Monday, February 03, 2014

New Books: Poetry & Translation

A number of new books now grace my desk, so here is a little information on several that I have had a hand in. I'll begin with Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night, the second winner of the Drinking Gourd Poetry Chapbook Prize, a national honor given to an emerging poet of color, resulting in a beautiful chapbook published by Northwestern University Press. During my final year and a half at Northwestern, I served on the planning committee and as a judge for the inaugural prize, when a committee of poets and literary scholars awarded to Kristiana Rae Colón, for her striking, powerful book of poems, Promised Instruments.

Before I left, I again participated on jury that selected Rodney Gomez's vivid, moving poems for this year's prize. As the images below show, these are not just impressive first literary sallies, but beautiful books in themselves, and I highly recommend both, as well as eminent poet and Northwestern professor Ed Roberson's Closest Pronunciation, which was also published, as a volume by a senior poet, in conjunction with the contest. Since I left Northwestern I am no longer involved in the Drinking Gourd Poetry Chapbook contest, but I wish the winners my heartiest congratulations, and the prize itself, which introduces the work of writers who might otherwise see publication by such a distinguished press to a wide audience, the very best.

Rodney Gomez's Mouth Filled with Night (2014)
Kristiana Rae Colón's Promised Instruments (2012)
Ed Roberson's Closest Pronunciation (2012)
During the period that I was moving back to New Jersey, I began to become involved in helping to launch another wonderful, invaluable book publishing project, The African Poetry Book Series, one component of the African Poetry Book Fund, which the multitalented, prodigious and visionary poet and critic Kwame Dawes helms, at the University of Nebraska. Its mission, to quote the APBF website is as follows:

The African Poetry Book Fund promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa. The Fund is committed to seeking the resources to support this mission and to ensure that all its efforts are carried out with excellence.

The Fund will, through the Series and other projects, promote the writing and publication of African poetry through an international complex of additional collaborations and partnerships. The Fund and its partners will offer support for seminars, workshops and other publishing opportunities for African poets.

The other APBF editorial board members include Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, Gabeba Baderoon, and Bernadine Evaristo. Distinguished figures from the worlds of literature, business and publishing fill the Advisory Board.

Among the first books the APBF will publish, two are now in print: the winner of the first Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, which is Kenyan poet Clifton Gachagua's wry, ever-fresh and compelling Madman at Kilifi, and the great, late Ghanaian poet, novelist, teacher and mentor Kofi Awoonor's The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013, which was in process before his tragic death last fall at the Westgate Towers in Kenya, and which serves as a fine tribute to his extensive poetic gifts and legacy. Both books, published by the University of Nebraska Press, will officially reach bookstores on March 4, 2014, but you can put your orders in now and receive them as soon as they appear. More APBF books are on the horizon, so check the APBF site to see when they will appear.

Clifton Gachagua's Madman at Kilifi and
Kofi Awoonor's The Promise of Hope: New
and Selected Poems, 1964-2013


Finally, but not least, a year's work has now achieved fruition with the official release, as of today, of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's 1991 masterpiece Letters from a Seducer, which I translated into English last year, working closely with Brazilian publisher A Bolha Editora and its editors, Rachel Gontijo Araújo and Stephanie Sauer (now no longer with the house), and US publisher Nightboat Books and its head, Stephen Motika, who have jointly released the volume pictured below. You can purchase a copy directly from University Presses of New England, who distribute Nightboat's books, or from one of the many online bookstores. Or you can check your local bookstore and if they don't have a copy in-store, urge them to order one or some. I will say only that this text of Hilst's isn't for the faint of heart, just as it wasn't in the original Portuguese, but if you looking for a book that truly charts a distinctive path in late 20th century literature, with a heady dose of trangressive sex, literary intertextuality, meta-critique of writing, and textual depth and music, as well as humor, that could give William S. Burroughs or Kathy Acker runs for their money, Hilst's Letters from a Seducer should be in your hands, pronto.

Hilda Hilst's Letters from a Seducer

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