Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence
April 21, 1977, was the opening night of Annie on Broadway. For the uninitiated, the musical centers on an irrepressible young orphan girl growing up in post-Great Depression era New York, as she searches for her parents with the help of a billionaire benefactor. Lincoln’s overcast skies and mid-50 degree F weather that day were grim indeed, but little Orphan Annie reminded the world through song that the sun would come out tomorrow. In spite of all obstacles, Annie maintains her youthful optimism, as well as an unshakeable faith in humanity.
In our new issue, we announce the winners of the 2014 Prairie Schooner writing awards. So this week, we’re taking a look at one of our past winners—and of the most distinguished living poets in America. Nikki Giovanni has published seventeen poetry collections, in addition to children’s books, essays, records, and collected conversations. Her most recent work is Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (William Morrow, 2013). She’s also earned countless literary awards as well as many other accolades, including the keys to more than two dozen American cities, a number of honorary degrees, and an unmatched seven NAACP Image Awards, which honor people of color in literature, music, film, and television.
My favorite fact about Enya: She has sung in ten different languages, seven of which are real. (Two of them are dialects of Elvish, the other invented for Enya by her lyricist.) My second-favorite: She owns her own castle in Ireland, fitted with maximum security precautions. I know a lot about Enya. As a deeply weird fourteen-year-old, I found myself developing a fascination with her. In the springtime—exactly this time of year, I believe—I took a Quiz Bowl trip to central Nebraska, and it was Enya all the way. I was the resident expert on literature: I had to answer questions about Ovid and the Brontës and Flaubert. Rather surprisingly, given the relative dearth of my counterparts, question sets were heavy on literature. And so, because this was a weak spot apparently endemic to regional teams, I, a freshman, was recruited to help.
Well, the end of the semester is on the horizon, and accordingly we’ve approached the end of this dystopian blog series. It has been quite the roller-coaster of disaster – genocide, sex-slavery, global infertility, social control through social media, ice ages, human cloning, and environmental crises galore – but I’m still here and functioning in society. Mostly. Hopefully you have picked up a few new dystopian titles to add to your reading list.
It seems like a safe bet to say that, for the most part, the writers who appear in our issues are living when their work is published. That’s not the case, however, for one of the poets who appears in our Spring 2015 issue. The presence of Titsian Tabidze brings a bit of history to the pages of Prairie Schooner. Tabidze was a Georgian poet who was executed in 1937 in one of a series of “purges” in the Soviet Union. These purges, accomplished under Joseph Stalin’s direction, eliminated political opponents and dissidents—which often included writers and artists like Tabidze.
His poem “Tbilisi Evening” appears in the issue in Rebecca Gould’s translation from the Georgian:
Tbilisi evening almost died
of crying with the music’s voice.
The strings carried the heart’s sorrows
from the river’s left bank.
Celebrating the launch of new books, donating books to others, giving away all-important swag: Prairie Schooner’s got it all at AWP this year. Read on to find out about all of Prairie Schooner’s events at this year’s convention.
Visit Prairie Schooner at Booth 1203 to:
Vandana Khanna’s poems are full of mythological imagery, but they also refer to airplanes, city markets. Her poems are lovely and intense. Her current project, as she tells The Missouri Review, “re-imagines iconic stories central to Hindu mythology. Here, gods and goddesses fight with each other, refuse their destinies and examine their faith and their doubt within the ever-shifting landscape of the poems.” A suite of five of Khanna’s poems, fitting into this project, appears in our latest issue (Spring 2015). Check out that link to read another of those poems, “The Goddess Reveals What It Takes to Be Holy.” And for now, here’s “Because you forgot me, I am weird in the world”:
“I wanted to write a beach read for smart people,” Joy Castro says of her novel Hell or High Water. She explains in “Facts and Fictions,” Episode 17 of Air Schooner, her intent to create a book that’s not only fun to read but intellectually stimulating, full of complexity. Her novel takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, centering on a reporter who investigates sex offenders who went off the grid after the hurricane. Castro tells us, “I did a lot of historical research about the city of New Orleans. The stolen Africans who lived under the different regimes [which] all had slavery norms.” She also investigated issues of rehabilitation and recidivism for sex-offenders.
This post is part of our Lost Writer Wednesdays blog series, an eight-week series and companion to NETNebraska’s Lost Writers of the Plains radio programming. Each week, we’ll spotlight long-forgotten writers once published in the early days of Prairie Schooner. For the full multi-media experience, download the iBook in the iTunes store.
by Sean Stewart
Bertram Austin Lewis spent his undergraduate years at Wiley College, a historically black university. His transition to the then predominantly white environment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln must have had a dramatic effect on him. He soon began working to address the disparity between the races in the scholarly community of the 1930s.
In the spring of 1959, the Dalai Lama fled the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, beginning a trying journey over the treacherous terrain of the Himalayas in search of safety. On March 31st, he crossed the border into India, where he was welcomed with refuge and asylum. Meanwhile, on that same day in 1959, Lincoln, NE, was hit with strong thunderstorms and high winds topping out at 20 mph while the editors at Prairie Schooner worked tirelessly on the Spring Issue, which included work by one of Nebraska’s own, Dan Jaffe.