Culture & Literature
Poets & Writers Magazine

Poets & Writers Magazine March - April 2015

For more than twenty years, Poets & Writers Magazine has been a trusted companion to writers who take their vocation seriously. Within its pages, our readers find provocative essays on the literary life, practical guidance for getting published and pursuing writing careers, in-depth profiles of poets, fiction writers, and writers of creative nonfiction, and conversation among fellow professionals.

United States
Poets & Writers, Inc
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6 Issues

In this issue

14 min.
going hollywood

ON A SNOWY February day in 2014, the cast and crew of the film Ten Thousand Saints huddled around a bed at a partially defunct hospital in outer Brooklyn, New York, shooting a scene in which one of the characters, a teenage girl played by actress Hailee Steinfeld, gives birth. As the actors performed the scene for filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, Eleanor Henderson, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel on which the film is based, stood off to one side quietly sobbing. Invited onto the set for the day, Henderson found herself moved while listening to the actors perform a scene she had written years earlier. “I’ve heard over and over how difficult it is to get a film made,” she says, “and it felt magical that all…

8 min.
where we write

I WAS born in Iowa City and raised in rural Iowa. Because most literary folks associate my home state with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I’ve had to answer the following question only once: “Do you know how to drive a tractor?” For the record, I can’t even drive a stick shift car. So I’m willing to bet that while you’ve probably heard of Iowa, and you may have even been to a reading at Prairie Lights or had a beer at the Fox Head, you don’t know any writers from Iowa. Some general truths about Iowans: We are polite to a fault. We obey the speed limit in whatever vehicle we drive. We often speculate about the weather, a vestige from the time when we relied solely on agriculture and a…

17 min.
far from ordinary

T RACY K. Smith was twenty-two when her mother died in 1994. Nearly a decade later, she published The Body’s Question, her first book of poetry, in which she reflected on that loss. In “Joy,” which carried the epigraph “In Memoriam KMS 1936– 1994,” Smith writes to her mother, longing to “pick up the phone / And catch your voice on the other end / Telling me how to bake a salmon / Or get the stains out of my white clothes.” Another decade later, she returns to that wrenching loss in the memoir Ordinary Light, published this month by Knopf. Smith’s first book of prose, it is a book of excavation and navigation: The poet revisits her mother’s passing in light of her father’s death in 2008, the year…

1 min.
small press points

Bedford, New York–based fiction publisher Fig Tree Books (figtreebooks.net) enters the literary scene this spring with its first two titles—rereleases of Alan Cheuse’s 1986 novel The Grandmothers’ Club, now titled Prayers for the Living, in March, and playwright Meyer Levin’s 1956 novel Compulsion in April. Established in 2013 by entrepreneur Fredric Price, Fig Tree is committed to publishing “high quality, commercially viable novels that chronicle and enlighten the unique American Jewish experience.” The press seeks not only to publish new work by emerging and established authors, but also to republish older and out-of-print titles by authors who wrote “at a time when Jews were less well-integrated into American society.” Taking its name from a 1790 letter from George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, expressing the hope…

6 min.
reviewers & critics

IF YOU’RE on social media, then you’re aware of Roxane Gay, a true powerhouse in literary circles. A longtime book critic and culture essayist, Gay had a banner year in 2014: Her novel, An Untamed State (Black Cat), and her New York Times best-selling collection of essays, Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial), were both published to critical acclaim, and she was announced as the editor of the Butter, the companion site to the culture website the Toast. Originally from Omaha, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, Gay is an associate professor of English at Purdue University and is the coeditor of PANK magazine. Her memoir, Hunger, is forthcoming from Harper Perennial in 2016. You can follow her on Twitter, @rgay. I first remember reading your work on HTMLGIANT. How did you get your start…

7 min.
submission blitz

AT THE top of the stairs is a small desk with a tan phone and a lime-green chair. All week long I hear snippets of conversation from women huddled around it. “Yes, he has to be picked up at three.” “If you do the darks first, you can get the uniforms done on time.” Those lucky enough to catch a signal wave frantically at the faces on their iPhones: “Hi, honey! I miss you, too.” We are at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont, a place that I, like many writers, have dreamed of, a destination that can make a writer feel—even if just for one week in the summer—like she has arrived. Like she might finally be able to get her work out into the world. We have all come here,…