Jose-Luis Moctezuma

“When I am stuck, I walk. I don’t wear earbuds or headphones when I walk, nor when I travel by train or bus, because I want all of my senses to be centrally alive to what’s around: the music that lurks in the crevices of city sounds, forest sounds, desert sounds. I am reminded of John Cage’s art piece A Dip in the Lake: Ten Quicksteps, Sixty-two Waltzes, and Fifty-six Marches for Chicago and Vicinity, a map with colored lines and vectors that reconstruct the city transversely from without in the layering of aleatoric drift over cartographic direction. To this end, unstructured walking, the pure derive of walking, can become something like a divinatory practice, chance-based yet ritualized.

But ultimately, when I am in the mire of composition and need to rethink the mechanics of a specific poem, I turn to other mediums to break the wall of a different kind of silence, the silence of hearing only your inner doubts and skepticisms and not the dynamic self-belief of the world outside. I put a record on, Daniel Schmidt’s In My Arms, Many Flowers, for example, or I watch a film like Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, and I gain an angular perspective into how images might function and translate across mediums. That’s when I glimpse the subjectivity of the poem from a different slant of light, the poem singing in a language I hadn’t heard before, somehow enriched by having momentarily forgotten its existence.”
—Jose-Luis Moctezuma, author of Place-Discipline (Omnidawn, 2018)

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The Booksellers

“A good bookseller absolutely is another kind of discoverer and thinker of history,” says Kevin Young in this trailer for The Booksellers. The documentary, directed by D. W. Young and executive produced by Parker Posey, explores the history, personalities, and business of bookselling in New York City.

Reach Out to Me

Many writers know me in New Orleans. I’ve served on literary boards and coordinated festival events, and now I am a Poets & Writers Literary Outreach Coordinator. So, what’s that? Through a grant from the Hearst Foundations, Poets & Writers launched a pilot initiative in 2019 called the United States of Writing in three cities: Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans. Each city has a literary outreach coordinator to help spread the word to writers about the resources Poets & Writers has to offer and to contribute to and strengthen our literary community.

Although my job is less than part-time, I am very busy trying to encourage writers to apply for Readings & Workshops mini-grants, which provide funds for literary events in New Orleans (as well as in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Tucson, Washington, D.C., all of California, and New York State). I try to attend as many literary events around the city as possible. Sometimes I make myself known, other times I’m in the back enjoying the event quietly. When I can’t get to an event, I try to make sure I tweet about it on Twitter, @NOLApworg, or post events on P&W’s Literary Events Calendar.

I enjoy reporting about literary events in New Orleans to the P&W staff and to you all through this blog. One thing is for sure: Literary scenes are not one-size-fits-all. Regional culture influences local literary scenes in cities across the country. Detroit is not Houston. Houston is not New Orleans—and you know what? That’s a good thing! Every city contributes to the national literary landscape, and I am committed to working in a way that is authentic to New Orleans.

My job is also to find out what I don’t know. So if you have a question, an event, or a recommendation, or if you want to organize a gathering in New Orleans, let me know. I’m here for you, New Orleans.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Literary Community Outside the Box: Part Four

This month I have been featuring a variety of platforms that contribute to the literary community, including the work of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, and blogs and podcasts such as Icess Fernandez Rojas’s Dear Reader and Terrell Quillin’s Bootleg Like Jazz.

Today I want to shout-out the work of Mary Wimple and her workshop and reading series Words & Art. I’ve known Mary and her partner Chuck Wimple for more than ten years and have had the pleasure of seeing Mary kick major can as a poet performing her work all over town. Mary is soft-spoken, so when you get a chance to see her in action, it’s dynamite. Her energy carries over to Words & Art. The series is all about community and is accessible for any writer with a passion for the arts.

The format for these events is so inviting: Mary will host a writing workshop of sorts, really it’s an art appreciation field trip to a local gallery or museum. Participants will discuss the artwork, work on writing prompts, and discuss the effect of the art on the writing. From there, Mary will set up a future date for a reading that features poetry and prose pieces based on the artwork from the exhibit that was visited. Anyone interested in reading (even if you didn’t attend the workshop) just needs to check out the submission guidelines and submit work to Words & Art by the deadline to be considered. Selected readers will be notified about a week before the event and the public is invited to attend. I attended one of these events a while back and it is powerful work. If you love art and writing, then this is a space for you.

The next deadline for submissions is February 1 and the reading will be held on February 13 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Chuck Wimple reads for the Words & Art reading series.
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

The Regrets

“She’s finally met the man of her dreams. There’s just one problem: He’s dead.” Watch the book trailer for Amy Bonnafonns’s first novel, The Regrets, which comes out next week from Little, Brown.

Literary Variety

As a Detroiter who lives in the world of poetry, I see an abundance of poetry workshops, open mics, and other events that come about regularly, and there are even more happening as we approach National Poetry Month in April. As I learn more about the poets in this city, I also learn more about where writers of other creative writing genres thrive. I want to take this opportunity to highlight two spaces—one that makes room specifically for storytellers and another that has been home to a variety of artists.

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers was founded in 2012 by Satori Shakoor, and the monthly series features one of the oldest literary art forms: the oral tradition of storytelling. I find myself impressed each time I attend an event. From the smooth production to the storytellers that I am introduced to, I always know I will be served up a unique offering of creativity. I highly recommend their events for novice writers and seasoned writers alike. You can see their next event on February 14 at 8:00 PM at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. 

The Scarab Club is neatly tucked between the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wright Museum in Midtown Detroit. The over one hundred-year-old building is home to visual arts in the form of paintings, tapestries, and mosaics built directly into its walls. You can also enjoy the visual, literary, and performing arts of local artists through their eclectic programming. Recent events have featured poet Naomi Long Madgett, comics artist and journalist Laura Kenins, and author and editor Maya Schenwar. The exhibitions and events of this historic space are always inspiring.

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Anna Wiener at the Strand

“I was employee number twenty, and the fourth woman.” In this video, Anna Wiener reads from and discusses her debut memoir, Uncanny Valley (MCD/FSG, 2020), with editor Laura Marsh at the Strand Book Store in New York. For more about the book, read Wiener’s installment of Ten Questions.

Maggie Glover

“We are all writing about each other // in chorus, an out loud wince…” Maggie Glover reads poems from her debut collection, How I Went Red (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2014), and speaks about her writing in this interview with Lisa Grove for Poetry.LA.

Jessica Andrews

“I walk along the beach and look at the sea. I call a friend. I take a train journey and sit by the window. I drink a small glass of red wine. I go to the cinema. I ride my bike fast, so that my hair streams out behind me. I cry. I read Eimear McBride. I make soup. I listen to Nick Cave. I go swimming. I sit in the sun with my eyes closed. I wash dishes. I read Jenny Offill. I write in my journal. I dance to Northern Soul. I drink coffee. I have a long, hot shower. I read Hannah Sullivan poems. I call my mother. I take photographs of different textures of light. I make a shopping list. I feel hopeless. I look at pictures of Louise Bourgeois paintings on the internet. I pick flowers and put them in a vase on my desk. I write whatever comes into my head. I drink a glass of cold water. I daydream. I read Anne Carson. I look at the sky. I tell myself, you are good enough, over and over again. I think about the past. I brush my teeth. I make a cup of fennel tea, sit at the table, take a deep breath and then write.”
—Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Seth Hamilton

Isabel Allende

“It’s a story that stands by itself, I just had to type it.” In this interview, Isabel Allende speaks about her new novel, A Long Petal of the Sea (Ballantine Books, 2020), and her history and friendship with Book Passage founder and president Elaine Petrocelli. A Long Petal of the Sea is featured in Page One in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

André Aciman at Waterstones

In this Waterstones video, André Aciman introduces his latest novel, Find Me (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), the sequel to his 2007 novel Call Me By Your Name, and shares three books from the shelves of the bookstore that have influenced his writing.

A Technique for Operating on the Past

“My great-grandfather held a brain and studied it for signs of music.” In this video, Maya C. Popa reads her poem “A Technique for Operating on the Past,” which won the 2015 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Popa, the author of American Faith (Sarabande Books, 2019), is featured in “Poetic Lenses: Our Fifteenth Annual Look at Debut Poetry” in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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