Tag: National Poetry Month

Q&A with Will Schutt, the 2012 Winner of Yale Series of Younger Poets

Will-Schutt-Photo_smHappy National Poetry Month! Check out the new site, Youngerpoets.org!

 

Yale University Press had the pleasure of interviewing Will Schutt, whose collection, Westerly, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2012 and was published last spring. Here, we discussed about writing poetry and the relevance of poetry in today’s modern society. Visit the new Yale Series of Younger Poets website for more information on the history of the prize, published books, and of course, our illustrious list of poets.

 

Yale University Press: What prompted you to start writing? And why poetry in particular as opposed to prose?

Will Schutt: I had good teachers, bookish parents, and a brother who was a great talker. I have never been a great talker, yet I have always felt an urgency to express myself. I tried drawing, but I was no good at drawing. I tried acting, but I was too shy to perform. When I wrote prose, I had no gift for storytelling. That’s not to say that poetry was my last resort, but it turned out to be the best means of articulation at my disposal.

 

YUP: What or who are your primary sources of inspiration?

WS: Good books, a room with a view, my wife’s curiosity.

 

YUP: How would you describe your overall process as well as your day-to-day writing schedule?

WesterlyWS: I write early in the morning, when I have the feeling that I don’t owe anyone anything yet, that I only have myself to answer to. I’m not sure there’s an overall process to speak of. As with soup, you keep stirring and tasting, stirring and tasting. Writing the poems in Westerly largely consisted of unearthing a pattern in an idea or experience (real or fictional). Pattern, after all, is pleasure. But there is pleasure in variation too. More and more often I find myself beginning with a formal pattern or turning over a particular word—ferry, carnival, wishy-washy, etc.—and figuring out how much I can deviate from the pattern or word’s associative meanings without giving way to chaos.

 

YUP: Which audience (if any) do you have in mind when crafting your work?

WS: Usually I do not have an audience in mind. Occasionally I wonder what certain writers I admire would think. Once in a blue moon I worry about what someone who isn’t a native speaker of English might make of my work.

 

YUP: What is your reaction to rejection? How do you internalize that experience?

WS: “They don’t know genius when they see it.” Or “They’re absolutely right. It’s crap.”

 

YUP: How do you know when your work is “finished”? Do you find yourself editing work that you deemed complete a long time ago?

WS: It is a good sign if I have surprised myself, if I have landed somewhere I hadn’t set out to land originally. I try to exhaust a poem’s possibilities and then work backward to see if everything in the poem is essential. I do return to work I had thought was finished, oftentimes with the result that I rip the poem up and repurpose a few lines.

 

YUP: Mark Edmundson wrote an article for Harper’s last summer, claiming that American poetry is in decline. Do you see this as real problem in today’s literary landscape?

WS: No, I don’t. I don’t even think Edmundson’s criteria for great poetry—that is, if I remember correctly, poetry that is more “public”—fits my own criteria for greatness. I come across plenty of ambitious, inspired American poetry of the moment. Poetry continues to change and sometimes people get off on sounding poetry’s death knell whenever it doesn’t resemble the model they’ve established for it.

 

YUP: Attention spans are deteriorating and we’re allegedly moving towards a post-literate society; why do you think poetry remains relevant today?

WS: I currently teach modern and contemporary poetry to high school students who prove to me on a weekly basis that poetry has hardly lost its relevance. It continues to be an antidote to deteriorating attention spans, to the manipulation of language, to deadening language, to dullness period. 

 

Will Schutt is the author of Westerly, winner of the 2012 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. A graduate of Oberlin College and Hollins University, he is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the Gilman School, the James Merrill House, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He was recently awarded the Jeannette Haein Ballard Writers’ Prize. His poems and translations have appeared in Agni, FIELD, the New Republic and elsewhere. He currently lives with his wife in Baltimore, Maryland. More information can be found at his website: www.wschutt.com.

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!

“Westerly”

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.

Love Poetry Contest!

The Progress of Love

In celebration of National Poetry Month and the publication of The Progress of Love, we are holding a contest for all you devoted Yale ARTbooks blog followers! A collaborative project between the Menil Collection in Houston, Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, The Progress of Love invites a dazzling array of 30 contemporary artists from  across Africa, Europe, and the United States to converse with one other about manifold forces that shaping our understanding of love.

As a part of this exploration, Elias K. Bongmba details the various forms of love letters and poetry in African Culture in her contribution to the exhibition catalogue. In South Africa, for example, young Zulu women weave together colorful beads, each color weighted with symbolism, into patterns that express their feelings and intentions towards a prospective suitor. A pattern containing white, black and pink would communicate the woman’s purity and hope for a blossoming romance and warn the man not to flirt with other women or waste away his wealth on gambling.

Inspired by the Zulu Love Letter and the coming spring that always seems to bring with it the promise of new love, we at YUP are asking our readers to tweet us your favorite line of a love poem. Whether the poem awakened new love, fanned the flames of an old love, or consoled you during heartbreak, we want to hear from you! Whoever sends us the most creative, heart-rending, or downright funny line will win a free copy of The Progress of Love. Tweet us your favorite line at #YUPpoetrycontest by Wednesday, April 24. On Thursday, April 25, we will announce the winner!

The Progress of Love is an exquisitely illustrated cross cultural exploration of love, edited by Kristina Van Dyke, Director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis and Bisi Silva, director of the Centre for Contemporary  Art, Lagos. The Progress of Love is published by the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation of the Arts and distributed by Yale University Press.


April Theme: The Arts

Broadening our scope from a usual combined celebration of poetry and architecture, timed to national commemorations in the month of April, we’re broadening our focus to include a broader range of the arts, including many new books on the philosophy and history of art, several accompanying traveling exhibitions with the Yale University Press art museum partners.

Pevsner's Architectural Glossary AppIn time for National Landscape Architecture Month, we are proud to release the Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary app for iOS, based on the eponymous book. Look up architectural terms anywhere with Pevsner’s vocabulary in your pocket, including expanded text, numerous additional color images and relevant building descriptions to support the definitions, clear line drawings and an audio pronunciation guide to the terms. And for architecture a bit closer to home, later this month we publish Phyllis Lambert’s Building Seagram, a captivating history of one of the 20th century’s most influential buildings, as told by the woman whose involvement and vision helped change the face of American urban architecture.

Renowned critic Arthur Danto returns to the YUP list with What Art Is, challenging the popular interpretation that art is an indefinable concept, instead bringing to light the properties that constitute universal meaning. We’ll update you on another favorite author, cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, and his forthcoming book, Aesthetics: A Memoir.

Yale University Press Recently, we announced the 2013 winner of the Yale Series of Younger PoetsEryn Green for his manuscript Eruv—and this month, we publish the volume of the previous winner: Will Schutt’s Westerly. Also just announced today is the winner of the 2013 Yale Drama Series competition, Jen Silverman for her play, “Still.” Yale Drama Series winners receive the $10,000 David Charles Horn Prize award, publication by Yale University Press, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center.

Coming soon from Michael Hass is Forbidden Music, a rich exploration of the Jewish composers and musicians banned by the Third Reich and the consequences for music throughout the rest of the twentieth century; the Facebook page shares many of the photographs, posters, and stories from the period, not to mention the music itself.

Lastly, the @yalepress Digital Laboratory students will show off the Warhol Museum DIY Pop app; after dates at The Metropolitan Museum of Art last fall, the Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years exhibition closes later this month at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, with the catalog distributed by Yale University Press.

Read along all month for more news and updates on the blooming and intersecting worlds of books and arts!

World of Letters: The Beginnings of Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich is unforgettable. Last month, we announced the winner of the 2012 Younger Poet Series competition, and beginning our celebration of Poetry Month in April, it takes little effort to remember one of YSYP’s best and greatest poets. The world was sad to note her passing last Tuesday, March 27, but the language of this most noteworthy American poet is her lasting gift, one that is sure to reward us more and more, just as it has in the 61 years since she was first published.

Born May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Rich was encouraged from an early age to write poetry. Her father took a special interest in her education and that of her younger sister, Cynthia, and Rich herself would later comment that her father intended for her to be a “prodigy.” After finishing high school, Rich enrolled at Radcliffe College, where she continued to study and write poetry.

Meanwhile since 1947, W.H. Auden had been serving as judge of Yale University Press’s Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, a position he would hold until 1959. His run as series judge brought to light poetry collections from promising mid-century poets like John Ashberry, W.S. Merwin, and John Hollander. In 1951, Rich’s final year at Radcliffe, Auden selected her submission, A Change of World, as the winner of the competition and subsequently wrote the introduction to her first published book. The prestige of the literary award and Rich’s own poetic brilliance and use of form would establish her writing career in the time-honored way that Yale Younger Poets beautifully achieve.

Over the next six decades, Rich challenged convention and conformity alike with her writing. She wrote more than thirty volumes of poetry and prose, the last of which was published by W.W. Norton in 2010, her publisher since the publication of her fourth poetry collection in 1966. Her single identification as a woman evolved into many: as a feminist, a lesbian, and increasingly as a Jew, as the years went on and she began to reflect on her father’s family heritage. As the New York Times reported in an obituary last week, “For Ms. Rich, the personal, the political and the poetical were indissolubly linked,” and as part of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s, she was involved in civil rights and feminist activism, and turning her writing towards themes of womanhood and motherhood. Following her the end of her marriage to Harvard economics professor Alfred Conrad, Rich came out as a lesbian and began to publish in prose, as forceful and effective as her poetry, about identity politics and the question of rights in the United States. She is best known through this second half of her life, but for YUP’s acquaintance, we remember most the one packet—of the hundreds and thousands of submissions—that started it all and simply read:

Adrienne Cecile Rich.

Celebrate National Poetry Month with the YUP

April is National Poetry Month, and the Yale University Press is prepared to celebrate with an outstanding selection of new titles related to the fine art of verse.

It Is Daylight: Arda Collins
In her foreword to Arda Collins’ It is Daylight, the 2008 winner of the annual Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, contest judge Louise Glück calls Collins’ volume “savage, desolate, brutally ironic . . . a
book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented,
unrepeatable.” A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Collins has previously published her work in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and A Public Space, among other magazines and journals. Both tender and sly, It is Daylight is a disarming and highly original debut, available now in paperback and a cloth limited edition.

Hill
Geoffrey Hill has been called “England’s best hope for the Nobel Prize.” In a new selection of his work, readers will now be able to appreciate the arc of his more than 50-year career in a single volume. Beginning with Hill’s striking debut For the Unfallen and concluding with selections from his acclaimed Without Title, also published by the Yale University Press, Selected Poems presents an authoritative collection of work by a poet who is not afraid to face his work head on.

My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century: Adina Hoffman
Finally, the poet Taha Muhammad Ali may not be a household name; however, after reading Adina Hoffman’s vividly written My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, readers will no doubt feel a great connection with the man and his work. Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya, Muhammad Ali was
forced to flee during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon
and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact,
he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, at the same time evolving
into a writer whom National Book Critics Circle Award–winner Eliot
Weinberger has dubbed “perhaps the most accessible and delightful poet
alive today.” To see Muhammad Ali read his poem “Revenge” with translator Peter Cole at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival, please click here.

Yale Press continues Nat’l Poetry Month celebration

Earth in the Attic: Fady Joudah Fady Joudah, author of The Earth in the Attic, was featured on Tuesday by the online anthology of contemporary poetry, Poetry Daily. The site also shared two of Joudah’s poems, “Atlas” and “The Tea and Sage Poem.”Those poems, both from The Earth in the Attic, can be read here. Also, you can click here to listen to Fady Joudah read “In the Calm” from his poem, “Pulse.”

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American medical doctor and a field member of Doctors Without Borders since 2001. He lives in Houston, TX. He is also the translator of Mahmoud Darwish’s recent poetry The Butterfly’s Burden.

Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew: John FelstinerAs part of their celebration of National Poetry Month, CBC Radio’s Writers & Company invited Yale Press author John Felstiner to talk on Monday about his book Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew. Click here to hear that interview in RealAudio format–and to hear Celan himself read from his most famous work, Deathfugue.

This book is the first critical biography of Paul Celan, a German-speaking East European Jew who was Europe’s most compelling postwar poet. It tells the story of Celan’s life, offers new translations of his poems, and illuminates the connection between Celan’s lived experience and his poetry.

Felstiner’s biography has received many accolades: nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; chosen as a best book of 1995 by Choice magazine, Village Voice, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Philadelphia Inquirer; and winner of the 1997 University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin.