News & New Work

News & Reviews

"Sylvia Plath's Last Letters" by Dan Chiasson

In the New Yorker, Chiasson writes of Plath's letter to her former psychiatrist. He notes that "as her letters, more than any other documents, reveal, Plath monitored life from behind a façade of chipper enthusiasm. Her genius took shape hidden by this screen." 

Terrance Hayes and Tracy K. Smith shortlisted for the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize

Hayes and Smith are the two Americans on the shortlist, whose collections Chair Sinéad Morrissey said "offer an invigorated language, confident mastery of form, and fresh, sophisticated perspectives on our uncertain times." 

The Manchester Review on American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

"He has a good memory, but a better imagination," the reviewer writes of Hayes, "and that allows him to imagine a better future, despite what he remembers of the past." The piece praises the strength of the language used in the collection.

Two poems from Dissolve

In the Kenyon Review, Sherwin Bitsui shares two poems from his new collection. "Bluing under a dimming North Star,/ the Reservation’s ghost/ paws cartilage pincered from a digital cloud," he writes.

The New York Times reviews Godsend by John Wray

The New York Times calls Wray's new novel, about a Californian teen girl who becomes embroiled in the frontlines of war in Afghanistan, " a significant literary performance."

The Library of Congress interviews Joan Kane

"I think the mind is more flexible and responsive to a word’s textures and potential when you can step away from monolingualism," muses Kane in an interview about the Inupiaq community, myth, and what makes a poem seem personal.

"Assuming the Mask: Persona and Identity in Ai’s Poetry"

On Poets.org, Major Jackson writes about poet Ai's "dedication to both her aesthetic and ethical vision," and how she inspired a generation of poets.

"The Water Lillies" by Jericho Brown

"If you ask me, I’ll say no, Thank you, I don’t need to watch what goes/ Only imagining itself seen," writes Jericho Brown, in a poem published by The New Republic

Do Some Damage interviews Chris Offutt

Offutt delves into his writing process, Appalachian culture, and why  "writing fiction is the best way I’ve found to quell the restlessness of my mind."

"Southern Discomfort" by Catherine Lacey

Lacey remarks on returning home to Mississippi and, with it, the white women who wear heels to football games and a "particular brand of Southern femininity," for The Believer. " I do not love," she writes, "the place I am obliged to call home." 

Esmé Weijun Wang is featured in The Best American Short Stories 2018

Wang's story "What Terrible Thing It Was" is featured in the anthology, edited by Roxane Gay, alongside work by Emma Cline, Curtis Sittenfeld, and more.

Tracy K. Smith's cultural highlights

In the Guardian, Smith talks about why she "can't stop thinking about" Deana Lawson's photography, the McCarthy-era opera that is a "a powerful vehicle for these feelings of being found and seen and ratified by love," and other works of art she's been inspired by.

"The Same Reality" by Shane McCrae

In a new essay for McSweeney's, Shane McCrae discusses Donald Trump, narcissism, and the power of common language, arguing, "As far as I know, we still agree on what up and down mean, but I suspect this fragile concord will be the next thing to go." 

Ploughshares reviews A Handbook of Disappointed Fates by Anne Boyer

Ploughshares praises Boyer's "calculated prose" and writes that "A Handbook is emphatically grounded in the realities of modern life, and seasoned with a generous dose of wit." 

"Decolonizing Poetic Form"

In Ploughshares, an essay on the use of form in Terrance Hayes's American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins argues, "Tonally dynamic and sonically pleasing, these poems insist there’s no difference between high and low diction/culture/art, especially when you’re writing for your life." 

Pacific Standard interviews Rickey Laurentiis

Laurentiis shares his recommendations for Frank Bidart's "Ellen West," mixed media artist Devan Shimoyama, television show "Feud: Bette and Joan," and more.

"Tracy K. Smith Explores Christianity’s Connection to Poetry"

Tracy K. Smith discusses parallels between poetry and the Bible, such as metaphor, and says that "poetry is one of the languages that puts us in touch with our higher selves." 

Catherine Barnett reads Wisława Szymborska

Catherine Barnett reads Symborska's poem "Maybe All This" and discusses the work with New Yorker poetry editor Kevin Young. "I don't think that that person, the speaker who is alone, is pathetic," Barnett remarks. "I think the aloneness is a pulling together of the split self into a whole." 

"The Trouble You Promised: Reading Tracy K. Smith"

A review in the Los Angeles Review of Books remarks on the use of love in Tracy K. Smith's newest collection Wade in the Water, observing that, in Smith's work, "love dwells in paradox." 

 

"Failed Attempts at Explanation" by Paul Guest

In the Adroit Journal, Guest's new poem explores themes of rejection with the line "In the night, in that benign darkness, I sing what I’m not able to bear."

"Audition" by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Sayrafiezadeh's New Yorker story explores the acting dreams of a New York construction worker, who boldly declares of his ambition,  "The more I dreamed, the more vivid the dream seemed to be, until it was no longer some faint dot situated on an improbable time line but, rather, my destiny."

Image Journal on the work of Shane McCrae

Image Journal discusses how poets Carl Phillips, Leslie Harrison, and Whiting winner Shane McCrae use innovative poetic lines, calling McCrae's work  "an act of great empathy and exposure."

"Forrest Gander's Grief Sounds" by Dan Chiasson

In the New Yorker, Whiting winner Dan Chiasson writes about fellow winner Forrest Gander's latest collection, a "chronology of loss," describing the book as "a self-suturing wound, equal parts bridge and void."

The Guardian reviews The New Testament by Jericho Brown

"The New Testament, daringly juxtaposes the sacred and the profane, and in doing so encourages us to reconsider those very terms," writes The Guardian, praising Brown's "powerful" subversion of religious verses.

New Work

Godsend by John Wray

Eighteen-year-old Aden Sawyer wants to escape her hometown. Her dream, however, is far from conventional fantasies of teen rebellion: she disguises herself as a young man named Suleyman and goes to study in Pakistan. Once she is on the ground, she finds herself in greater danger than she could possibly have imagined. The New York Times calls Godsend "a significant literary performance."

Human Hours by Catherine Barnett

In her tragicomic third collection, Barnett speaks carries philosophy into the everyday and asks, what are we to do with the endangered human hours that remain to us? Human Hours measures time with quiet bravura: by counting a lover’s breaths; by remembering a father’s space-age watch. "These unforgettable poems," writes Claudia Rankine, "draw us into the precarious nature of being human."

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey

In her first short story collection, Lacey explores characters coming to terms with breakups, abandonment, and strained family ties. A woman leaves her dead husband’s clothing on the street, only for it to reappear on the body of a stranger; a man reads his ex-wife’s short story and neurotically contemplates whether it is about him. The Chicago Tribune says the collection is full of "devastating epiphanies."

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, the country's past and future eras and errors, and its dreams and nightmares. The Los Angeles Times calls the latest book by Hayes "the right poetry collection for right now."

Fire in Dreamland by Rinne Groff

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a disillusioned do-gooder named Kate meets Jaap, a charismatic European making a film about the 1911 fire that burned Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park to ashes. Desperate for something to live for, Kate buys a ticket on the thrill ride of Jaap’s passion. The only trick is to keep the roller coaster from running off the rails before it destroys them all.

Country Dark by Chris Offutt

Tucker, a young veteran, returns from war to work for a bootlegger. He falls in love and starts a family, but when his family is threatened, Tucker is pushed into violence, which changes everything. The story of people living off the in a backwoods Kentucky world of shine-runners and laborers, Country Dark is a novel about a man who just wants to protect those he loves. 

The Vagrant Trilogy by Mona Mansour

When Arab scholar Adham goes to London in 1967 with his new wife to give a talk, he has no idea his trip will end on a life-changing pivot point. After war suddenly breaks out in his homeland, what should he do? The Vagrant Trilogy follows each fork in that road, allowing the audience to experience his parallel lives, love and losses. Seen together in one epic showing, the plays speak to the psychic effects of displacement not just for Palestinians, but for all of us.

Camp Marmalade by Wayne Koestenbaum

Part diary, part collage, part textbook for a new School of Impulse, Camp Marmalade assembles a perverse and giddy cultural archive, a Ferris wheel of aphorisms, depicting a queer body amidst a dizzying flow of sensations, dreams, and distillations. "This book presents a hallucinatory glimmer of what that life might be without granting precedence to any single method," declares Bookforum

Junk by Tommy Pico

In Junk, a narrator ponders illusions of security, sense of self, and indigenous identity. Pico explores the anxiety of utility, the loss of a boyfriend, plus Janet Jackson and Chili Cheese Fritos. "Junk," says writer Jenny Zhang, "is a true American odyssey."

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith ties America’s contemporary moment both to the nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the everlasting. Smith explores what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a collection the New York Times calls "scorching."

 

No Immediate Danger by William T. Vollmann

Vollmann explores a topic that will define the generations to come: the factors and human actions that have led to global warming. Featuring Vollmann's signature encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger, builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima. The Washington Post calls the book "a feverish, sprawling archive of who we are, and what we’ve wrought.”

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history. BuzzFeed's Isaac Fitzgerald says "Alexander Chee is one of the best living writers of today. If he’s not already a household name, he needs to be."