“Social Poetics” Uncovers the Poetry of Everyday Workers

Social Poetics cover“Social Poetics” Uncovers the Poetry of Everyday Workers. By Harris Feinsod. In These Time.

Goldman and Antonio both participated in the Worker Writers School (WWS), founded by poet and activist Mark Nowak, who has offered creative writing workshops with trade unions and social movements since 2005. In Nowak’s stirring new book, Social Poetics, he documents how writing workshops can embolden workers who, to paraphrase Trinidadian historian and writer C.L.R. James, seek to chronicle their own struggles “to regain control over their own conditions of life.”

…Nowak’s work follows in the tradition of Langston Hughes, whose 1947 essay, “My Adventures as a Social Poet,” turned away from lyric poems of individual experience to the poetry of social commitment, poems that “stop talking about the moon and begin to mention poverty, trade unions, color lines and colonies.” Social Poetics relates the history of this tradition: Young English Professor Celes Tisdale and the Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac, for example, created poetry classes in prisons (which included participants in the 1971 Attica uprising).

AWP: Money for nothin’ and the drinks aren’t free

AWP imageThe Problem of Money and Access at AWP. By Alison Stine, Lit Hub.

Is it possible to attend AWP if you’re poor? If you’re not going to be reimbursed by a university, should you even bother? The short answer is: I did it, and many others do too—but it can be a lonely and difficult experience.

…Though AWP was funded to serve writers teaching at the college level, more and more writers just can’t get those jobs, especially not writers of color, women writers, or writers who are disabled. There just aren’t that many jobs anymore to get. More and more, it’s writers outside of academia who participate in AWP—not just to attend, but to present and give readings—and who shoulder expenses themselves.

…It’s not illegal to discriminate against the poor. But when 60 percent of college students face food insecurity every month; when academia runs on the exploitation of adjuncts’ labor; when tenure track professors give lectures to hordes of students, only a fraction of whom will ever obtain jobs in the profession in which they trained (and often paid dearly for), it seems glaringly insensitive not to directly address the deep and systematic income inequalities of the field.

Calling all censors!

Tennessee libraries bill graphicTennessee Becomes Second State to Propose ‘Parental Review Boards’ for Public Libraries. Publishers Weekly.

The controversial bills propose to give elected “parental review boards” the power to decide which “age-appropriate” materials can be accessible to minors within a public library, with librarians who don’t comply with the board’s decisions subject to prison time.

“Public librarians around the country are often put in the uncomfortable position of standing up for free speech in their own institutions, and refusing to take down a book simply become some members of the community object,” Tager said. “Apparently the sponsors of this Act feel that this should be treated as criminal conduct when it’s actually librarians simply doing their jobs.”


7 Writers to Rediscover This March

women's history month graphic7 Writers to Rediscover This March. Powell’s City of Books Blog.

Women authors, particularly queer authors and authors of color, have frequently been relegated to the dustbin of history while their male contemporaries have been added to the Western canon and taught in classrooms ad infinitum. Some women are successful in their lifetimes, but, overshadowed by their male contemporaries, fall out of print and the collective consciousness after their deaths. Others languish in obscurity during their most prolific years and find recognition only at the end of their lives; or, they are recognized posthumously, when the mores of society catch up with them.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are seven authors who were underappreciated in their lifetimes, or who were forgotten and deserve to be better known.

Advice for the AWP Newbie from an AWP Oldie

brevity blog awp graphicAdvice for the AWP Newbie from an AWP Oldie. By Suzanne Roberts, Brevity Blog.

Pace Yourself. Put together a schedule of things you want to attend, but don’t try to go to a panel in every time slot. Shoot for no more than two panels a day, and try to hit the keynote readings. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I got to see people like W.S. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, Grace Paley, and Dereck Walcott read now that they are gone.  Seeing these luminaries was more memorable than those times I went to a 26-person marathon reading in a crowded bar with bad free beer…


Don’t be afraid to let children read graphic novels.

new kid graphicDon’t be afraid to let children read graphic novels. They’re real books. By Karen MacPherson, Washington Post.

The kids are on board with comics, and so are many publishers, librarians, teachers and literary award givers. I’m hopeful that still-reluctant parents and educators are coming around. Whenever I encounter resistance, I think of what Robin Brenner, teens librarian at the Public Library of Brookline, Mass., and founder of the “No Flying No Tights” website, said: “Comics are not intended to replace prose. They are just one way to tell a story. But they can be as demanding, creative, intelligent, compelling, and full of story as any book.”

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it

make money writing graphicA dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it

When students ask me for advice with regard to how to “make it as a writer”, I tell them to get a job that also gives them time and space somehow to write; I tell them find a job that, if they still have it 10 years from now, it wouldn’t make them sad. I worry often that they think this means I don’t think their work is worthy; that I don’t believe they’ll make it in the way that they imagine making it, but this advice is me trying help them sustain themselves enough to make the work I know they can.

Just a Few Billion Years Left to Go

Until the End of Time graphicUntil the End of Time. Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe By Brian Greene. Book Review, New York Times.

“In the fullness of time all that lives will die.” With this bleak truth Brian Greene, a physicist and mathematician at Columbia University, the author of best-selling books like “The Elegant Universe” and co-founder of the yearly New York celebration of science and art known as the World Science Festival, sets off in “Until the End of Time” on the ultimate journey, a meditation on how we go on doing what we do, why and how it will end badly, and why it matters anyway.

“Until the End of Time” is encyclopedic in its ambition and its erudition, often heartbreaking, stuffed with too many profundities that I wanted to quote, as well as potted descriptions of the theories of a galaxy of contemporary thinkers, from Chomsky to Hawking, and anecdotes from Greene’s own life — of which we should wish for more — that had me laughing.

Women of a Certain Rage

Women of a certain ago jpegWomen of a Certain Rage. Two New Books Tackle Getting Older—and More Pissed Off. Bitchmedia.

…I can’t say whether the despair I regularly feel is statistical or situational—the world is both literally and figuratively on fire, after all; I don’t trust anyone who isn’t despairing on some level. But as a woman, I also know that there can’t be any discussion of unhappiness at any numerical point of what we call “midlife” without acknowledging the powerful cultural narratives of gender and aging.

Those narratives, and the economic, political, sexual, and pop cultural impact of them, are at the center of two new books. Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis and Susan J. Douglas’s In Our Prime: How Older Women are Reinventing the Road Ahead both approach their subject matter from generational perspectives, each starting from a place of unsettled personal clarity: Well, shit, I got old. Now what? 

Patti Smith awarded PEN Award

Patti Smith jpg2020 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award: Patti Smith. Pen America.

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has release 12 albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and was represented by the Robert Miller Gallery for three decades. Her retrospective exhibitions include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Fondation Cartier, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Her books include Just Kids, winner of the National Book Award in 2010, Witt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, Auguries of Innocence, M Train, and Devotion.