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Slam poetry has exploded in popularity in the last few years. It seems to be almost everywhere, moving beyond local slams to, for example, the Nerd Poetry Slam of Vancouver—which featured poems referencing Star Trek: The Next Generation and potential future reptilian overlords—and to youth camps for students in New York City. This week, we’re highlighting a slam poet of our own, whose work we love even if it doesn’t discuss Jurassic Park.
In “Spiritual Experience,” Episode 13 of Air Schooner, Jericho Brown reads from his essay “The Possibility of God.” He discusses his fraught religious history and his reason for writing: “I write because my writing mind is the only chance I have of becoming what the living dead are for me. I exist because I was impossible for someone else to be before me.” Listening to Brown, I can’t help but think of Judee Sill, whose mystical longing expresses a kind of diffracted prayer.
The art world is bustling with news and excitement since the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the recipients of its 2015 grant funding. The NEA has awarded thirty-six Creative Writing Fellowships in Poetry, selecting the recipients from among 1,634 eligible manuscripts received, a record number. The fellowship allows recipients to use their time for writing, research, travel, and career advancement.
I had Ferguson, Missouri on my mind when I first pitched the idea for the “Life and Literature” column series in early September. 18-year-old African American resident Michael Brown was newly, tragically dead, and the public did not yet know the name of the policeman who shot him. The national media just had begun to turn their cameras to the outrage and the protests on the streets of Ferguson.
I was horrified by what had transpired there – and by the maliciousness I encountered in the social media conversations of friends, family members, and acquaintances. These are people who are, like me, white people of privilege. To see them ignore the racial injustice of Michael Brown’s killing in the days and weeks after it happened was infuriating.
The Internet has been alive lately with the sound of translation. Or perhaps the lack thereof: on the Melville House blog, Mark Krotov issued a call to action to bring back the National Book Award for Translation. Still, we have much to celebrate: in the run-up before the announcement of the finalists for the Best Translated Book Award, an award organized by the Three Percent blog of the University of Rochester, a number of posts have popped up that debate potential contenders. And many of the nominees for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2015 are works in translation.
No two things in all things can seem only one;
Because two things so must be one thing alone.
Howbeit, reading of books and eating of cheese,
No two things, for some things, more like one than these.
Katniss Everdeen was my improbable savior five years ago when I spent three days buried under 19 inches of snow. I was cold, tired, and unsure if I would survive, but Katniss burned the snow away from my frostbitten mouth so quickly that – even today – I still have scars where my eyebrows should be.
OK, not quite. In real life, my normal eyebrows are really normal. And while I did find myself caught alone in an honest-to-God snowstorm in Virginia, Katniss didn’t save my life. She did, however, set fire to the boredom that had settled under the comforters with me, and I spent my few days without heat, water and electricity with a fresh copy of the first Hunger Games book to read by candlelight.
November 22, 1963 was a day of mourning across American when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Three days later, on Thanksgiving Day, his body was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia. In “Unpatriotic Art,” through ekphrasis, Anna Boothe discusses a painting of Kennedy that hangs in the Truman Library. Published in Prairie Schooner in the fall of 1970 (a mild season in Lincoln, as the temperature averaged a cool 52 degrees Fahrenheit), Boothe’s poem not only considers the physical act of painting but also remarks on Kennedy’s casualness rather than his presidential air. Boothe’s commentary on Kennedy as a person suggests that he was far more than only a dignitary, leader, or chief. – Evan Berry
I wonder at the daring
of her stroke,
yellow and green
in the face of a president,
It’s well-known by now that Margaret Atwood rejected science fiction as a label for her work—science fiction, she noted, was about giant squids in space. Admittedly, she’s clarified and developed her statements on science fiction and genre labels since then; the gist is that labels too frequently become reductive selling-points, ignoring the complexity and range of writers’ bodies of work. This issue of labels is also pertinent for Matthew Gavin Frank. Frank has written several volumes of nonfiction, ranging from Barolo (University of Nebraska Press, 2010), a memoir in which he recounts his illegal work in the Italian wine industry, to Pot Farm (University of Nebraska Press, 2012), which details his work at a medical marijuana farm in California.
In “Listen to This, Listen to That,” a new feature from Prairie Schooner, we pair episodes of our podcast series Air Schooner with songs that strike us as thematically relevant, insightful, or enjoyable complements.