being.”
Writers Confront Climate Crisis
Author and activist Toni Cade Bambara has said the role of the artist is “to make revolution irresistible.” So when Jenny Offill, author of the novels Dept. of Speculation (Knopf, 2014) and Weather (Knopf, 2020), heard about the work of Writers Rebel—the writers’ arm of Extinction Rebellion, an international activist group that works against climate change—she felt compelled to get involved.
Revising the Dream
Publishing a debut novel in an uncertain world
Pandemic Writing Group
Finding Creativity, Community, and Play
In her third book, the essay collection girlhood, published by Bloomsbury in March, Melissa Febos transforms scars into meditations on culture and psychology.
New Ways of Surviving
Writing through a global pandemic
A Room of (Almost) My Own
Finding space, and permission, to write
HOW TO SEEK PERMISSIONS
The Time Is Now
Writing Prompts and Exercises
A Life in Poetry
Our sixteenth annual look at debut poets
Little Libraries, Big Impact
Early in March a box was erected outside the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) in Houston.
Grants Celebrate Disability Culture
In October, twenty disabled artists were announced as the first class of Disability Futures Fellows and received grants of $50,000 each, to be used in whatever way is most useful in supporting their work.
Akbar Edits Poetry of the Nation
In September the Nation, a bastion of progressive journalism since 1865, welcomed Kaveh Akbar as its newest poetry editor, succeeding Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith.
A New Chapter
The board is very pleased that Melissa accepted our invitation to lead the organization forward.a
Books Offer Lifeline in Incarceration
In the first letter Danny Harris wrote to Gary Fine from solitary confinement, he made what seemed to Fine like a simple request.
The magic of sitting down to play
The Smudge and the Scrawl
Inside the Writer’s Notebook
OUR FIFTH ANNUAL 5 over 50
For the past five years we’ve dedicated this space to featuring five debut authors who have lived a good deal of life before publishing their first books. From the start our aim was to highlight not one path—not some mythical road, paved with youthful intentions, upon which so many “new and emerging” authors travel— but rather the countless individual routes, some considerably longer and circuitous than others, that lead to the publication of a debut book.
Reading in the Bardo
SEEKING COMFORT IN THE ABSENCE OF RITUAL
Order Out of Chaos
REVISING YOUR POETRY MANUSCRIPT
The Clifton House
On the ninth anniversary of poet Lucille Clifton’s death, her eldest daugh-ter, Sidney Clifton, felt a strong desire to be back in her family’s former home in Baltimore. She decided to call the owner, who told her the house had been put up for sale that very day, February 13, 2019. A reunion with the house seemed fated, and Sidney Clifton jumped at the chance to buy her childhood home. Soon the space will once again be filled with the energy and cheerful noise of artists at work and in conversation as the poet’s family develops the Clifton House as a place where new generations of artists can flourish.
THE CONFOUNDING INSISTENCE ON INNOCENCE
TEN YEARS AFTER HER DEBUT STORY COLLECTION, BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF, MARKED HER ARRIVAL AS A BOLD NEW VOICE IN AMERICAN SHORT FICTION, DANIELLE EVANS RETURNS WITH HER SECOND, THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS, A TIMELY RECKONING WITH, AMONG OTHER THINGS, AMERICA’S HISTORY OF RACIALIZED VIOLENCE.
Rumaan Alam – Leave the Expectations Behind
In his third novel, Leave the World Behind, published in october by Ecco, Rumaan Alam delivers, a propulsive narrative that speaks to the challenges and crises of the moment – racial injustice, environmental catastrophe, sheltering in place– while defying any expectations of what a novel written by a gay indian american man should be.
House Celebrates Broadside Lotus
After founding the Detroit-based Broadside Press in 1965, Dudley Randall wrote: “We (Africans in the United States) are a nation of twenty-two million souls, larger than Athens in the age of Pericles or England in the age of Elizabeth. There is no reason why we should not create and support a literature which will be to our own nation what those literatures were to theirs.”
MacDowell Tests Virtual Residencies
In the midst of COVID-19, the country’s oldest arts residency is reimagining itself after 113 years. In August, MacDowell launched its first Virtual MacDowell “residency,” a fully online program intended to support artists and foster a sense of connection during the time of social distancing.
A Chicago Press for the People
On September 24, 2009, sixteen-year-old student Derrion Albert was beaten to death outside of Christian Fenger Academy High School, on the South Side of Chicago, in broad daylight. Though there were many witnesses, one of whom captured the attack on cell-phone video, no one stepped in to help. The footage of the murder went viral, highlighting the severity of the city’s youth violence epidemic, as Albert was the third teenager killed in Chicago that month.
CAN SOCIAL MEDIA MAKE US BETTER WRITERS?
WORLD of WONDERS
IN HER NEW ESSAY COLLECTION, PUBLISHED BY MILKWEED EDITIONS IN SEPTEMBER, POET AIMEE NEZHUKUMATATHIL TURNS HER CREATIVE POWERS OF ATTENTION, PLAY, OPENNESS, AND LOVE TO A WORLD OF MAGIC AND IMAGINATION OUTDOORS, CULTIVATING THE FAMILY GARDEN AS A LOVE LANGUAGE THAT CONNECTS ALL OF US.