Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence
Occasionally I become enamored of certain Twitter accounts—it isn’t only me, right?—taking pleasure in them nearly as if they were a weird, fragmentary novel. A sort of voyeuristic pleasure, sure, but one which the Internet offers in spades. I have, anyway, been enjoying Jacob Newberry’s tweets lately, which shift among poetic and satirical modes; which reference what music he’s listening to (Etta James, Aretha Franklin) and crack jokes about Golden Girls—my kind of Twitter account. Fortunately, Newberry is also a writer, and so we can take greater pleasure in reading his fiction, essays, and poetry.
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.
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.
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”:
Emily Schultz’s first novel, Joyland was published in 2006 by a small press (ECW). In 2013, Stephen King also published a novel called Joyland. Because his book was initially published in paperback only—not as an ebook—several readers bought Schultz’s book by mistake. As a result, Schultz received a few negative Amazon reviews but, on the plus side, a spike in sales and a sweet royalty check. Schultz chronicles how she spent the royalty money at Spending the Stephen King Money. Schultz got car repairs, a Macbook Air, and some new books out of the deal.
Like the narrator of her newest novel—like Chantel Acevedo herself—Acevedo’s grandmother was a storyteller. Acevedo explains in a feature from the Latin Post that her grandmother inspired Acevedo to tell her own stories and showed her how to use the language of narrative. The Distant Marvels (Europa Editions), Acevedo’s newest novel, comes out in April. It follows Maria Sirena, a storyteller by trade: she tells stories aloud as her fellow workers labor in a cigar factory. After becoming sequestered with seven other women following Hurricane Flora, one of the deadliest hurricanes in history, Sirena threads the story of her own life with the tale of Cuba’s history in an effort to entertain her fellow survivors.
This year’s Book Prize closed at midnight yesterday. Did you submit your manuscript? In this week’s Contributor Spotlight, we take a look at another of our past winners.
What does Cortney Davis have in common with Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, Mary Renault, and Theresa Brown? All of these writers have, like Davis, also worked as nurses. Davis is a nurse-practitioner and the winner, in 2003, of the inaugural Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for her collection Leopold’s Maneuvers.
Prairie Schooner is, of course, well-known for the many writers of poetry and fiction whose work appears in our pages. But we don’t so frequently acknowledge those whose work is, in fact, the most visible to us. I’m talking about our covers: this week, we’re going to draw your attention to a beloved artist who also happens to have a Prairie Schooner cover to his name.
This week, we want to spotlight someone who is something of a superstar on the Prairie Schooner scene: poet Ladan Osman. This is no surprise: her poetry is candid, passionate, and abounding with striking images. Last year, she won Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Her winning manuscript, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, will be published this year. Additionally, her chapbook Ordinary Heaven was included in the box-set Seven New Generation African Poets, published last year.
In June of last year, the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award was bestowed on a poet whom, I suspect, most American readers know little about. And yet she is one of the most respected poets in her country, Brazil. Fellow poet Robert Hass paid her a superlative tribute: he noted that she has been compared to figures as disparate as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and St. Francis of Assisi.