“To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” Robert Graves

The rewards are mostly in the writing and reading but also in helping fellow poets and promoting poetry and other arts as game-changers and life-saving graces. Imagine a world where everyone could indulge their chosen artistic expression. It would be a better world. I often think about all the people who are on the run: running from wars, conflicts, environmental injustice and climate disruptions. I wish for them, of course, health, safety, housing, stability, food, education. But I also wish for them to have paper and pencil, art supplies, carving tools and so on. This is all by way of telling you about one of last week’s delights. I am always tickled to learn about poets supporting the work of others, especially good but lesser know and outsider artists.

Marta Pombo (Moments) wrote to tell me about “My Best Literary Review.” She wrote, “I am a poetry lover and would like to help Mario Savioni, a poet friend of mine, to get more recognition. …  In order to help him I wrote a paper reviewing his entire literary work, which basically consists of poems and prose-poetry short stories. All the people who have read my review said they liked it. They also told me it is well written.”

KUDOS TO MARTA: She clearly worked hard on this review. HERE it is. See what you think.



“declaration of victory” … and other responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

A refined though modest collection this week in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Fishing Trip (beginner’s luck), April 25. Thanks to intrepid poets: Gary Bowers, Frank McMahan, and Sonja Benskin Mesher for coming out to play. Bravo! and thanks to Sonja for generously sharing her illustrations as well. Enjoy their work and do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt.

declaration of victory

looks easy i said
to my thuggish older brother and his foppish friend fred
bet I can do better
gimme a try

how much? said the brother
and how much better? said the fred
all I got i replied
twelve cents
and I will hit
not just the tree trunk
but the knot on the left
seven feet up
from twice as far away

they did not want to
but the twelve cents
and curiosity
got them
reluctantly fred handed me the slingshot
and i picked a round little rock
and backed off another ten yards

here is where the quantum multiverse steps in
in one universe i aimed at my brother and hit him in the side
in another i ran off with the slingshot laughing
and there are many others
that would have gotten
the crap beat out of me
by the two thugs

but in this ‘verse
I aimed at the knot
and almost hit it
solidly thwicking the trunk
as i somehow knew i would
and coughed up the twelve cents
two dollars safe in another pocket
and declared victory

I so wanted to try that slingshot
and twelve cents was a small price
for that thrill

and I had done better with my first shot
than they
with all of theirs

© 2018, Gary W. Bowers (One With Clay, Image & Text)


An island without water. We rose just
after dawn, this summer of endless sun
and strawberries, unmoored the boat, began
to work the oars. Steady lift splash pull,
lift splash pull,’ till we could drift mid-fjord.
One simple line and spinner. Wait as sweat
dries; salt, silence then sharp tug, resistance
against the filament drawn in. First fish!
squirming black silver grey. And on and on
as mackerel filled the boat around our feet.
Much easier this than working out love’s
complications, shimmer and wonder
lifting me beyond youth’s self-absorptions.

© 2018, Frank McMahan

the first cafetiere.

we take coffee at the royal sportsman

most weeks

with others

every other


i remember the first cafetiere

dockside southampton


the waiter showed us




we are adept plunging

pouring sincere


counting cups & payments

deducting discounts


drink enjoy the extra cup

& biscuit






hoovering continues upstairs

© 2018, poem and illustration (below), Sonja Benskin Mesher, (sonja-benskin-mesher.net; Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA paintings; sonja-benskin-mesher.co.uk)


Leading Historians, Novelists, Poets and Children’s Writers Are Among the Authors to be Featured during U.S. 2018 National Book Festival

The Washington, D.C. Convention Center at Mount Vernon Square courtesy of APK like a lollipop under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Dozens of best-selling authors, leading historians, American poets and children’s writers will be featured speakers at the U.S. Library of Congress 2018 National Book Festival. The festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.  This year’s schedule includes a wide-ranging mix of authors and genres.


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will discuss her new book, Fascism: A Warning, a history of fascism in the 20th century and how its legacy shapes the world.

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak about her new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, an examination of leadership based on four presidents she has studied most closely.

Historian Jon Meacham will discuss his new book, The Soul of America, about critical times in our history when hope overcame fear and division.

Alexander Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow is back with a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant.


Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will join the festival for a conversation with former Poet Laureate Robert Hass about the making of poetry.

American Author, Amy Tan (b. 1952). Her work explores mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese American experience. Public Domain photo courtesy of Robert Foothorap

Best-selling author Amy Tan will discuss her new memoir, Where the Past Begins, A Writer’s Memoir, delving into memories of her traumatic childhood, the inspiration behind her fiction writings and the workings of her mind as a writer.


Children’s author and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz will discuss his debut picture book, Island Born, about a girl who can’t remember the island where she immigrated from – so she imagines it with help from family and friends.

Matt de la Peña and Loren Long will discuss their new children’s book, Love.

Leigh Bardugo will speak about her series, Six of Crows, a young adult best-seller.

Jacqueline Woodson, the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will discuss two new books she has been writing.


Isabel Allende will discuss her novel In the Midst of Winter. The story is about an academic who rear-ends a car driven by an undocumented immigrant and an adventure that unfolds.

Dave Eggars will discuss his new book, The Monk of Mokha, the true story of a young Yemeni American man’s quest to resurrect the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but is trapped by civil war.

American Novelist and Short Story Writer, Jennifer Egan (b. 1962), is the author of several novels and a short story collection. Her new novel, Manhattan Beach, published last fall, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Her last novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times book prize. Also a journalist, she has written frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Photo courtesy of David Shankbone under CC BY 3.0.

Jennifer Egan will discuss her historical novel Manhattan Beach, set in the docks of Brooklyn during World War II when a girl becomes the first female diver on the squad.

Additional authors—including the Main Stage lineup—and other details of the festival will be announced in the coming months.

More information and updates will be available on the National Book Festival website at loc.gov/bookfest/.

Later this summer, the National Book Festival app will be updated with complete presenter, schedule and wayfinding information for iOS or Android smartphones. Follow the festival on Twitter @librarycongress with hashtag #NatBookFest.

The Main Reading Room of the U.S. Library of Congress courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith. Public domain.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


LGBT Cultural Pioneer Edmund White and Irish Novelist Edna O’Brien to be Honored for Lifetime Achievement

PEN America announced last week that it will honor author and LGBT cultural pioneer Edmund White with the annual PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

White at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival courtesy of David Shankbone under CC BY 3.0

EDMUND WHITE  (b. 1940) is an American novelist, memoirist, and an essayist on literary and social topics. Much of his writing is on the theme of same-sex love. His books include The Joy of Gay Sex (1977) (written with Charles Silverstein, a writer, therapist, lecturer and gay activist), his trio of autobiographic novels, A Boy’s Own Story (1982), The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), and his biography of Jean Genet. His website is HERE.  His Amazon page is HERE.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to watch this video.

The 2018 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature will go to the extraordinarily prolific Irish novelist Edna O’Brien, whose acclaimed work broke down social and sexual barriers for women in Ireland and elsewhere.

Edna O’Brien at Hay Festival 2016 courtesy of Andrew Lih under CC BY-SA 3.0

EDNA O’BRIEN, DBE (b. 1930) is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer. Philip Roth described her “the most gifted woman now writing in English”, while the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, cited her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation”.

O’Brien’s works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole.Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O’Brien left Ireland behind.

O’Brien  received the Irish PEN Award in 2001. Saints and Sinners won the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the world’s richest prize for a short story collection. Faber and Faber published her memoir, Country Girl, in 2012.  Her Faber & Faber author’s page is HERE. Her Amazon page is HERE.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to watch this video.

PEN America will also honor:

  • poet Kamau Brathwaite with the PEN/ Voelcker Award,
  • translator Barbara Harshav with the PEN/ Manheim Medal for Translation, and
  • author Dave Kindred with the PEN/ ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing.

The PEN/ Laura Pels Foundation for Theater Awards will be conferred on playwrights:

  • Luis Alfaro for Master American Dramatist,
  • Sibyl Kempson for American Dramatist in Mid-Career, and
  • Mike Lew for Emerging American Playwright.

White, O’Brien, and PEN America’s other career achievement award winners will accept their prizes at the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, February 20, at the NYU Skirball Center near Washington Square Park. Featuring readings, performances, and edge-of-your-seat live announcements of the winners for the year’s prizes, this annual celebration of literature and free expression has become one the city’s premier literary events drawing the biggest names and the hottest new voices in literature. Special guests, finalists, and presenters in attendance will include:

  • Tanwi Nandini Islam
  • Yahdon Israel
  • Hari Kunzru
  • Victor LaValle
  • Colum McCann
  • Lynn Nottage
  • Philip Roth
  • Layli Long Soldier
  • Monique Truong
  • Kevin Young
  • David Zirin
    … and many more

Hosted by author, social activist, and political commentator
Sally Kohn

A full list of finalists for the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards is available HERE . All book award winners will be announced at the ceremony. Purchase tickets HERE. I understand that this is the first year tickets are being made available to the general public. Student tickets are discounted.

Compiled with thanks to PEN America, White’s website, Faber & Faber, Wikipedia and Amazon.

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