At the start of the pandemic, Mass Poetry called for poems responding and reacting, distilling and digesting the difficult time we were living in. The moment quickly encompassed more than COVID: the murder of George Floyd, the acquittal of the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, a rise in white supremacy, unemployment, unrest. The poems continued to pour in, under the theme “The Hard Work of Hope”, and Mass Poetry created a work folio of six BIPOC poets, titled “The Hard Work of Testimony”. “I have never seen a solidarity so stained with silence”, writes Didi Delgado in “Karen is called to the bar”. “Your tears are streams of regret that do not equal reparations.” Jeannie Nunes writes about her mother’s “intergalactic tongues” and the fear and pain of being between places. Durane West speaks of “an opening/stretched by sacrifice” that “stands high/on white walls”. Christine Pierre Louis brings an ancestor back to life. Amanda Shea writes on the distorting Hall of Mirrors hashtags and easy social media sound bites and clicks. And Pedro “Flako” Cruz wonders how the rose that grows on the concrete blooms against all odds. To read the folio, visit masspoetry.org/the-hard-work-of-witness-folio.
Le Carle honors artists
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst has announced the recipients of its annual Carle Honors, which celebrate artists and people in the picture book world for “dedication and creative vision.” This year’s Artist of the Year honor for ongoing innovation in the field goes to Faith Ringgold, described as a “cultural force” and “a role model for artists and scholars.” The Angel honor, for a person whose resources advance exhibitions and projects, goes to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, represented by Jeff Conyers. The library donates nearly 2 million books each month worldwide to homes of children under 5; since its inception in 1995, it has donated over £180 million. The Bridge honor, for someone who expands the audience of picture books in an inspired way, goes to Aija, who has translated more than 200 picture books from English to Chinese, including works by Maurice Sendak , Beatrix Potter and Margaret Wise Brown. The Mentor honor, for fitness champions, goes to Just Us Books founders Cheryl and Wade Hudson. The books they publish highlight black people, their culture and their history. An awards ceremony will take place in person and virtually on September 29 in New York City.
Inaugural Award News
The debut collection of poetry by Anchorage-born, New Haven-based Rachel Mannheimer was selected by Nobel laureate Louise Glück as the winner of Changes Books’ inaugural Bergman Prize. “Earth room“, a narrative poem of seductive and piercing strength and energy, moves between New York, Alaska, Berlin, the moon and Mars, as Mannheimer delves into history, ever-present, ever-ongoing, and how the “Art emerges from it, in responding to it, despite it. She captures the uncomfortable dissonances. “Boys on skateboards held surf-kites and sailed / down the old track, to the fenced off section / where the refugees were housed in modular containers.” A performer smashes glass, rolls in the shards, smears her blood on the walls. “If you live on a set, it’s not really a set.” Glück describes it as a “work rare that is both deeply attentive to its historical moment and also, in the questions it prompts and the breadth of its intent, timeless.” Mannheimer writes with propulsive propulsiveness, a savvy, strong, and layered way of giving a sense of creation, time and place .
“What a strange season” by Megan Mayhew Bergman (Scriber)
“Song for Almeyda & Song for Anninho” by Gayl Jones (Tag)
“A house between earth and moon” by Rebecca Scherm (Viking)
Choice of the week
Josh Cook of Porter Square Books in Cambridge recommends “Maxillaryby Mónica Ojeda, translated from Spanish by Sarah Booker (Coffee House): “Black academy meets existential horror in this scintillating and unsettling novel of friendship, adolescence and ‘worry.’ When a group of friends find an abandoned building, their most charismatic member slowly escalates their afternoons of scary stories and dares into a secret society of dangerous rituals and life-threatening consequences. The characters are captivating, the ideas are insightful, and the prose itself is exciting.