Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Congrats to Prize Winners + RIP Bradbury & Menil

Natasha Trethewey
(John Amis for
The New York Times)
Congratulations to our new Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress, Natasha Trethewey! She will assume the post beginning this fall. She's the first Southerner since the first Robert Penn Warren, the initial Poet Laureate, and the first African American since Rita Dove. How lucky the country is to have Natasha, as fine and generous a poet as there is writing today, at this helm!

Congratulations also to poet and translator Jen Hofer, whose translation of Negro Marfil/Ivory Black by Mexican poet Myriam Moscona (Les Figues 2011), poet, translator and critic Pierre Joris selected to receive this year's Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets! Jen is a superb poet and person, and one of the best impromptu letter writers (on a typewriter) and bookmakers as you'll ever find!

Congratulations to poet, translator and scholar Jennifer Scappettone, who received the 2012 Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Prize from the Academy of American Poets for her translation Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose, by Amelia Rosselli (University of Chicago Press, 2012). In addition to being an outstanding colleague, I shall forever be grateful to Jen for introducing me to her own work and projects, and to the work of so many outstanding living Italian poets.

Congratulations to poet and editor giovanni singleton, whose first collection, Ascension, received the Gold Medal in the poetry category for the 81st California Book Awards!  giovanni is the real deal, and I'm so very happy to see her début collection so honored.

Congratulations also to this year's winners of the Lambda Literary Awards! An especial shout out to Bil Wright, who received the award in LGBT Children's/Young Adult Literature for Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (Simon & Schuster); to Rahul Mehta, who received the award in Gay Debut Fiction for Quarantine: Stories (Harper Perennial); to Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, editors, who received the award in LGBT Anthology, for Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader (Duke University Press); and to my old Boston compatriot Michael Bronski, who received the award LGBT Nonfiction for A Queer History of the United States (Beacon Press)!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Seamus Heaney on receiving the Griffin Trust Prize Lifetime Achievement Award!  Tomorrow the winners of the international and Canadian Griffin Prizes for poetry will be announced.


On a different note, farewells to Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), the leading speculative fiction and fantasy writer of his generation, the author of 20+ novels and many hundreds of stories, a visionary whose sense of what deeply imaginative and non-realist writing might conjure ranks among the most important in the American or any global literary tradition. Bradbury was a native of Waukegan, Illinois, and a lifelong resident of Southern California. A few years ago, when I taught his novel Fahrenheit 451 (Ballantine, 1953) in a huge survey course on 20th Century American literature, it easily ranked among the most popular texts on the syllabus, and rereading it then brought my childhood admiration for his skillfulness as a stylist and futurist. We are not burning books, thankfully, but we destroying libraries, watching bookstores vanish into thin air, flooding online sites with word-filled, content-less commodities that strip the very word "book" of meaning; and as in his novel, we are entranced by the sorts of screens he depicts, enthralled with the staged dramas, combats, fake political dramas, performed to lull us, as the 1% rob us blind and the government engages in endless wars it will not explain because it cannot. Too many of us still dismiss at our peril what the sharpest minds of our era put in the pages or touch-screens of texts, preferring to flow with the crowd, accept the widespread surveillance and remain silent, speak out only when we are directly touched by circumstance or tragedy. There is no site of refuge or resistance, except within us; that is one of the lesson I take from Bradbury's book, and from his work in general. He became a conservative crank in his later years, a technophobe, dismisser of the net and web, but it is on such systems that others and I can honor his larger vision tonight, and perhaps help others return to his work soon. RIP, Ray Bradbury.

Also RIP Alain Ménil, a Martinican philosopher and critic, only 54 years old, utterly unknown on these shores but an important figure in Caribbean and Francophone letters, who had published his most recent book Les voies de la créolisation. Essai sur Edouard Glissant (De l’Incidence éditeur, 2011), on the late, great Martinican poet, novelist and theorist last fall. The book was a finalist for the 2011 Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde. At the time of his death Ménil was teaching at the Lycée Condorcet, and also had published a study of cinema's relationship to time, L'ecran du temps (Regards et ecoutes) (1992); a text on the Enlightenment and drama, Diderot et le drame: Theatre et politique (Philosophies) (1995); and a book on AIDS, Saints et saufs: Sida, une epidemie de l'interpretation (Visages du mouvement) (1997).  The Glissant book, which has received considerable praise, is 658 pages, so I hope an intrepid translator steps forward soon so that it'll be available to English readers too.

No comments:

Post a Comment