Poet and Writer Denis Johnson (d. May 24) to receive posthumous award for fiction

“English words are like prisms. Empty, nothing inside, and still they make rainbows.” Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son


Upon being offered the prize in March, Johnson said, “The list of past awardees is daunting, and I’m honored to be in such company. My head’s spinning from such great news!” After a protracted struggle with liver cancer, Denis Johnson died on May 24 of this year. He was sixty-seven.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced last week that Denis Johnson (July 1, 1949 – May 24, 2017), author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Jesus’ Son, and the novel Tree of Smoke, will posthumously receive the U.S. Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2017 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 2.

The National Book Festival and the prize ceremony will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The author’s widow, Cindy Johnson, will accept the prize.

Hayden chose Johnson based on the recommendation of a jury of distinguished authors and prominent literary critics from around the world.

“Denis Johnson was a writer for our times,” Hayden said. “In prose that fused grace with grit, he spun tale after tale about our walking wounded, the demons that haunt, the salvation we seek. We emerge from his imagined world with profound empathy, a different perspective—a little changed.”

Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany, the son of an American diplomat, and spent his childhood in the Philippines and Japan before returning to spend the rest of his youth in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He is the author of nine novels, as well as many plays, poetry collections, a short-story collection and a novella. Johnson won the National Book Award for his resonant Vietnam novel Tree of Smoke (2007), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

His short novel Train Dreams (2012) was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent work, The Laughing Monsters, was published in 2014. Johnson’s many other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations and a Whiting Award.

Johnson’s characters were down on their luck (at least in the work that I’ve read) and created out of his own life and experience of being benched early on by alcohol and drugs, psychiatric care in his early twenties and after his first marriage. It apparently took him some time to realize that his addictions did nothing for his creativity. Once he became sober his output was prodigious. The eleven stories in Jesus’ Son, considered by many to be Johnson’s preeminent work, are linked by the same drug-addicted narrator. The fictions depict criminal activities in various parts of the U.S.

“The traveling salesmen fed me pills that made the lining of my veins feel scraped out, my jaw ached… I knew every raindrop by its name, I sensed everything before it happened. Like I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside, I knew we’d have an accident in the rain. I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way.”
― Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

Part of this write-up is courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

Because love poems are elegies … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

wine-and-fruitHangover

at the grocery ~
Meeting accidentally in the wine section
you sip me shyly with gentle conversation
and read the label on my selection,
your hand brushes mine, a sensual appeal
It’s for drunken pasta! I explain,
you laugh and say you’d rather drink than eat it
your eyes are Wedgwood blue and hold a wistful smile
you imagine I’m something fine, a vintage port
you’re flushed with the fancied sweetness
I could drink you too, a sturdy Bordeaux
but I no longer deal well with hangovers

Crane_frog4

To the Frog at the Door

if you kiss a frog, so I’ve been told
there’s a chance he’ll turn into a prince
a frog prince, which means you have
you absolutely have to love him
and i’ve loved a few frogs, at least
i think i have, they never became princes
nor did their love morph me into a princess
i’m still a cranky old crow, we are what we are,
loving frogs and crows isn’t transformative
….why should it be?
one woman’s frog is another woman’s prince

…….as for this old crow

………….she loves flying solo

…….not that you asked

© 2013, poems, Jamie Dedes, All rights reservedIllustration ~ Wine and fruit photo courtesy of Jean Boufort, Public Domain Pictures. net and The Frog Prince by Walter Crane (1845-1915), U.S. Public Domain


WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

Because love poems are elegies (if you don’t agree, pretend you do for the sake of the exercise), write an unRomantic poem.

If you feel comfortable doing so, leave your work or a link to in the comments section. Responses to Wednesday prompts are published on this site on the following Tuesday.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

“A Siren Wailing for No Reason” … and other poetic responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

The last Wednesday Writing Prompt July 12, 2017– The cold war: there was so much revealed by the singularity of that time. What crazy quirks do you remember or have you heard about from those you know who lived through it?

Here are responses from poets: Renee Espriu, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Paul Brookes and poet and writer, Dan Roberson.  Bravo! 🙂


A Siren Wailing for No Reason

The sun had risen high in the blue sky
over rolling hills of farm country
causing a dry heat much as the roiling
heat of the home of her childhood
produced in waves upon asphalt streets

she knew the howl of a siren near by in
the close distance as she sat visiting
with her son her terrier mix at her feet
and he saw her puzzled look asking why
to glean the meaning of that sound now

for she recalled a time years past
in the elementary school days now gone
the drills that came, of getting down
upon the floor to hide beneath her desk
with her hands upon her head to wait

but as the memory flashed upon her face
her son smiled to say the neighbor
who lives not far likes to hear the siren
wailing as it does for not a reason
but he hears it every afternoon of a day

so she smiles with him to recall those
drills of her youth and hoping as she did
that her desk might shield her from harm
for it might come with her eyes shut tight
the all clear was given & she breathed a sigh

© 2017, Renee Espriu (Renee Just Turtle Flight and Haibun, ART & Haiku)


More Than a Cold War

It was easy to see a war
In someone else’s back yard,
But the cold war brought ideas
Of destruction to my street
And to places where my feet
Touched the ground.
I thought often about homes
Made of concrete buried deep,
So how could I sleep?
My thoughts were of the aftermath
Of a crazy war with nuclear blasts
Bringing a nuclear winter.
Safe in a shelter but outside nothing alive.
The fifties were a time when our land
Was divided by race
Separate but equal
As long as the white equal was more.
I remember small things,
A prize I won at age twelve
For having an answer to
Name the governor who blocked the door
Against black people who wanted more.
They wanted equality.
I saw street signs that said no blacks
After 6 p.m. in several towns.
The cold war was not somewhere else
But also a civil war within our own country.
I saw the war never ending
As long as we continued bending
Defining people by culture, language, or color
Or whatever differences are around.
We built shelters far underground,
And never to be found.
But someday we will want to breathe
The same air, feel the sun, hear music
And then the walls might come down,
Ending the cold war, ending the barriers,
Becoming the planet of the wise
Without a disguise.
Working and living together.
No cold wars, no hot wars, not even rumors of wars.
That’s my dream.

© 2017, Dan Roberson (My Blog)

The Cold War was a time of Self-Destruction

The cold war was not your usual war. World War II was over and soldiers were home straightening out their finances, their lives, and learning to laugh again. It was a time of flexing military muscle, USA vs. USSR. It was a time of threatened security and talks about spies. It was an era of hidden ICBM missiles, tucked away in secret places, a time of country pride. The fifties was stifling, no laughter in the hallways, no mini skirts, no flowers in the fields. After several years of exuberant laughter, the world prepared for war, prepared to hide everything under its wings, and everything good seemed suspect. The Soviet Union displayed its might in parades. The USA pointed fingers at suspected communist sympathizers and tapped phone lines. But the worst effects of the cold war were the squashed dreams and ugly suspicions, the kind of things that tore families apart and ruined friendships.

The fifties were nightmares waiting to happen. I remember a camping trip into the wilds. A friend and I drove hours looking for a deserted campground. We drove until dark, put out cots and listened to crickets and other insects singing. Just after three a.m. the ground began shaking and we leaped off our cots and prepared to fight.

We stood there for a few minutes waiting for a German tank to come crashing through the brush. It never came. We were duped by our own fears and nightmares. The Cold War created a false reality. My friend had seen tanks in action and they became part of his dreams. I dreamed of the future where families would have to fight their way out of nightmares and fears. The Cold War was filled with tension and waiting, a time that people talked about eating their own young to save them from the wars to end all wars.

© 2017, Dan Roberson (My Blog)


::cold war::

dampflight.

it will be today, and the plants are growing.

so they found a russian

yesterday

with codes and dvds

and while on holiday

fought and sat in trees.

while all is changing round us,

all is changing.

listen ,someone upstairs,

ready for tea

and appropriate bun,

and never mind the hour,

and the rain.

a thin mist,

damp coating

of the air,

and a snail in the garden.

we must not mind how it is,

we must make the best of things.

politics make not an ounce

of difference here, we are black and white,

and back before.
** (notes and cuttings)

with the new scissors………………

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA)

..cooler morning..

she said it was a cold war, an iron curtain.

it seemed warm to me that summer, we listened

to the radio.

a lot.

we had patterened curtains, she did not like nets.

drawn if it was raining, drawn against the sun.

i could not imagine them metal.

i rarely draw my curtains here.

i live in the country.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA)

. fox hole.

colder in russia, that picture

shows soldiers froze

to death.

after the end

of that war.

second world war

there was that #coldwar.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA)


That M. A. D.

I recall CND.
Their sign that seemed
To a ten year old
three legs of the Isle Of Man
cut off at the ankles.

Cold war was parents divorcing.
Mutual agreement to keep the balance.

A wall is thought to help not hinder
with barbed wire, gun emplacements
watchtowers and divided lovers.

Berlin is always black and white,
divided into zones and checkpoints,
negotiating passages for spies,

and dark electronica where musicians,
poets and novelists
work out their nightmares.

Divorce is mutually assured destruction.
And Donna Summer sings “I will survive”.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

The Dominoes

will fall into the evil empire.
Able Archer practices
War. How to tell it’s only

make believe? These black
doors with white dots
are an iron curtain

between supermarkets
bloated with items unobtainable
except through a black market

on streets steeped in austerity.
Act as if more material goods
improve life while other folk

say “We appreciated life more
when we were poor.” Keep

dominos from fall. Keep all upright
and correct and buying.

Material goods are freedom
from the tyranny of enforced poverty.

Rarity brings value and hope.
The fall of the wall of dominoes.

This was not imaginary.
Pieces of the wall are bought and sold.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

Keep Off (A World Where 2)

Balance.

All must be unequal.
Walk one leg shorter
than the other. One eye

bigger, one ear lower.
A work/life imbalance brings harmony.
Male different from female.

Unsteady, ever keenly aware
ground uneven underfoot,
Steps up and steps down.
Heights varied keep you focussed.

A balanced life is unreal.
Accept un and imbalance
as necessary and needed

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

Note: Apologies to Renee, Dan, Sonja and Paul for the late posting.  It was just that kind of day.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

SUNDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Calls for Submissions, Contests, Events and Other News and Information

CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS

Opportunity Knocks

THE APPLE VALLEY REVIEW, A Journal of Contemporary Literature publishes a bi-annual zine (spring and fall) that accepts submissions of poetry, short fiction and essays on a year-round basis. Details HERE.

BLACK DANDY, a quarterly literary digest will debut later this year, publishing work “steeped in the long tradition of strange fiction. Based in New Zealand, with an international reach, Black Dandy welcomes readers and writers to worlds that seem right around the corner.” Submission guidelines HERE.

THE BeZINE submissions for the August 2017 issue – themed Theatre –  closes at midnight PST on August 10th. Publication date is August 15th. Poetry, essays, fiction and creative nonfiction, art and photography, music and theatre (videos), and whatever lends itself to online presentation is welcome for consideration. Please check out a few issues first and the Intro./Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines. No demographic restrictions. We would especially encourage submissions from people who are involved one way or the other in theatre. Essays from theatre lovers on the impact of a specific show or the art in general on personal life or on culture in general are welcome, as is critique or historical perspective. Please keep in mind that we do not publish anything that promotes hate or violence. Special guest host is Richard Lingua, theatre aficionado, occasional actor and frequent lecturer. All submissions to Founding and Managing Editor, Jamie Dedes, bardogoup@gmail.com

THE CHAOS, Journal of Personal Narrative “is a new online literary journal of personal narrative. Personal narrative creates meaning and order from the chaos of life. It reveals who we are, who we want to be.” Personal narratives of 1,500 – 7,500 may be submitted at any time. Reading fee is $2 USD. Payment for published essay is $25 USD. Details HERE.

HEIGHTS MAGAZINES is a “New York City based literary magazine seeking poetry, flash fiction, and art/photography. We pay for all the submissions that we accept for publishing.” Submission guidelines HERE.

WORD FOUNTAIN, The Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library has an open call for prose, poetry or a combination of the two for its Fall-Winter 2017 issue. Deadline: August 15. Global readership. Details HERE.

DIAPHANOUS PRESS,  a journal of literary and visual arts, submission period ends on August 31. This journal features poetry, fiction and visual and multi-media art. Details HERE.

PROFANE JOURNAL’s reading period will end on July 31. An annual print journal, Profane publishes poetry, essays and stories. Details HERE.

THE POETRY COMMUNITY, Original Contemporary Poetry from Poets Worldwide focuses on “original, thoughtful, sophisticated, mature, urbane, nuanced poetry that possesses depth and refinement.” Submission details HERE.

BETWEEN THE COASTS is an online publication interested in “stories [that] are written by people who live in the so-called red counties with particular focus on the ways in which national trends and policies shape local lives . . . Between Coasts tells stories from the flyover country, local journalism with a national outlook. We are especially interested in deeply reported narrative journalism. Coming issues will focus on these topics, broadly interpreted: Bake Sales, Drugs, Weapons, Work, Home, Incarceration. Go to our website betweencoasts.org for a better sense of what we’re up to.

PERSEPHONE’S DAUGHTERS a lit magazine dedicated to empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation.  The magazine is now closed to submissions but is open for submissions to the site’s Sunday Stories and Film Fridays sections. Details HERE.

DOOR IS A JAR MAGAZINE is an online publication that features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama and art work.  “We publish well-crafted writing that has cadence, personality, and uses familiar language to take readers on a journey. Furthermore, we celebrate the diversity of our readers, artists and writers; no matter one’s social class, race, sexual orientation, lifestyle, religion, gender, education or experience, we want to publish your work and we invite you to read our publications.” Details HERE.


CONTESTS

DOOR IS A JAR MAGAZINE (details above) honors two contributors that best represented the year’s submissions. Anyone who submits work to Door is a Jar Magazine has a chance at winning this award. Details HERE.

PROFANE JOURNAL hosts two annual prizes, nonfiction and fiction.  $1,000 awards and publication.  Details HERE. Deadline is July 31. 

THE POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA, Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award, $250 “Endowed under the wills of Louise Louis Whitbread and Ruth M. Bourne, this prize is awarded for the best unpublished poem by a student in grades 9 through 12 from the United States. Teachers or administrators may submit an unlimited number of their students’ poems, one submission per student.  Entries must be postmarked between October 1 and December 22, 2017. Details HERE.

POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA, Book Awards for Publishers Deadline:  October 1, to December 22, 2017. Books must be submitted directly by publishers. Details HERE.


EVENTS

  • Livestream: Collections as Data, July 25:: the relevance, accessibility and other benefits of making digital collections available as data and ready for computational analysis. The Library of Congress is hosting a day-long livestreamed event that will feature case-studies and impact stories of applying digital methods to analyzing and sharing collections.  Where: facebook.com/libraryofcongress/  (This is a public site. You don’t have to be on Facebook to watch.
  • 17th U.S. Library of Congress National Book Festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Washington Convention Center. Where: facebook.com/libraryofcongress/  (This is a public site. You don’t have to be on Facebook to watch.
  • Rumble, hosted by Chicon Street Poets, July 24, Monday, Dozen Street, 1808 E. 12th St. Austin, TX  78702 featuring Ashe Vernon, author of four collections o poetry Senior Editor for Persephone’s Daughters Literary magazine, and a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee.

COFFEE, TEA AND POETRY

featured this past week

Not My Mom’s Harvard Beets … Green Tea with Pomegranate … Featured Poet, Myra Schneider with her poem Root Vegetable Stew

The site is still very much in formative stages. Bare with me.  Suggestions welcome, Appreciation to all the new subscribers. 


KUDOS

  • Jessica Goodfellow on the publication of her latest poetry collection, Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017). “When she was a toddler, Jessica Goodfellow’s twenty-two-year-old uncle, along with six other climbers from the 1967 Wilcox Expedition to Denali, was lost in an unprecedented ten-day storm blasting winds of up to three-hundred miles per hour. Just as North America’s highest peak is so massive that it has its own distinct weather system—changeable and perilous, subject to sudden whiteout conditions—a family whose loved one is irretrievably lost has a grief so blinding and vast that it also creates its own capricious internal weather, one that lasts for generations. Whiteout is Goodfellow’s account of growing up in this unnavigable and often unspoken-of climate of bereavement.
    ….. “Although her poems begin with a missing body, they are not an elegy. Instead, Goodfellow struggles with the absence of cultural ritual for the uncontainable loss of a beloved one whose body is never recovered and whose final story is unknowable. There is no solace here, no possible reconciliation. Instead, Whiteout is a defiant gaze into a storm that engulfs both the wildness of Alaska and of familial mourning.”
  • Sofia Kioroglou, poem PatientlyYours, Nietzsche poem published by The Poetry Community.
  • Paul Brookes, on the publication of The Headpoke And Firewedding, his second chapbook. He says, “My first was published in 1993. Twenty-four years is a long time between books. Seventeen of those years I have been married, and now enjoy a daughter and five grandkids. I also had full time jobs. I enjoy using my Nokia smartphone camera to take landscape and macro pictures. I’m fascinated by shapes nature creates in miniature. Also, by how the mining land that surrounds me has been landscaped, reinvented. All this features in my poetry too. My first chapbook was The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley ( Dearne Community Press, 1993) and features various characters talking about their town and how they live in it. The Headpoke And Firewedding contains sixteen full colour photos. It is a gander at imagination, imagining it as the making of a coal fire. It moves on to linger on the pagan festivals of June and July, and includes a transliteration of some Nordic trails into Yorkshire dialect, as I feel this holds close to the invader’s language. Also a version of the Anglo Saxon The Seafarer in modern Yorkshire dialect. I hope this does not deter you from reading it.”

NEWS & INFORMATION


YOUR SUNDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS may be emailed to thepoetbyday@gmail.com. Please do so at least a week in advance.

If you would like me to consider reviewing your book, chapbook, magazine or film, here are some general guidelines:

  • nothing that foments hate or misunderstanding
  • nothing violent or encouraging of violence
  • English only, though Spanish is okay if accompanied by translation
  • though your book or other product doesn’t have to be available through Amazon for review here, it should be easy for readers to find through your site or other venues.

DISCLAIMER

Often information is just that information – and not necessarily recommendation. I haven’t worked with all the publications featured in Sunday Announcements or elsewhere on this site. Awards and contests are often a means to generate income and publicity for the host organizations, some of which are more reputable than others. I am homebound due to disability and no longer attend events. Please be sure to verify information for yourself before submitting work, buying products, paying fees or attending events et al.

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Some product links within posts are Amazon affiliate links. The Poet by Day is supported in part by these links. Your use of them costs you nothing and helps to keep this site running. When you click on a affiliate link (not all links are affiliate) and/or make a purchase I sometimes receive a small percentage of the purchase price.Thank you for your support.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY