Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Writer's Toolbox: Your Writer Questions Answered

Two posts today. First, historian & TWC member David Stewart (author of Summer of 1787) answers this question:

"What role do publishers and agents play in today's world?"

Publishers and agents play two critical roles today. They serve the reading public by identifying good writers and bringing it before the world for its consideration. And they serve writers by helping to package their books and helping them figure out business and marketing challenges for which most writers have little intuitive feel. Even with the growth of digital books, there will continue to be great value in having those roles performed well.
For those of you interested in book reviews, David is one of the many forces between American Independent Review of Books, a new initiative aiming to be a force in the industry of book reviewing, locally AND nationally. Once that site goes live, I'll post a link and have a write up.

Post #2 is by Sunil Freeman, The Writer's Center's programs guru. I asked him to give a review of last Sunday's Open Door reading. Here's Sunil:

The Writer’s Center hosted a reading featuring three poets published in Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry this Sunday. We’d been looking forward to the reading for several months, having received a proposal from Pireeni Sundaralingam, one of the three co-editors. She noted that poets published in the anthology would be in Washington attending the huge gathering of writers at the Associated Writing Program conference, so an early February reading would be ideal.

She was joined by two other poets published in the anthology, Ravi Shankar and Dilruba Ahmed, who read their own work as well as several other poems from the anthology. Indivisible came into being after a literary publicist suggested that, since South Asian voices had been somewhat marginalized in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack, it would be fitting to create a small compilation of work by poets from that part of the world. The editors quickly discovered that the project would grow into a much larger undertaking.

They also learned, to their considerable surprise, that there had never been an anthology of South Asian American poets. The call went out for submissions, and hundreds came in, from which the three editors selected 47 poets to include in the anthology. Poems came from poets they already knew and admired, from general calls for submissions, and from the editors’ extensive reading of contemporary literary journals, always looking for particularly striking work by South Asian poets.

Pireeni described how, as word about the anthology grew in the publishing world, several presses expressed an interest in publishing what has become the first ever anthology of South Asian American poetry. In the end, the University of Arkansas Press published the 288-page book. It’s an extraordinary collection, with a wide range of poetic voices. Speaking of it, Yusef Komunyakaa noted “Moments of graceful resiliency are captured again and again, and Indivisible becomes an unbroken map of lyrical recollection. There are lived lives behind these marvelous poems.”

I’ll end with just a taste of the many poems shared at the reading:

Ravi Shankar lent a comedic touch with “The Flock’s Reply to the Passionate Shepherd,” his poem inspired by Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love”:

Marooned upon this grassy knoll,
We wander lost from vale to pole,
Our woolly backs resemble thorn,
It’s been a while since we’ve been shorn . . .

From Dilruba Ahmed’s poem, “The 18th Century Weavers of Muslin Whose Thumbs Were Chopped,” inspired by Agha Shahid Ali:

What you’ve heard
of the weavers is no alchemy, it’s true:
they could have woven
you a cloth as fine as pure mist.

Beyond silk. Beyond gossamer.
Twenty yards in a matchbox
like folded air. Or fifteen
through a golden band, diaphanous. . .

And from Pireeni Sundaralingam’s “Vermont, 1885,” inspired by W. A. Bentley, who at age 19 was the first person to photograph a snowflake. Bentley later formulated the theory that no two snowflakes have the same structure:

I go home to my attic’s silence, adjust
focal length and lenses, grind out
the sea-green glass. Microscope
and camera: beneath their quiet stare
the snow disappears, is replaced
by a single, unique, six-pointed star.

# # #

1 comment:

Janey B said...

Thanks for the answer about the role of agents and publishers in today's reads so much blather this way ad that it's hard to keep focus. But I do believe that digital age or no, we will always need the experts and to some extent, the gatekeepers to honor literature and present it so that people can actually find it and read it!