Out this week: Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky; Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield; North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah; The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht; and The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“It was just one small sign in a bustling city. But it was a sign, nevertheless, that Florence has not forgotten the Brownings after all.” In the New York Times, novelist Ann Mah explored Florence looking for signs of the literary couple who called it home for many years: Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. From our archives: a more sober look at the famed city.
Willard Spiegelman’s provocative essay in the VQR’s recent State of American Poetry issue, “Has Poetry Changed?” incited quite a few responses. One of the better rejoinders came from William Childress, whose response, “Is Free Verse Killing Poetry,” raises some excellent points. “Poetry needs readers, not writers,” writes Childress. “But how many poets read any poetry but their own?”
“Think of landscape. Think of how elements come to be attached to one another, how it’s impossible to separate the road from the field, the field from the tree, the tree from the water, the water from the sky. We cannot attribute natural features to the lines we design just as we cannot attribute natural causes to those dying as they try to cross them.” For Tin House, Portuguese writer Susana Moreira Marques meditates on the concept of borders and Wolf Böwig’s photography project, “Borders and Beyond.”
W.S. Merwin, a Hawaii-based poet born in 1927, has been named the 17th Poet Laureate of the United States. A fellow poet writes, “There is something monklike about Merwin … He is trying to achieve a contemplative distance from desire and ambition.”
“Now I wrote until near dawn, wanting a map of the literary nation, a beautiful evocation of how we are truly a nation of village and city and prairie and brownstone, of Rockies and bayous and mesas. Novels give to every reader someone else’s home. Can we not see this – we of wonder and grievance?” Susan Straight creates a map of America in 737 novels, prompting us to remember the perennial literary question: What is the greatest American novel?