PEN America announced the 2021 Literary Awards winners at the awards ceremony held April 8, 2021. Poetry has a prominent place this year, with top honors, The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award (“To a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.”), going to Ross Gay for Be Holding: A Poem (University of Pittsburgh Press).

The PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection (“To a poet whose distinguished collection of poetry represents a notable and accomplished literary presence.”) went to Victoria Chang for Obit (Copper Canyon Press), and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (“For a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English.”) went to Steve Bradbury for his translation from the Chinese of the book by Amang, Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations (Phoneme Media).

For more about the poets, authors, translators, books, awards (including a video of the awards ceremony), and the work of PEN, visit the PEN Literary Awards page.

solstice, tomorrow

April 10, 2021

Congratulations to Carla Shafer, who conceived and edited a wonderful collection of poems of light, Solstice: Light & Dark of the Salish Sea (Chuckanut Sandstone Press). The collection features the work of 29 poets in two sections, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.

Tomorrow, Sunday, April 11, 2021, at 7:00pm Pacific, Village Books will present a book launch reading from Solstice. See the list of poets in the collection and register for the online reading here.

so many books!

April 8, 2021

It’s National Poetry Month and the shelves are bulging with new titles. Here is a selection of recent recommendations:

To recommend your favorite must-read poetry titles (old or new), just leave a Comment.

the face of poetry

March 29, 2021

To publish your first book of poetry (well, any book of poetry, but especially the first) is cause for celebration. To do so at age 80 is a triumph.

This week we have learned about two newly published poets: Carol Seitchik (above left) and Sylvia Byrne Pollack.

Seitchik, a long-time visual artist, started writing 20 years ago. Her book, The Distance to Odessa (Atmosphere Press) explores an intensely personal four-generation story of immigration and emigration.

Pollack, a scientist, poet, and 2019 Jack Straw writer who lives in Seattle, has been writing all of her life. Her collection, Risking It (Red Mountain Press) uses persona poems to explore risk and reinvention.

Seitchik and Pollack are certainly not the only poets to publish later-than-usual first books. Dorothy A. Regal was 90 when Other Mind Press published A Measure of Strength and Sarah Yerkes was 101 when Days of Blue and Flame was published by Passager Books.

No doubt there are others, but as we wrap up Women’s History Month 2021, it seems particularly auspicious to salute these two poets. Read more about Carol Seitchik and her book in The Odessa Journal. And learn more of Sylvia Byrne Pollack’s story in The Seattle Times.

If publishers are distressed at the thought of online book launches, you’d never know it by the number of spring titles rolling off the presses. Here’s the latest selection of reviews and recommendations:

Happy reading!

your reading list

March 6, 2021

We’ve discovered a few fresh lists of poetry titles for early 2021:


Freedom to Read Week

February 22, 2021

It’s Freedom to Read Week in Canada, which, like Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2, 2021) in the U.S., raises awareness about intellectual freedom and threats to free speech. Visit the Freedom to Read website to find out more about the freedom to read on the north side of the border, including Censorship at the Canadian border, 1985-2020 and Bannings and Burnings in History. What are you reading?

virtual book fair

February 17, 2021

The website doesn’t offer a lot of detail on how it works, but SMOL Fair is an alternative book fair that will be live online between Wednesday, March 3, and Sunday, March 7, 2021. There will be readings, giveaways, and discounts, plus, it’s a great introduction to the 130 participating presses, including many that may be entirely new to you.

new titles

February 16, 2021

Here are some recommended titles to look forward to in 2021:

Happy reading!

what a list!

February 15, 2021

banner for PEN Literary Awards finalists

PEN America has announced the finalists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards, and what a list it is!

To make their decisions, the judges narrowed down 1850+ submissions to 55 books, spanning 11 awards in the categories of science writing, the essay, poetry and short story collections, translation, the novel, and more. Twenty of the books featured are from writers making their literary debuts. Half of the open-genre award finalists are poetry collections.

The winners will be celebrated at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, to take place virtually on Thursday, April 8, 2021, and will be open to a global audience. (Details TBA.)

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