Congratulations to all of the NER authors who have recently been honored with awards and fellowships, including Owen McLeod, Penelope Cray, Mark Irwin, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Tiana Clark, Charlie Clark, Geffrey Davis, Jenny Johnson, Sasha Pimentel, and Alison C. Rollins.
Owen McLeod’s poetry collection Dream Kitchen was awarded the 2018 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry. Judge Rosanna Warren said of the collection, “Owen McLeod knows how to pluck what Pound called ‘the natural object’ from everyday life and endow it with symbolic force. He mingles a sensuous feel for vowels and consonants, with a graceful play of speech rhythms and a gift for revelatory strangeness. I’ve copied out his lines in my notebook for the sheer pleasure of it.” The prize includes $1,000 and publication by The University of North Texas Press.
McLeod is a studio potter and a professor of philosophy at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he lives; his poem “Uroboros,” was featured in NER 36.4.
Congratulations to Penelope Cray, whose short story collection Miracles Come on Mondays was selected as the winner of the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose. Judge Kazim Ali said of the collection, “These dark fractured fables tell stories of strange texture; stories about characters trying to find their way amid currents both small and large in a world in which personal and spiritual intimacy feel dangerously compromised. They are philosophical, funny, and frank. Like the fictions of Fanny Howe, Italo Calvino, and Rikki Ducornet, these stories rarely comfort. Then again, as one narrator observes, ‘When some alien sensation rises in the body, it unsettles rather than clarifies.’”
Cray holds an MFA from the New School and lives with her husband and two children in Shelburne, Vermont, where she operates an editorial business from home. Three of her pieces were featured in NER 36.4; read her story “Real and True” here, and listen to an oral performance of her story “The Red Painter,” delivered at NER Out Loud, here.
Frequent NER contributor and poet Mark Irwin was awarded the 2018 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry—an annual book contest sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at California State University, Fresno—for his collection Shimmer. The prize, named after the late poet Philip Levine who taught at Fresno State for many years and served as United States poet laureate from 2011-2012, includes a $2,000 prize and publication by Anhinga Press.
Irwin teaches graduate and undergraduate poetry workshops in the Creative Writing & Literature Program at the University of Southern California, and he lives in Los Angeles and Colorado. Irwin has been a frequent contributor at NER since 1991; read his poem, “Three Panels,” featured in NER 22.1, here and check back in our 2019 summer issue for new poems from Shimmer.
A number of NER authors have been awarded Creative Writing Fellowships in Poetry by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA Literature Fellowships program operates on a two-year cycle, alternating between prose and poetry fellowships, which offer $25,000 grants to published creative writers that enable the recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement. The 2019 NEA Creative Writing (Poetry) Fellowship recipients include:
Congratulations to all of the 2019 NEA Fellows!
Jenny Johnson reads her poems “Ladies’ Arm Wrestling Match at the Blue Moon Diner” and “Late Bloom,” both published in In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books, 2017), at the 2017 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her work appeared in NER 34.3-4.
Johnson is the recipient of a 2015 Whiting Award and a 2016–17 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. Her poems have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, and elsewhere. She is a Contributing Editor at Waxwing Literary Journal and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University’s low-residency MFA program.
All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available online. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.
“[Allison Benis White’s] delicate and elegant furor scribendi reads like a lucid dream in which mortality—the wonder of it, as well as it attendant terrors—is made palpable. . . . This book haunts.”—Amy Newman
From Publishers Weekly (starred review): “White meditates on mental health in this spellbinding collection, a lamentation dedicated to four women she knew ‘who took their lives within a year.’ Her primary investigations concern the liminality and ever-imperfect definitions of feeling, the duality of emotions, and language’s role as a medicine and a mirror. She draws inspiration from numerous women writers—including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton—and borrows text from family members’ writings during the Holocaust.”
Allison Benis White is the author of Please Bury Me in This (Four Way Books, 2017) and Small Porcelain Head (Four Way Books, 2013), selected by Claudia Rankine for the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry. Her first book, Self-Portrait with Crayon, received the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Book Prize. Allison is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Riverside.
Please Bury Me in This can be purchased from Four Way Books and other booksellers.
“In this stunningly lyrical debut, Johnson probes issues of queer culture and love from an array of existential perspectives, creating a melodic and thought-provoking symphony on queer identity. . . . [A] miniature opus, alternately joyful and heartrending, achingly bittersweet.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
From the publisher: Sinuous and sensual, the poems of In Full Velvet interrogate the nuances of desire, love, gender, ecology, LGBTQ lineage and community, and the tension between a body’s material limits and the forms made possible by the imagination. Characterized by formal poise, vulnerability, and compassion, Johnson’s debut collection is one of resounding generosity and grace.
Jenny Johnson is a recipient of the 2015 Whiting Writers’ Award, and the 2016 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In Full Velvet can be purchased from Sarabande Books and other booksellers.
“Cortney Lamar Charleston’s poems testify in the eternal court of history.”—D. A. Powell
From the publisher: Cortney Lamar Charleston’s debut collection looks unflinchingly at the state of race in 21st Century America. Today, as much as ever before, the black body is the battleground on which war is being waged in our inner cities, and Charleston bears witness with fear, anger, and glimpses of hope. He watches the injustice on TV, experiences it firsthand at simple traffic stops, and even gives voice to those like Eric Garner and Sandra Bland who no longer can. Telepathologies is a shout in the darkness, a plea for sanity in an age of insanity, and an urgent call to action.
Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D. A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and has earned fellowships from Cave Canem and The Conversation Literary Festival. His poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Journal, Pleiades, River Styx and more. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Telepathologies can be purchased from SPD Books and other booksellers.
“Heighton is as attuned to the micro-politics of the village as to the macro-politics of Europe and the Middle East . . . His focus is sometimes hermetic, sometimes global, and he balances violent passages with lyrical descriptions of intimacy . . . For Heighton, there is no place that’s removed from history; there are only people who dream of living in such places.” —The Walrus
From the publisher: From internationally acclaimed and Governor General’s Award-winning author Steven Heighton comes a passionate novel of buried secrets, the repercussions of war, and love among the ruins. To make his dying ex-cop father happy, Elias Trifannis joins the military. In Afghanistan, he realizes his last-minute bid for connection was a terrible mistake—but it’s too late. Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover from a tragedy but just when it seems he has found sanctuary, events he himself set in motion have already begun to endanger it.
Heighton is the author of the novel Afterlands, which has appeared in six countries; was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice along with a best book of the year selection in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK; and is currently in pre-production for film. He is also the author of The Shadow Boxer, a Canadian bestseller and a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. Heighton’s most recent book of poetry, The Waking Comes Late, won the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Poetry; his works have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Pushcart Prize, the Trillium Award, and Britain’s W. H. Smith Award.
The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep can be purchased from Penguin Random House and other booksellers.
From the publisher: KGB Chief Yuri Andropov himself has tapped Senior Detective Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, dredging up long-forgotten histories from the Civil War, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead. Yet Matyushkin—as relentless and gut-driven as ever—won’t be stopped, even if it means taking on his partner, the KGB, and a ghost from decades past.
In this third installment in the Matyushkin Case Files, Bayer is in top form, painting a vivid picture not just of life in 1960s Moscow, but of connected events half a century before, when the Soviet regime was being twisted and shaped by war and revolution.
Alexei Bayer is a New York-based author, translator and, by economic necessity, an economist. He writes in English and in Russian, his native tongue, and translates into both languages. His short stories have been published in New England Review, Kenyon Review, and Chtenia. Murder and the Muse is his third novel.
Murder and the Muse can be purchased from Russian Life and other booksellers.
From the publisher: Over the past half century, the great shape-shifting poet C. K. Williams took upon himself the poet’s task: to record with candor and ardor “the burden of being alive.” In Falling Ill, his final volume of poems, he brings this task to its conclusion, bearing witness to a restless mind’s encounter with the brute fact of the body’s decay, the spirit’s erasure.
C. K. Williams (1936–2015) was most recently published in NER 36.1. Falling Ill: Last Poems is Williams’s last book. Written with unsparing lyricism and relentless discursive logic, these brave poems face unflinchingly “the dreadful edge of a precipice” where a futureless future stares back. Urgent, unpunctuated, headlong, vertiginous, they race against time to trace the sinuous, startling twists and turns of consciousness. All is coming apart, taken away, except the brilliant art to describe it as the end is coming. All along is the reassurance of love’s close presence.
Williams published twenty-two books of poetry, including Flesh and Blood, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; Repair, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and The Singing, winner of the National Book Award.
Falling Ill can be purchased from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and other booksellers.
“Thi Bui’s stark, compelling memoir is about an ordinary family, but her story delivers the painful truth that most Vietnamese of the 20th century know in an utterly personal fashion—that history is found in the marrow of one’s bones, ready to be passed on through blood, through generations, through feelings.” –Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
From the publisher: This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.
In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.
Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.
The Best We Could Do can be purchased from Abrams Books and other booksellers.