A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’s classic 1843 holiday novella, A Christmas Carol, has been adapted into a new BBC television drama. The three-part fantasy miniseries is directed by Nick Murphy, and stars Joe Alwyn as Bob Cratchit, Jason Flemyng as the Ghost of Christmas Future, Stephen Graham as Jacob Marley, Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge, Charlotte Riley as Lottie (the Ghost of Christmas Present), and Andy Serkis as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

After Preparing the Altar, the Ghosts Feast Feverishly

“Child, we move through graves / like eels, delicious with our heads first, our mouths / agape.” In this Ours Poetica video, Jane Wong reads her poem “After Preparing the Altar, the Ghosts Feast Feverishly” published in the November 2018 issue of Poetry magazine. Wong’s second poetry collection, How to Not Be Afraid of Everything, is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2021.

Arthur Sze

“When you think you’re getting good, be humble. There’s no end to the learning.” In this video, Arthur Sze visits his high school, the Lawrenceville School, and offers advice from his years of experience as a poet. Sze is the recipient of the 2013 Jackson Poetry Prize and won the 2019 National Book Award in poetry for his collection Sight Lines (Copper Canyon Press, 2019).

Again by Christopher Diaz

“When I did not feel anything, I begged you for mercy, for myself, a form of forgiveness that always comes in muscle memory.” In this Write About Now Poetry video, Christopher Diaz performs his poem “again” at AvantGarden in Houston.

A Mighty Oak Has Fallen: Remembering Ernest J. Gaines

“I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be.”
—Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying

I met Ernest J. Gaines, who died on November 5 at the age of eighty-six, at the Louisiana Book Festival a couple of years ago. After a talk he gave from his wheelchair, I introduced myself and told him I was trying to be a writer. “Keep trying and reading,” he replied. It was said with the kindness and warning of an elder that knew trying (i.e. many bad drafts and rejections) is a precursor to being a writer.

Gaines represented a pride in the South and the African American experience of his rural Louisiana childhood through his writing. Born in Oscar, Louisiana, the son of sharecroppers, Gaines graduated from San Francisco State University and attended graduate school at Stanford University. He was the author of eight novels, including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Dial Press, 1971), A Gathering of Old Men (Knopf, 1983), and A Lesson Before Dying (Knopf, 1993), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1993. In addition, Gaines was the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur “Genius” grant.

If you’re ever in Louisiana and have some time on your hands, stop by the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Gaines donated his early papers and manuscripts through 1983 there, and it is expected that the center will acquire the remainder of his papers.

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

All of Us, In Prison

“Some prisons taste like / salt, copper, sludge / when you bite and crunch down / to the marrow…” In this video, Cortney Lamar Charleston reads Jevon Jackson’s poem “All of Us, In Prison” at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery for a 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival event. Jackson’s poem won PEN America’s First Prize in Poetry in the 2019 Prison Writing Contest.

Alex Dimitrov

“What is under the earth followed them home. / The branch broke. It broke by itself. It did break, James.” In this 2014 video, Alex Dimitrov reads his poem “Together and by Ourselves” at the Radar Reading Series in San Francisco. Dimitrov and Dorothea Lasky’s Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac, an astrological guide that expands upon their popular Twitter feed, is out this week from Flatiron Books.

Adrienne Brodeur

“The very act of reading is an empathetic act.” In this Aspen Institute video, Adrienne Brodeur talks about her writing process and reads from her debut memoir, Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), which is featured in Page One in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Art, Coffee, and Poetry

All Metro Detroit writers looking for a quiet space to write should be aware of Trinosophes. This spacious gallery and café is conveniently located just outside of the clatter of Downtown Detroit, and has been a haven for me, my friends, and a number of my mentors to write. Tuesday through Saturday the café offers a variety of vegan and gluten-free brunch options and good coffee. The art space has a gallery and an elevated stage equipped with a piano and more than enough space for a small band (or some poets eager to read their work!). Speaking of music, next door there is a record store for those interested in musical nostalgia. And across the street is the historic Eastern Market, which offers immediate access to local vendors, coffee shops, and more.

When it comes to literary events, Trinosophes is home to the Urban Echo Poetry Slam series and the Detroit Youth Poetry Slam series, and hosts book release parties (Franny Choi celebrated the release of her poetry collection Soft Science last April) and readings. On October 12 and 13, Trinosophes hosted the Detroit Art Book Fair, bringing together dozens of independent publishers, artists, writers, and collectors who presented their books, zines, and prints to the public. Whether you’re looking for a place to write, listen to poetry or live music, or get inspired by artwork, Trinosophes is a great place to visit.

The Detroit Art Book Fair at Trinosophes.
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

5 Over 50: 2019

Aaron Smith

“I once read about how Sheryl Crow told Bob Dylan she was having trouble writing her next album. Dylan told her to learn the songs that made her want to be a musician and play those during concerts. I think what Dylan was telling Crow was to remember how a song was made by living inside it, recreating it herself. After Crow did that, she wrote her album. Years ago I worried I was losing the impulse that made me want to write, so I typed out poems: Sharon Olds’s ‘Satan Says’ and David Trinidad’s “Driving Back From New Haven.” I typed Denise Duhamel’s “Things I Could Never Tell My Mother,” and so many others. I wanted, as Dylan suggested, to feel inside my chest and with my fingers the poems that made me want to write. Eventually I bound them into an anthology: a poetry mix tape. I know I’m not the first to type other people’s poems to learn from them, but I do know that retyping the work that’s important to me brought back that thrill only being inside a poem can generate. Now when I need inspiration, I open my mix tape, or I find another poem and start typing.”
—Aaron Smith, author of The Book of Daniel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Celeste Gainey

Andrea Cohen at the Nantucket Book Festival

In this video, Andrea Cohen reads a selection of her poetry at the 2017 Nantucket Book Festival. Cohen, whose sixth collection, Nightshade, is out now by Four Way Books, is featured in Literary MagNet in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.