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PLANS TO ABOLISH the U.S. National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities

Suzanne Nossel Executive Director, PEN America
Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director, PEN America

In response to news released on January 19 announcing that the Trump administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement:

The Trump administration’s plans, reported in The Hill this morning, to abolish wholesale the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts are an outrageous abdication of the U.S. government’s proud history of support for groundbreaking research and creative endeavors that have served as engines of innovation and bolstered America’s stature as a haven for free thinkers and a global leader in humanity’s shared quest for knowledge.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, founded in 1965, is a leading source of funding for humanities programs in the United States. Its grants support cultural institutions including museums, libraries, and public television, as well as universities and individual scholarship. It has supported over 7,000 book projects, including 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, and the United States Newspaper Project, cataloguing over 60 million pages of historic newspapers for future use by scholars.

The National Endowment for the Arts, also established in 1965, supports participation and scholarship in the arts, works to ensure equal access to arts and culture for all Americans, and partners with state and local leaders to support creative initiatives at the community level. Its funding supports literature, visual arts, dance, theater, museums, and arts education programs around the country

The announcement that this is even under consideration casts a sinister cloud over our vibrant national culture, stoking fears that the Trump Administration aims to usher in a new Dark Ages in America. U.S. leadership and innovation in arts, culture, and the humanities are wellsprings of American greatness and the envy of the world. This proposal sends shivers down the spine of all Americans who value research, scholarship, and creativity and who recognize the mortal blow that eliminating these vital agencies would strike at the heart of treasured sectors of our society. Even apart from the essential resources at stake, the signal sent by this gesture is a slap in the face to artists, writers, researchers, and scholars who are learning that the Administration seems to consider their work worthless.

-Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director, PEN America
January 19, 2017

Photo credit PEN America under CC BY SA 4.0 license

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.



“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Joseph Brodsky

Well life happened – as it usually does until it doesn’t – and I missed Banned Book Week, September 25- October 1 – but it’s never too late to ponder banning and the unreason that often leads to it. One of the more humorous examples is:

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
(‘Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won’t let you
Dry the dishes anymore

– Shel Silverstein from A Light in the Attic (Harper Collins, 1981)

I wouldn’t blame you if you are surprised to think that a work by the recipient of a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award and two Grammy Awards would be banned. Consider also that Shel Silverstein’s books have been translated into thirty languages and have sold over twenty-million copies. He may have written for children but adults are enamoured of his writing too. So why was A Light in the Attic banned? According to Cunningham Elementary School in Wisconsin, Shel’s book would encourage children to break dishes in order to avoid having to dry them. Apparently some people are missing a funny bone.

Ginsberg’s Howl was famously condemned as obscenity. Publisher Lawrence Ferlighetti and City Light’s Bookstore Manager Shig Murao were arrested, Ferlighetti for publishing obscene literature and Murao for selling it.  There was a protracted and very public trial. Ultimately, it was determined that the book was protected under Freedom of Speech. The judge also pronounced the book “not obscene.” Here is a clip Howl, a movie about the trial. James Franco plays Allen Ginsberg.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to click through to the site to view the video.

Not too long ago we celebrated the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks.  In this video she reads her poem We Real Cool and explains why some chose to ban it …


Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was withdrawn from libraries for “explicit language. Six poems from Les Fleurs du mal by French poet Charles Baudelaire were considered an insult to public decency.  Baudelaire and his publisher were fined and the poems suppressed. The Roman poet Ovid’s Ars Amatoria – essentially a relationship guide in a series of three books compossed in elegiac couplets – was considered “licentious.”  Some speculate that Ovid was banished from Rome for it.

Some poets suffer worse than banishment, banning and fines.  PEN America reports HERE (scroll down) on writers and poets around the world who are on trial, imprisoned or murdered for the perspectives revealed in their work. Such poets often remind us of social injustices that remain simmering but unaddressed in a back corner of our minds. They create awareness of current injustices and inspire us to act. They call on us to hold ourselves and the powerful to account, often pointing out the ways in which we are complicit. That these poets and their work are found so threatening is a testimony to the power of words. There’s some solace in that.

© 2016, Jamie Dedes; illustration in the public domain


LATE-BREAKING NEWS: PEN America and Jean Stein to Honor Groundbreaking Literature with New Awards of $75K and $10K

PEN America Center (PEN), founded in 1922 and based in New York City, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators. PEN America Center is the largest of the 144 centers that belong to PEN International, the worldwide association of writers that defends those who are harassed, imprisoned and killed for their views.[1] PEN America Center is one of two PEN centers located in the USA, the other is PEN Center USA in Los Angeles, it covers the USA west of the Mississippi.
PEN America Center (PEN), founded in 1922 and based in New York City, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators. PEN America Center is the largest of the 144 centers that belong to PEN International, the worldwide association of writers that defends those who are harassed, imprisoned and killed for their views.PEN America Center is one of two PEN centers located in the USA, the other is PEN Center USA in Los Angeles, it covers the USA west of the Mississippi.
This week PEN America announced the establishment of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, a literary honor that will be conferred annually on a book that has broken new ground and signals strong potential for lasting influence.

$75,000 Prize to be Awarded to a Single Writer for Originality and Impact
$10,000 Grant for a Literary Oral History Project

The new award will recognize a book-length work of any genre for “originality, merit, and impact,” spotlighting a work of literature that reshapes the boundaries of its form. Funded by oral historian Jean Stein, the $75,000 award will be among the largest literary prizes in the U.S., as well as the largest prize offered by PEN. In a departure for the PEN America Literary Awards, the judging panel of distinguished writers will serve anonymously. The panel will nominate candidates internally and without submissions from the public.

“The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award will focus global attention on remarkable books that propel experimentation, wit, strength, and the expression of wisdom,” said PEN America President Andrew Solomon. “As an organization that champions literature’s power to change the world, PEN America is especially pleased to recognize work that honors creative ambition and rejoices in imagination. We are immensely grateful to Jean Stein for this opportunity to celebrate books that rethink our culture and humanity.”

Stein’s own literary pursuits have engaged some of the most influential figures in American culture, including an interview with William Faulkner for The Paris Review in 1956. She chronicled the life of Robert F. Kennedy with editor George Plimpton in the 1970 book American Journey: The Times of Robert Kennedy. In 1982, she was the author of Edie: American Girl, which was also edited with Plimpton. Most recently, she profiled five prominent families from Los Angeles in West of Eden. From 1990 to 2004, Stein was the editor of Grand Street, a literary and visual arts magazine.

In addition to the book award, Stein will also sponsor a new PEN America Literary Award for oral history. The PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Oral History will award $10,000 to support the completion of a literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement.

The PEN America Literary Awards is the most comprehensive awards program in the country, offering prizes across a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theater, translation, and more. With the addition of these two new awards, the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards will confer over $250,000 to writers and translators.

Both new awards sponsored by Stein will be conferred for the first time in 2017, with the inaugural honorees to be named at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in New York in February.


THE SUNDAY POESY: Opportunities, Events, Other News and Information

PBD - blogroll


PEN International promotes peace through freedom of experience and linguistic diversity. It runs regional and global campaigns, including campaigns on behalf of poets and writers jailed for their political views and activism. It’s Bled Manifesto of the Writers for Peace is HERE.  Membership information HERE


Opportunity Knocks

TINY POETRY: MACROPOETICS “seeks submissions from established and emerging writers, typically between 10-30 lines per poem, up to five poems at a time. We seek place-based poetry that explores our relationship to nature, to self, and to images and artifacts we find in our daily lives. However, our content is varied, so send what you like best, and we’ll read it and get back to you! We also accept art and photography submissions.” Details HERE

FOLIATE OAK LITERARY MAGAZINE calls for submissions of
writing, artwork, and photography. It publishes creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and hybrid work. Deadline for the May issue is April 24, 2016 Details HERE

ARROYO LITERARY REVIEW, a publication of California State University, is open for submissions now. The reading period is December 1 through May 31. Details HERE


Opportunity Knocks

GREY HEN PRESS: 2016 poetry contest for women poets over 60 is for poems of up to 40 lines on any subject. The adjudicators are Maggie Butt and Anne Stewart. Prizes: IST – £100 2ND – £50 3RD – £25 Details HERE


POETRY AS THERAPY National Association for Poetry Therapy Annual Conference; UNITY VILLAGE HOTEL AND CONFERENCE CENTER near Kansas, Missouri; April 14-17, 2016 Details HERE

HOUSE OF POETRY.  Ebrahim Al Arrayed at the Shaikh Ebrahim Center, Lebanon; The Lebanese writer and TV presenter “Majida Dagher worked in several print and broadcast outlets over her illustrious career. The versatile Majida Dagher also a respected writer with many books and titles to her credit, including a literary review of the works of some of the most respected writers and poets in Lebanon and the world.” Details in Arabic HERE

LITERARY PUB OR PERISH Stickyz Rock N’ Roll Chicken Shack, 107 River Market Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201; Join Sharon Frye, Ayara Stein, Silva Zanoyan Merjanian, RJ Looney, Donnie Lamon, MH Clay and Justin Booth. You’ll find the bios of presenters HERE.

APRIL 14-17, The above event is part of the Little Rock, Arkansas Annual Literary Festival.

W/RITES & RHAPSODIES: Israel Writing Tour July 3 – 18:
Write! Tour! Perform! Listen! Learn! Feast! With tour leaders Adeena Karasick and Michael Dickel. Registration deadline: 15 April 2016 Link HERE Itinerary. Cost: $3,080, which does not include air fare, more details HERE. Register HERE.


PEN American Poetry Series: Each week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. The series is edited by Danniel Schoonebeek, with guest editors TC Tolbert, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Brian Blanchfield. You can subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list to receive poems each week. Unfortunately the Series is closed for submissions at this time. Keep watching for a change in status.

THE BEZINE, a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, will celebrate interNational Poetry Month on April 15th with an issue dedicated entirely to poetry. Access The BeZine HERE.


CHRISTOPHER WALKEN reading The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe HERE



“Here be inspiration. There are blogs and there are blogs. There is writing; there is poetry; there is art; there is human endeavour and there is ‘The Poet by Day’. Rarely, if ever, have I come across a web log like this, of such towering integrity. Seldom have I encountered such a willingness to subjugate self for the benefit not only of the art of the written word, but also for the benefit of poets and writers everywhere. Here be a deep well of inspiration.” Poet, essayist and musician: John Anstie (My Poetry Library)


  • to honor the place of poetry in our lives;
  • to acknowledge good poets, both established and emerging;
  • to encourage poetry for social and environmental justice;
  • to shine a light on women and minority poets and poets just finding their voices in maturity;
  • to encourage you in your writing and provide helpful information and resources;
  • to have fun, to laugh, to feel good … and to cry when that’s needed.