Category: Poetry

Carl Phillips Chooses Ansel Elkins as 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets Winner

Yale University Press is pleased to announce a winner in the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Carl Phillips, has chosen Ansel Elkins’s manuscript, BLUE YODEL.

Ansel Elkins

Ansel Elkins

“Through her arresting use of persona, in particular, Ansel Elkins reminds us of the pivotal role of compassion in understanding others and — more deeply and often more disturbingly — our various inner selves,” series judge Carl Phillips says. “Razor-edged in their intelligence, southern gothic in their sensibility, these poems enter the strangenesses of others and return us to a world at once charged, changed, brutal, and luminous.”

Yale University Press will publish BLUE YODEL in April 2015. The manuscript is Phillips’s fourth selection as judge and the 109th volume in the series. Carl Phillips’s third selection, Eryn Green’s ERUV will be published by Yale University Press on April 8, 2014.

Ansel Elkins is the recipient of a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the 2012 North American Review James Hearst Poetry Prize, the 2012 Fugue Poetry Prize, the 2011 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, and was a 2012 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The Believer, Best New Poets 2011, Boston Review, The Daily Beast, Ecotone, Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, and others. New work is forthcoming in The American Scholar and Denver Quarterly.

Awarded since 1919 by Yale University Press, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include such talents as Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Jean Valentine and Robert Hass. It is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.

Yale University Press will also continue its partnership with The James Merrill House. Winners of the Series will receive one of the five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment for a writer in search of a quiet setting to complete a project of literary or academic merit.

Q & A with the Authors of Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry


With the holiday season in full-swing, Christmas carols are playing every where you go. These hymns are part of a much larger tradition of devotional poetry extensively laid out in Before the Door of God, an anthology edited by Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson. We spoke with Hopler and Johnson recently on how the anthology came together; read on for their perspective on the cultural and spiritual diversity in the three-thousand-year history of devotional poetry.


Yale University Press: What were your selection criteria for the anthology?

Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson: We concentrated our selections on the English-speaking poetic tradition, as well as on some of the cultures upon which that tradition is based.  Within that broad field, we focused our attention on lyrics that were colloquial, exhibiting some kind of address to the divine, however that term might be defined.


YUP: What are some of your favorite lines from the anthology?

JH and KJ: Our favorite lines seem to change by the day.  But some lines that are currently ravishing us include the first two lines from Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur”:

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God./ It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

These lines crackle with Hopkins’s characteristic energy and sonic intensity.  We also love “Wild Nights” by Emily Dickinson, which begins,

“Wild Nights–Wild Nights! / Were I with thee / Wild nights should be / Our luxury!”


YUP: How did the devotional lyric originate in the Western world?

JH and KJ: It grew out of two overlapping traditions:  the hymnic mode which was used for ritual celebration and petitions to the gods, and the performance of inturned, private expression in lyric poetry.  These two modes of writing were alive and well in ancient Greece and Rome, and they filtered through western culture, aided in part by the literacy that attended upon the spread of Christianity.


YUP: Why is the literary genre of the lyric well-suited to devotion?

JH and KJ: We examined the devotional lyric particularly because of the ways that devotion and lyric are practices so similar to one another.  Both involve speech in isolation in the process of working to understand that which may be unknowable.  It should be said that this is not a collection of religious verse; rather, it’s an anthology that recognizes that the devotional posture has become a useful poetic tool for generations of writers who are not necessarily religious.  In this particular volume, we have chosen to focus more on these poems as literary artifacts rather than spiritual exercises per se.


YUP: You mention in your preface that as the English-speaking world is becoming more culturally diverse, “its poetry likewise reflects a wider spectrum of devotional perspectives.” What are some examples of how the later sections of the anthology demonstrate more diverse perspectives in devotional lyric poetry?

JH and KJ: The twentieth century really sees a more prominent representation of non-Christian religious poems in English.  For much of its early development, English poetry was a product of an almost universally Christian paradigm.  But more recent centuries have seen the integration of near-Eastern and Eastern faith traditions into English speaking cultures, so naturally later poetry registers that increased diversity.  We are pleased to be able to include in this anthology poetry that reflects the widening influence of non-Christian traditions in the Anglophone canon.


YUP: What are some themes that have persisted in devotional lyric poetry across the centuries and cultures?

JH and KJ: One major theme involves unknowability and the limits of humanity’s understanding.  Other recurrent ideas include the isolation of the individual, the ever-evolving grappling with the character of the supernatural, and those perennial existential questions about why life is difficulty and what the meaning of life is.


YUP: Why does devotional lyric poetry continue to appeal to poets and readers today?

JH and KJ: Because it is one of the few literary modes available to poets today that allows for some measure of genuine emotion without running the risk of seeming trite.  So much of our contemporary moment is dominated by irony and self-deprecation, which are really technique rather than worldviews, and this long and rich tradition of the devotional lyric continues to provide a space for sincerity, perhaps because it begins from a point of vulnerable intimacy.


Jay Hopler is associate professor of English at the University of South Florida. He received the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 2005, as well as several other awards, for his first book of poems, Green Squall. He lives in Tampa, FL. Kimberly Johnson is associate professor of English at Brigham Young University. She is the author of two collections of poetry and a translation of Virgil’s Georgics, as well as a number of scholarly works on Renaissance literature. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT

Before the Door of God: 3000 Years of Devotional Lyric Poetry

In Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry, editors Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson present a thoughtfully selected collection of devotional lyric poetry. From its origins in ancient hymnody to its twenty-first century incarnations, devotional poetry in the English language has undergone many changes in style, but its appeal has endured for more than three thousand years. Hopler and Johnson explain their goal in the preface: “This anthology brings together some of the finest poems of the Western literary tradition and does so with the hope of generating a conversation—not just among scholars, artists, and academics, but among readers generally—about the relationships among literature, history, and the idea of the spiritual.”

Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry Most of the poems in Before the Door of God are “addresses to the unknown, conversations (albeit one-sided) with the divine, in whatever way these authors have interpreted that term.” And as the editors consider the pieces as works of art rather than literal representations of faith, the devotional gesture that they have defined is not “uncomplicatedly doctrinal.”  Not all the poets in the anthology are formally religiously affiliated, but they all grapple with issues of faith in their writing. As a preview, here is a selection of some lines from the anthology:


Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, & seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’rthrow mee,’ and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn, & make me new.

Holy Sonnet 14, John Donne


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

i thank You God for most this amazing, e. e. cummings


Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings

Pied Beauty, Gerard Manley Hopkins


Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
And I’ll forgive Thy great big one on me.

—[Forgive, O Lord, Robert Frost]


Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

Ash Wednesday, T.S. Eliot


Each day with so much ceremony
begins, with birds, with bells,
with whistles from a factory;
such white-gold skies our eyes
first open on, such brilliant walls
that for a moment we wonder
“Where is the music coming from, the energy?

Anaphora, Elizabeth Bishop


Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

Yale Series of Younger Poets 2014 Competition Now Accepting Submissions!

Calling all American poets under 40! Submissions for the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition are being accepted from now until November 15, 2013. And for the first time, manuscripts can be submitted electronically!

The Yale Series of Younger Poets prize is the oldest literary award in the United States and champions the most promising new American poets. Previous winners include Muriel Rukeyser, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, Richard Siken, Jay Hopler, Fady Joudah, Arda Collins, Katherine Larson, Ken Chen, Eduardo Corral, and most recently, Eryn Green, among others. All submissions are reviewed and judged by renowned poet Carl Phillips.

Der arme Poet (“The Poor Poet”) (1839) by Carl Spitzweg.

Der arme Poet (“The Poor Poet”) (1839) by Carl Spitzweg.

The Yale Younger Poets winner will also receive a fellowship from The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides its recipients with a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment, allowing them to work on their literary or academic project in a quiet, rural setting in New England that has inspired many writers past and present.

You can submit your manuscript electronically, after which you will receive immediate online confirmation of your submission and be able to check the status of your application. The $20.00 submission fee is payable by credit card or via PayPal.

Click here to learn more about the Yale Series for Younger Poets competition and for manuscript submission guidelines.

Good luck to all!

Westerly: “A book of uncommon wisdom”

WesterlySince 1919 the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize has helped burgeoning artists find a well-deserved audience for their poetry. Last year’s winner, Will Schutt and his new anthology Westerly, is no exception. Carl Phillips, acclaimed poet and the judge of last year’s prize, writes in the Foreword to Westerly:

Will Schutt’s Westerly takes on nothing less than, on the one hand, the ways in which we, the living, both late and soon, make our stumbling way westward, mostly oblivious to the fact of mortality, and, on the other hand, how the dead make their resonant way back to us, sometime as memory, sometimes as guide directing us toward and through the inevitable… This is a book of uncommon wisdom… its poems sustain me. They give me hope – which may very well be, among gifts, the one we need most.

Schutt’s poems are concerned with both the real and the mythical, the modern and the historical. He weaves translations, illusions, and inventive narratives into effortless pieces of a wholly moving collection.

Read a poem excerpt below, then pick up a copy to read the whole work!


Even up close it’s hard to tell

whether the white and blue

church tower is defunct or half-finished

or, like every third house

block after prim block, let for summer.

Only an odd patch of moss

flecks the siding, and thin ginger-colored

stains make a noncomittal

braid, like wicker or wings at rest.

From our third-floor window

long scarves of water push

right up against the houses.

They seem to clip the gutter spouts.

If one were Elizabeth Bishop

one might hear it turn into a tidy music.

Tidy and resolved, the way

history says, “Look West, Future-looker,”

and kids worry a blue vein

of hope in their spiral notebooks.

At night after each boat has pulled in

behind the artificial bulwark

moonlight saddles a galvanized tub

of orange marigold and sedum,

and green and burgundy rosettes

creep upward like weird insect antennae

trucking the earth off to Westerly,

Rhode Island, where nirvana is a long time

coming, or untidy, unresolved,

the way stupid hope won’t shut up.

Excerpted from Westerlyby Will Schutt. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

The “Real” John Keats

John KeatsHistory has a funny way of romanticizing the past, blurring the lines between hard facts and fluffy representations. Painters, poets, actors — the public romanticizes their lives, creating narratives of inspiration and untouchability. This principle is even more drastic in studying and discussing Romantic poets, whose lives we associate with sensitivity, delicacy, and tragedy. But in his book, John Keats: A New Life, Nicholas Roe takes a more honest approach to the character at hand.

Roe’s text attempts to work out John Keats as a living and breathing person, not just a source of prolific writing. And as it turns out, the “real Keats” was a troubled individual. This meticulously-detailed text reveals Keats’ addiction to alcohol and opium. Roe explains, in a recent article how:

This explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure…That Keats was using opium to enhance what it meant to ‘fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget’ the world gives us a different Keats: a Keats whose struggle with life was more complex, and darker than we have previously thought.

Roe also writes of jealousy, disease, and sexual and professional frustration. At times, Keats sounds like a whiny teenager; later, he again is wise beyond his years. Roe’s undertaking is large in scale: define a man and the reasoning behind his great works, and the result is daunting. The story of John Keats may not be as tender and loving as we might imagine – filled with drug-induced stupors and bouts of rage – but it is human. And perhaps remembering that Keats was human is just as important as praising and studying his poetry.

Eryn Green Named 2013 Winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets

Carl Phillips Chooses Eryn Green as 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets Winner

Yale University Press Yale University Press is pleased to announce a winner in the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Carl Phillips, has chosen Eryn Green’s manuscript, ERUV.

Carl Phillips says that ERUV “reminds us how essential wilderness is to poetry—a wilderness in terms of how form and language both reinvent and get reinvented; meanwhile, the sensibility behind these poems points to another wilderness, the one that equals thinking about and feeling the world—its hurts, its joys—deeply and unabashedly, as we pass through it.

Yale University Press will publish Green’s book in April 2014. The manuscript is Phillips’s third selection as judge and the 108th volume in the series. Carl Phillips’s second selection, Will Schutt’s Westerly, will be published by Yale University Press on April 16, 2013.

Eryn Green, credit Hanna Andrews

Eryn Green, credit Hanna Andrews

Eryn Green is a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver and holds an MFA from the University of Utah. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Colorado Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Denver.

Awarded since 1919 by Yale University Press, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include such talents as Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Jean Valentine and Robert Hass. It is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.

Yale University Press will also continue its partnership with The James Merrill House. Winners of the Series will receive one of the five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment for a writer in search of a quiet setting to complete a project of literary or academic merit.

An Interview with Poet Kiki Dimoula by Cecile Inglessis Margellos

Kiki Dimoula, credit Michalis Anastasiou

Kiki Dimoula, credit Michalis Anastasiou

Following last weekend’s profile in the New York Times, we are pleased to release a special intimate conversation between Greek poet Kiki Dimoula and Cecile Inglessis Margellos, one of the translators of Dimoula’s new volume of poetry, The Brazen Plagiarist, now available to the English-speaking world through Yale University Press’s Margellos World Republic of Letters series. In the interview, which took place last October, Dimoula and her translator discuss poetic influences and expressions, the exercise of writing, and an in-depth consideration of what poetry is and what it does.


Cecile Inglessis MargellosIt is unanimously acknowledged that among contemporary Greek poets you are the greatest, the most read, and the most loved. Authoritative critics proclaim you the new Sappho. Is that a source of joy or of anxiety?

Kiki Dimoula: I do not share this assessment. But my compensation comes from the priceless esteem of a few remarkable people and the equally remarkable affection of my readers. That payment is a source of true joy, but also constant anxiety, for I keep worrying about whether I will continue to receive it.

CIM: In 2002, you were the third woman to be made a full member of the Academy of Athens since its creation in 1929, thus becoming “immortal.” What did this honor give you and what did it deprive you of?

KD: I gained a place as a dumbfounded, daunted, and dim star in the Academy’s bright firmament, but I lost my natural place, the one that frugality assigned to me in both my inner and my outer world.


CIM: As an employee of the Bank of Greece, you contributed to the Bank’s literary magazine (1959–1967), for which you wrote exclusively short stories, while at the same time publishing only poetry. Did this somewhat enforced concentration on prose play a role in your self-definition as a poet?

KD: Yes, it acted as a scarecrow, frightening me away from a foreign field that, except for high school essays, I had never dared enter. How could I plow it? On the other hand, where was the plow when I broke into the equally foreign field of poetry, cutting through the sharp barbed wire that surrounded it? Yet that field was where I took root and grew.

CIM: You have often stressed that your husband, the poet Athos Dimoulas, had a decisive influence on your becoming a poet. Would you still say that?

KD: I might start by reminding people that Athos was first and foremost a great poet, but doing so would mean participating in his establishment as nonexistent; so I’ll leave this dreary responsibility to untalented oblivion. I will simply reiterate his rare quality of not being competitive; on the contrary, though a poet himself, he often publicly declared that I had capabilities he did not possess. But had he not persistently fueled my small, weak flame, I might have been extinguished.

It is not his support I so bitterly miss, however, or the many and irreplaceable things he gave me, but rather the things he kept for himself. For love, as we know, grows by not giving to us. And if our passion for poetry lives on and persists, it is because poetry offers us only its bits of lint.

The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems
CIM: Is that why you chose poetry?

KD: Did I choose to breathe? Was it my choice to breathe, as poetry does, through melancholy’s stuffed nostril? Life’s essential length is only a few pages long, as succinct as a line of verse and as brief as the title of a poem.

When did you first consider yourself purely a poet?

KD: Never. Unless I unknowingly elevate myself when I take half a sleeping pill at night and sink deep into a dream. No manifestation of ours is pure, unalloyednot even our death, for it is adulterated by our belief in the other, next life.

What is poetry?

KD: Many things. A second life of the living and the dead; the Quixotism of the unquenchable; a mirage of people in the desert; crowds flocking to hear the future’s lecture on death; the return of the prodigal uncertainty; and countless other lost sheep.

CIM: Is it a godsent inspiration or the arduous mastering of an art?

KD: It is inspiration, which is sent by god but also by our toilsome perseverance, and strangely enough it is sometimes brought on by our disheartened renunciation of all expectation.

CIM: Do you read poetry? Do you acknowledge debts to other poets?

KD: I’m indebted to all of them, even to those I haven’t read, those unknown to me. This unknown is my main influence, since that’s where I too came from.

CIM: Do their many illustrious predecessors–Homer, Sappho, Sophocles, Solomos, Cavafy, Seferis, Elytis, to name but a few–cast a heavy shadow on modern-day Greek poets?

KD: I avoid too much contact with such magnitudes; I strive to forget about them so as to not to be crushed by an unfavorable comparison.

CIM: In Greek, the words for “poetry” and “writing” are both feminine, and you are a female poet. Is there such a thing as a female poetry?

KD: There is insofar as it is written by women. But making it a separate category demonstrates how difficult it is to achieve equality between the sexes. What’s most exasperating, and extremely anti-poetic, is that the term “female poetry” implies a “genetic” inferiority. Why do we never speak of male poetry?

CIM: Do you remember your very first poem?

KD: I don’t even remember my last one.

CIM: This volume’s title is borrowed from one of your most recent poems, “The Brazen Plagiarist,” which accuses writing of being a plagiarist. Is it?

KD: Yes, after a thorough investigation I definitely consider writing a plagiarist. I have caught it sneaking in, searching and finding out all the innermost notes kept by our being. Notes about all that has remained unspoken, all that wants to but is afraid to be spoken, all that did not find its way to deliverance, all those bulky things that managed to scrape through imagination’s cracks because they could not bear the idea of never having happened. All that is guilty and has resorted to allusion so as to be saved from its revelation, and all that is dead but thanks to death’s crucial omissions haunts us by drinking its secret’s blood. Writing reads and copies all this in its dark little notepad, giving it a fleeting, unrecognizable shape so that it will not be identified as ours, so that its theft will be mistaken for . . . the authentic creation.

Cecile Inglessis Margellos

Cecile Inglessis Margellos

CIM: What awakens the desire or the need to write? A feeling, an image, a word?

KD: Something big or something tiny, like the skeleton of a desire whose name and face have withered away; or a shadow perched on the broken branch of your gaze; or a feather floating down from above which with a slow, oscillating intonation delivers the funeral oration of a bird. Or the insolent ease with which the unexpected walks in without knocking and fills a poem condemned to die unwritten with the frantic hope that it will be written after all.

CIM: Does place influence writing? To what extent have your poems been defined by your neighborhood, from which you have never moved, or by Greece, which you have seldom left?

KD: My homeland is more the neighborhood of Kypseli, biographer of almost my entire life, assisted by its co-biographer Pythia Street. I lived there as a child, as a married woman, and as a mother; my present solitary home is just two steps away. That street corroborated all that my inner Pythia prophesized and all that it could not, leaving me thus totally unprepared.

CIM: Do you write every day? Do you follow a strict discipline?

KD: I write very rarely. Only, in fact, when the sheet of paper suffers an existential crisis and threatens, if I don’t surrender to it, to bury me alive under its whiteness.

CIM: Is poetry necessary?

KD: Yes, poetry is necessary. Especially to the “why.”

:  And does poetry need love?

KD: If anything needs love it is reality, for it is reality that lacks it the most–I doubt that it was ever loved. Poetry contains love and holds it in high esteem, even though love always humiliates it by using it merely as a soothing after-shave lotion.

CIM: You have been a poet for at least sixty years. Has the passage of time, a deeper–perhaps also heavier–maturity changed your relationship to poetry?

KD: Poetry relishes ripe fruit–but ripe is one thing and overripe quite another. That’s something poetry doesn’t like, so it couldn’t care less if I were to fall overripe to the ground.

 Any advice for younger poets?

KD: I would advise them to not allow emotion to dominate the poem. Looking back over my own youthful efforts, I realize how often emotion monopolized them, leaving the deeper, essential residue lying stagnant.

CIM: Do you avoid emotion then?

KD: How could I avoid it? I carry it inside me. What I try to do is to keep emotion on a tight leash; otherwise, it can never be transubstantiated into poetry. For what poetry prefers, above all, is to think.?

CIM: What is it that you aspire to generate through your poems?

KD: I don’t aspire, but I would be very happy if one of my poems suddenly offered someone a shady rest stop, a breather in our interminable march under the murderous, scorching heat of the superfluous.

CIM: What are your feelings about having been published by the Margellos World Republic of Letters of YUP?

KD: This publication is an indication that the unhoped-for did not remain unconvinced by me.   But since I will never let any consolation of happiness obscure my judgment, I must add that, to a great degree, I owe this honorary entrance permit into Yale to the transmutation performed by the translation. It infused formidable energy into my poems, an energy drawn from the incalculable soul-spending of the visionary translators.


Kiki Dimoula is a full member of the Academy of Athens, one of three women ever to be inducted. She has been awarded the Greek National Poetry Prize twice, the Grand National Prize for lifetime achievement, the Ouranis Prize of the Academy of Athens, the Aristeion of Letters of the Academy of Athens in recognition of her complete oeuvre, and the European Prize for Literature. She published her first collection of poetry in 1956 and has since been widely published in Greece and translated into English, French, Danish, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages.

Cecile Inglessis Margellos is a translator from French, English, and ancient Greek, a scholar, and a literary critic. She has translated into Greek works by Céline, Antoine Berman, Colette, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Jean Giraudoux, Raymond Queneau among others, and is preparing an annotated translation of Plato’s Symposium from ancient to modern Greek. She divides her time between Geneva and Athens.

Poets Fady Joudah and Katherine Larson at the Houston Public Library, January 12

Public Poetry, Joudah and Larson, January 12Prize Poets is a showcase for prominent, nationally acclaimed poets, presented annually, at the start of the year.  For the inaugural event, two recent winners of the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, Fady Joudah and Katherine Larson, will be featured at 2 PM on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Houston Public Library Central Library.  Prize Poets is organized by Public Poetry, an independent Texas non-profit organization, and presented in partnership with the City of Houston/Houston Public Library.

Fady Joudah, a Palestinian American, won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize in 2007 for The Earth in the Atticselected by Louise Glück. In 2013, Copper Canyon Press will publish his second book, “Alight.” His translations of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, “The Butterfly’s Burden” and “If I Were Another”, received the 2008 TLS/Banipal Prize for Arabic translation from the UK, and the PEN USA for translation in 2010, respectively. Also from Yale University Press is his recent translation of Ghassan Zaqtan’s poetry, “Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me.” Joudah is also a practicing physician of internal medicine and has worked with Doctors Without Borders.

Katheirne Larson won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize in 2011 for Radial Symmetry, selected by Louise Glück. Her poetry was highlighted on PBS’s Newshour Poetry Series.  Her poems appear in Prentice Hall’s anthology Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, and journals including “AGNI,” “Boulevard,” the Kenyon Review,” the “Massachusetts Review,”Orion,” “Poetry,” “Poetry Northwest,” and others.  She is the recipient of a Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Levis Reading Prize, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and The Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Poetry Prize. Larson has worked for the last decade as a molecular biologist and field ecologist.  She lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter.

Both Larson and Joudah pursued science related careers, which variously impacted their poetry.  “Science and poetry are fueled by curiosity, and both depend on investigation and experimentation. But they also depend on imagination,” says Larson. “While living at a field station next to the Sea of Cortez…. I’d write at night in the wet lab when the station was deserted, baby hammerheads and pygmy octopuses staring out from specimen jars, the sea outside sonorous and insistent.”

For Joudah “…the realm of modern language… is highly infused with the scientific.”  He adds: “If it is cliche or outdated to say ‘poetry comes to one, one does not come to poetry,’ then I think neuroscience might soon prove this cliche to be true, so long as poetry is words in visible and invisible rhythms.  Or I can say my father spoke a lot to me about poetry and grammar when I was a kid.”

Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head

I am no one

            in Shehriyar’s city 

I am nothing. But I have words…

These lines from Moroccan poet Rachida Madani‘s moving collection of poems, Tales of a Severed Head, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker, reveal the essence of her literary endeavor — to highlight storytelling as an empowering deed for the modern woman seeking to define her role in a world plagued by poverty, corruption, human rights abuse and the lingering effects of colonialism. Madani‘s modern Scheherezade, a protagonist based off of the character of Scheherezade in the classic collection of Arab tales known as “The Thousand and One Nights,” is telling us that words have the power to yield an identity, Scheherezade’s freedom to express herself through telling tales embodying women’s determination to be heard in a perennially male-dominated society. For Madani‘s Scheherezade, as for her ancient counterpart, tale-telling is not just a technique for prolonging her life — it is a way to speak out for herself and for all women, and to convey the importance of construing a self through an original literary voice. Thus, Scheherezade’s captivating tales are powerful enough to both distract king Shehriyar and allow her to channel her broken womanhood. Madani‘s narrative is “the sobbing tale of a shattered woman, the bloody tale of a head severed on the way to revolt.” These lines evoke an inter-generational struggle — the two Scheherezades, though centuries apart, are arguably fighting for the same unresolved cause, which has to do with woman’s role in a world that overwhelms her. Madani‘s notion of language as a weapon resonates throughout the story and renders her collection of poems a tale of contemporary resistance to a century-old problem.

Through her writing, Madani also transcends literary stereotypes. When she writes: “And the train emerges from all directions/it whistles and goes right through the woman/the whole length of her,” Madani does not depend solely on the Freudian dimension of these lines; she succeeds in conveying an utter feeling of helplessness intelligible to any and every woman. The Moroccan writer’s ultimate success lies in universalizing Scheherezade’s otherwise idiosyncratic situation, enabling women around the globe to recognize themselves in her struggle, and men to momentarily perceive themselves as the Other.