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Poetry Month Pew Fellows News: New Books by Major Jackson and Susan Stewart, a Podcast by Yolanda Wisher, Readings from Trapeta B. Mayson, Ron Silliman, and More

Pew Fellow Major Jackson. Photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien.
Pew Fellow Major Jackson. Photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien.

More than 40 poets have been awarded Pew Fellowships since the program’s inception. In recognition of National Poetry Month, we’ve gathered the latest news from these distinguished writers below, including newly published work and upcoming online readings.

Poetry Month at the Center

On Instagram, we introduced the #PewFellowsFromHome video series. As we all continue to practice social distancing, we’ve asked our Fellows how they’re staying creative while staying in. In the first video in the IGTV series, Trapeta B. Mayson (2002) reads her poem “We Will Make Something.” Follow us for more videos like this one.

We published a full conversation between Fellows Sonia Sanchez (1993) and Major Jackson (1995), conducted in 2017 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pew Fellowships program. In the career-spanning discussion, Sanchez reflects on her artistic legacy and shares stories from her life as a writer, teacher, and activist.

Streaming Online

Yolanda Wisher (2015) produces a monthly poetry and music podcast for Philadelphia Contemporary called Love Jawns: A Mixtape. Each episode features three recorded poems, primarily by local poets, stitched together with musical interludes.

Ron Silliman (1998) will participate in Enclave Series with a reading on May 31. The new virtual poetry reading project, organized by poets Rae Armentrout and Jeanne Heuving, takes place on the Chax Press YouTube channel, with several readings already published. Later this year, University of New Mexico Press will release an expanded edition of Silliman’s collaborative book-length poem Legend, written with Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews, Steve McCaffery, and Ray DiPalma.

Sueyeun Juliette Lee (2013) presented a collaborative poetry performance piece at the Denver Art Museum in January. A short video of the event, with clips of the performance, is available on YouTube. Lee’s poem “because time when words could work has passed (3/30” will be published in a forthcoming issue of Pleiades, edited by EJ Koh and dedicated to Korean American writing. Her next book, Aerial Concave Without Cloud, will be published by Nightboat Books in 2021.

New Works

Major Jackson‘s latest book, The Absurd Man, was praised by The New York Times for summoning “moments of keen observation about art, politics and regret” and by World Literature Today for its “compelling array of narrative, lyric, and symbolic arcs, joined or joinable, that mutually suggest a way of being.” On April 26, Jackson will participate in Under the Influence with Campbell McGrath and A.E. Stallings, an online poetry reading as part of O, Miami’s annual poetry festival.

J.C. Todd’s (2014) forthcoming fifth book of poems, Beyond Repair, was selected for publication by Able Muse Press in its annual poetry book competition. Her poem “where water has no skin” is a National Poetry Month feature in Parks and Points. She was also a featured reader for a virtual poetry reading hosted by Murphy Writing of Stockton University, now available on YouTube.

Julia Bloch (2017) has released her third book of poetry, The Sacramento of Desire. Bloch told Penn Today that the work is “about the desire for making a family in a world that can make that very difficult, especially for queer people who don’t fit neatly into the categories that are offered them.”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis (2002) recently published Late Work with Black Square Editions. It is the third book-length installment of a long poem titled Traces, with Days. Black Square Editions describes Late Work as “a meditation on time, its vagaries, its intimate, affecting mixes of the political and the cosmological.”

Jena Osman (2006) published her sixth book of poetry, Motion Studies, with Ugly Duckling Presse in 2019. Motion Studies consists of three essay-poems that begin as meditations on 19th-century science and end as research into the present. According to Publishers Weekly, the book “highlights Osman’s lyrical skill and expert craftsmanship.”

Travis Macdonald‘s (2014) chapbook Eleven Philadelphians will be published by The Magnificent Field in the summer of 2020. The work features poems written from the rearranged words of local poets, including Pew Fellows Kevin Varrone, Pattie McCarthy, Ryan Eckes, Brian Teare, Jenn McCreary, and others.

Kirsten Kaschock‘s (2019) forthcoming book of poetry, Explain This Corpse, won the 2019 Blue Lynx Prize from Lynx House Press. Her poem “Pronouncement” is included in the latest issue of Copper Nickel, and her short story “Mouths Like Cinnamon” is featured in Fence. Kaschock also participated in NaPoWriMo2020 (National Poetry Writing Month) with “downstairs,” a poem shared on the Bloof Books blog.

Christopher Bursk (1995) recently published a new book of poetry, Answer the Door, with FutureCycle Press.

In December, Nathalie Anderson (1993) brought the new opera Cassandra: A Chamber Opera in Two Acts to performance at Swarthmore College, where she is the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English Literature. “Cassandra’s circumstance—to speak the truth but never be believed—seems especially significant in our era of ‘fake news’ and the #MeToo movement,” Anderson said.

Susan Stewart (1995) responded in verse to the works of artist Harriet Bart with "Talisman," a long poem published in Poetry magazine. Stewart’s prose book, The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture, was praised by The Washington Post as “admirably researched and beautifully produced.” She discussed her latest poetry book, Cinder: New and Selected Poems, and her creative practice in an interview with The Kenyon Review.

Trapeta B. Mayson will launch HealingVerse Philly this spring, a project associated with her role as Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. In Mayson’s words, “HealingVerse Philly will center poetry as an effective and powerful intervention into the broader discussions about mental health and mental illness.” For National Poetry Month, Mayson made a public call on Instagram for “The day before…” poems that, she explains, “explore what individuals were doing, thinking and/or feeling the day before the national order to stay home.” She has not yet determined the format into which she will compile these submissions.

CAConrad (2011) recently published an essay on the Poetry Foundation website titled “SIN BUG: AIDS, Poetry, and Queer Resilience in Philadelphia.”In the piece’s introductory note, Conrad writes that in the seven years spent trying to write it, “each time I was overwhelmed by the destruction of too many extraordinary people who I love and miss!”

Jeanne Murray Walker’s (1998) poem “Colors” became part of the permanent installation at the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia in an electronic text display created by artist Jenny Holzer. Walker’s latest collection of sixty sonnets, Pilgrim, You Find the Path by Walking, was published by Paraclete Press in the spring of 2019.