Tag Archives: poetry

Submissions now open for Wisconsin Poetry Prizes!

The Wisconsin Prize for Poetry in Translation

Submissions are now open for the first annual Wisconsin Prize for Poetry in Translation! Our inaugural judge will be Forrest Gander, a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and the translator of more than twenty books. Gander is also a winner of the Best Translated Book Award and grants from the PEN Translation Fund.

Translators or original authors are invited to submit a book-length manuscript, including all poems in both their original language and their English translation. The translations submitted must be previously unpublished in book form. Simultaneous submissions are permitted as long as the applicant withdraws the manuscript if it is accepted elsewhere. The winning manuscript will be awarded $1,500 and will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring of 2024, alongside the winners of our annual Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry. Submissions will remain open until September 15, 2022, through Submittable (click here).

Applicants are asked to confirm they hold the rights to their translations before preparing a manuscript in pdf format, including the following:

  • A simple title page, which should include the names of the original author(s) and translator(s).
  • A table of contents, with accurate page numbers indicated.
  • 75 to 150 pages of poetry, including all poems in both their original language and translated into English, with numbered pages.
  • A biography page, including 50- to 250-word bios for each author and translator.
  • A project description that addresses the book’s historical, cultural, and/or artistic significance.
  • An acknowledgments page (optional, if any translations are previously published).

Submit to the Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes

The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry are now open for submission as well! This year’s $1,500 prizes will be judged by National Book Award long-lister and Yale Series of Younger Poets prizewinner Eduardo C. Corral. Any poet with an original, full-length, yet-to-be-published collection is eligible, and each submitted manuscript will be considered for both prizes. The winners and up to four other finalists will have their books published as part of the University of Wisconsin Press’s Wisconsin Poetry Series. This year’s submission deadline is Thursday, September 15.

Before visiting our Submittable page, please assemble a single pdf including a title page, a table of contents, your poems, and (optionally) an acknowledgments page listing any magazines or journals where the submitted poems may have first appeared. Your name and contact info should not appear anywhere in the document, or in the pdf file name. Manuscripts should be fifty to ninety pages in length on 8.5″ x 11″ pdf pages.

Simultaneous submissions are permitted as long as the author agrees to withdraw the manuscript via the submissions manager if it is accepted elsewhere. If you have any questions, please first consult our FAQ. If you don’t find your answer, query series editors Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval at poetryseries@english.wisc.edu.

About This Year’s Judges

Forrest Gander, a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and translator with degrees in geology and literature, was born in the Mojave Desert and lives in northern California. His most recent book is Twice Alive: An Ecology of Intimacies. Among his recent translations are It Must Be a Misunderstanding by Coral Bracho, Names and Rivers by Shuri Kido (with Tomoyuki Endo), Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, winner of the Best Translated Book Award. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, the Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim, Howard, United States Artists, and Whiting Foundations.

Eduardo C. Corral is the author of Guillotine, longlisted for the National Book Award, and Slow Lightning, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. He’s the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. He teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

About the University of Wisconsin Press

The University of Wisconsin Press is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles and over 8,000 peer-reviewed articles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world. 

For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html.

ANNOUNCING CHANGES TO THE WISCONSIN POETRY SERIES: NEW EDITORSHIP, NEW TRANSLATION PRIZE

The University of Wisconsin Press and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison today announced that Ron Wallace, founding editor of the Wisconsin Poetry Series, has stepped down as editor of the series. Jesse Lee Kercheval has joined Sean Bishop as series coeditor, effective early 2022.

Founder and former director of UW’s Program in Creative Writing, Ron Wallace is Felix Pollak Professor Emeritus of Poetry and Halls-Bascom Professor of English at UW–Madison. In 1985, Professor Wallace proposed the idea of a poetry prize to then UW Press director Allen Fitchen, and the Brittingham Prize was established. Creation of the Felix Pollak and Four Lakes Prizes followed. Sean Bishop began working on the series a number of years ago; in recognition of his efforts and contributions, he was named coeditor in 2019. The series receives nearly 1,000 submissions annually. 

Series founder Ron Wallace, who retires from his editorship after thirty-seven years, is the author of several scholarly books and a book of short stories as well as nine full-length books of poetry and eight chapbooks of poetry and fiction. His most recent poetry collections are The Uses of AdversityLong for This World: New & Selected Poems, For a Limited Time Only, and For Dear Life, and he is the author of a major anthology, Vital Signs: Contemporary Poetry from the University Presses. Hailed for his wit, good humor, and observational powers, Professor Wallace has been the recipient of such awards as the Banta Book Prize, the Posner Book-Length Poetry Award, and the Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Achievement Award. His numerous accolades include three UW distinguished teaching awards and the George Garrett Award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. 

Sean Bishop says, “Ron Wallace has been the heart of the Wisconsin Poetry Series for almost forty years, expanding the series from just one slim volume per year to six annual titles. Ron prided himself on reading at least a portion of every book submitted to our annual competition—roughly twenty-five thousand manuscripts in the lifetime of the series—and his personal notes to applicants were legendary for their insight and generosity. Incoming editor Jesse Lee Kercheval and I are excited to carry Ron’s legacy forward for many years to come, and we hope we can live up to his stunning precedent.”

Incoming series coeditor Jesse Lee Kercheval, Zona Gale Emeritus Professor of English at UW–Madison, is the author of six collections of poetry as well as a translator. Her latest poetry collections are America that island off the coast of France (Tupelo Press, 2019), winner of the Dorset Prize; and La crisis es el cuerpo, translated by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (Editorial Bajo la luna, Argentina, 2021). Her collection I Want to Tell You is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press. As a translator, she specializes in Uruguayan and South American poetry; her translations include Love Poems by Idea Vilariño (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020), which was long-listed for the PEN Translation AwardShe is also the editor of several anthologies, including América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets (University of New Mexico Press, 2016). She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts in both fiction and translation.

Along with the editorial changes, the University of Wisconsin Press also announced the establishment of a new prize for a collection of poetry in translation. The winning collection will be published in the series, alongside the winners of the Brittingham, Felix Pollak, and Four Lakes Prizes and three finalist collections. Manuscripts submitted for the translation prize will be judged during the same period as those submitted for the other prizes, and the winner will receive a $1,500 prize in addition to publication in the series.

“Over the years, I’ve watched with great admiration as Ron Wallace built the Wisconsin Poetry Series,” says Jesse Lee Kercheval. “As he steps down, I am honored to become coeditor of the series with Sean Bishop and, as a translator and poet, truly excited for the launch of the new translation prize.”

“It is with mixed emotions that I face this transition in the leadership of the Wisconsin Poetry Series. Joy over having the opportunity to work with Ron for several years, and sadness that those days are coming to an end. I have learned so much from him as an editor, watching the way he celebrates strong work and encourages authors to improve to find their greatest potential,” says UW Press director Dennis Lloyd. “At the same time, I’m very enthusiastic about working with Sean and Jesse Lee in the years to come, especially as we launch the new poetry in translation prize. With this announcement, we’ve managed to complete a long-planned goal of increasing the annual output of the series from three titles to seven.”

The winners of this year’s competition were announced earlier this month. Submissions for the next competition, including the first translation prize, will be accepted between July 15 and September 15, 2022. 

About the University of Wisconsin Press

The University of Wisconsin Press is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles and over 8,000 peer-reviewed articles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world. 

For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html.

Poetry and Crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly reshaped political, economic, and personal realities worldwide, it’s easy to wonder how art will look back on this time. In honor of poetry month, we gathered articles from Contemporary Literature journal that discuss how poetry has grappled with past—and ongoing—national and international crises. From the AIDS epidemic, to 9/11, to environmental racism, to the global refugee crisis, these articles examine poetry that addresses the challenge of representing unimaginable circumstances and lost lives. The articles listed here are freely available until 5/31/20.

“Toward an Antiracist Ecopoetics: Waste and Wasting in the Poetry of Claudia Rankine” by Angela Hume, vol. 57.1 (2018)

I read CITIZEN as the latest installment of Rankine’s twenty-year meditation on the “wasting body”—a figure that, in Rankine’s poetry, accounts for how certain bodies are attenuated or made sick under capitalism and the state, while simultaneously being regarded as surplus by these same structures. While the book is not ostensibly a work of ecological poetry or environmental criticism, one of CITIZEN’s most pointed critiques—a critique Rankine makes in her earlier books, too—concerns the difficulty of relating to or identifying with one’s environment when one has been othered by the dominant white society and, consequently, forced to live with greater amounts of environmental risk.

Angela Hume

“Myung Mi Kim’s Vegetal Imaginary and the Poetics of Dispossession” by Melissa Parrish, vol. 59.1 (2018)

As war, regime change, wageless labor, and environmental degradation persist on a global scale, they magnify the vulnerability of the hundreds of millions of people who have long been displaced by capital accumulation…. In this essay, I contend that a poetics oriented toward social dispossession must wrestle with the perpetual violence waged on the representability of people themselves. In this way, lost histories―in their making and survival―are made visible in the act of bearing witness to dispossession across multiple generations and locales. Korean American poet Myung Mi Kim takes up this practice by turning to subjects without subjecthood, whose presence attends to granular scales of life hidden in plain sight.

Melissa Parrish

“‘Not Needed, Except as Meaning’: Belatedness in Post–9/11 American Poetry” by Ann Keniston, vol. 52.4 (2011)

[S]everal poems depict [the 9/11 attacks] in ways that draw attention to this problem of representing the “real.” But these poems do so indirectly; they consider the relation between the literal and the figurative through chronological instability, distance, indirection, and estrangement. These are features that trauma theory, following psychoanalysis, has associated with “belatedness,” a version of Freudian Nachträglichkeit, often translated as “deferred action” and described in terms of disruptions in the process of remembering traumatic events. Belatedness is often manifested for trauma victims in repetition, flashbacks, prolepsis, and other forms of temporal instability, and post–9/11 poems sometimes reveal these features…. Belatedness is here not a symptom, as in psychoanalysis, but rather a poetic strategy.

Ann Keniston

“Avant-Garde Interrupted: A New Narrative after AIDS” by Kaplan Page Harris, vol. 52.4 (2011)

[Kevin Killian’s 2001 book of poems] ARGENTO SERIES might be a good contender as a contemporary version of Ezra Pound’s Gaudier-Brzeska. Like Pound mourning the Vorticist sculptor lost in the trenches of World War I, Killian pays homage to the coterie figures who welcomed and influenced his early writing. Among them are Sam D’Allesandro (d. 1988), Dlugos (d. 1990), Leland Hickman (d. 1991), Steve Abbott (d. 1992), David Wojnarowicz (d. 1992), and Joe Brainard (d. 1994). ARGENTO SERIES gives the impression that these writers were an avant-garde, or something like one, and raises for us the cogent question of what happens when an avant-garde does not develop according to the usual pattern of oppositionality followed by institutional assimilation…. For Killian’s avant-garde, however, one whose genealogy combines the two traditions of gay liberation and modernist experimentation, the neutralizing process happened because of AIDS rather than enticements like literary prizes, endowed chairs, commercial publishing contracts, or M.F.A. reading circuits.

Kaplan Page Harris

Articles We Love: A Valentine’s Reading List

For all our fellow nerdy types out there, this Valentine’s Day, we’re highlighting scholarship from our journals on the literature and economics of love. The selection includes a study on falling divorce rates, an analysis of the courtly love lyrics of medieval Spain and Germany, an article on queer erotics and political action in poetry, and more. All articles listed here are freely available until the end of the month.

Motifs of Love in the Courtly Love Lyric of Moslem Spain and Hohenstaufen Germany by Charles M. Barrack, Monatshefte 105.2 (2013)

“My intention is to demonstrate the striking—even contradictory—attitude of the supplicant minstrel in both traditions to the object of his affection, viz., a noble but distant lady. Let us term this the ‘Platonic-Erotic Dilemma’: Is the beloved a distant, sublime, edifying force or a mere mortal capable of physical love?”

Why Have Divorce Rates Fallen? The Role of Women’s Age at Marriage by Dana Rotz, Journal of Human Resources 51.4 (2016)

“American divorce rates rose from the 1950s to the 1970s peaked around 1980, and have fallen ever since. The mean age at marriage also substantially increased after 1970. I explore the extent to which the rise in age at marriage can explain the decrease in divorce rates for cohorts marrying after 1980.”

Life, War, and Love: The Queer Anarchism of Robert Duncan’s Poetic Action during the Vietnam War by Eric Keenaghan, Contemporary Literature vol. 49.4 (2008)

“The queerness I associate with Duncan’s poetic anarchism, then, is related to the emphasis he places on how eroticism facilitates subjects’ resistance to the liberalist attitudes promoted by the biopolitical state. Whereas many gay and lesbian thinkers and activists promoted sex and eroticism as a means of resisting the state, Duncan was preoccupied with how language is an erotic vehicle mediating embodied experience and promoting transformative passions.”

Lucky in Life, Unlucky in Love? The Effect of Random Income Shocks on Marriage and Divorce by Scott Hankins and Mark Hoekstra, Journal of Human Resources 46.2 (2011)

“There are several reasons why positive income shocks could affect marital decisions. For married couples, more generous cash transfers may have a stabilization effect and relax financial constraints and arguments that lead to divorce. . . . On the other hand, increased resources may enable unhappy couples to incur the costs associated with divorce.”

Cosmopolitan Love: The One and the World in Hari Kunzru’s Transmission by Ashley T. Shelden, Contemporary Literature 53.2 (2012)

“Most critics will agree that the adjective cosmopolitan describes not just a way of organizing the world or a type of subject position but also a stance that pertains, in particular, to the ethical relation to the other. Few critics, however, in their explorations of the ethics of cosmopolitanism, inquire into what one might call the fundamental analytical category of ethics: love.”

Kathleen Fraser and the Transmutation of Love by Jeanne Heuving, Contemporary Literature 51.3 (2010)

“Fraser changes from writing through a poetic speaker as lover addressing her beloved to a transpersonal love writing, or a libidinized ‘field poetics’ (Translating 176). In the course of her career, Fraser comes to write an erotically charged prosody through a “projective” poetics that rejects individuated poetic speakers and cathects directly with her poems’ others and languages—engaging material aspects of language and of the page itself.”

Freedom of Expression and the Exiled Writer: A Reading List from Contemporary Literature Journal

To mark Banned Books Week, we are sharing a collection of articles and interviews from Contemporary Literature journal featuring writers whose work has been censored, or who have faced government persecution in response to their writing.


“I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.”

Ha Jin

Chinese writer Ha Jin came to the United States to complete doctoral studies in American literature and opted to emigrate permanently following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. From studying literature, he turned to writing poetry and then fiction, and to date he has published eight novels, seven books of poetry, and four short story collections.

In a New York Times op-ed, published a few days before the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square, he explains his decision to write in English: “if I wrote in Chinese, my audience would be in China and I would therefore have to publish there and be at the mercy of its censorship. To preserve the integrity of my work, I had no choice but to write in English.” He continues, “To some Chinese, my choice of English is a kind of betrayal. But loyalty is a two-way street. I feel I have been betrayed by China, which has suppressed its people and made artistic freedom unavailable. I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.”

In this Contemporary Literature interview, conducted by Jerry A. Varsava, Ha Jin discusses growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when books were burned and schools were shuttered, as well as his decision to join the “great [English literary] tradition where nonnative writers [have become] essential writers.”

Read the interview, freely available for the rest of September: “An Interview with Ha Jin”


“If our own literature in Africa is too political, then I think the literature of the U.S. is too apolitical.”

Niyi Osundare

Niyi Osundare is a Nigerian poet known as “The People’s Poet” for his commitment to making poetry accessible to all and reflective of common life. He uses elements of the Yoruba oral tradition, which he transmits through his English-language writing.

In this 2000 interview with Cynthia Hogue and Nancy Easterlin for Contemporary Literature, Osundare describes the struggle of the artist writing under a dictatorship, summing up the situation with this parable: “once an English writer came to an African colleague and complained about the apparent irrelevance of Western writers. The African then told the Western artist, ‘Well, when we talk in Africa, the government listens, but that is not the end of the story. The government listens in a different way. They put us in jail.’”

But democracy also hampers the artist in certain ways, Osundare finds, having emigrated to the US in 1997. Comparing US literature and African literature, he notes, “Democracy leads to the flowering of free opinions, of public consciousness, and, without this, creativity cannot really take place. But democracy also leads to a kind of complacency which may undermine that dissonance and eliminate that kick in the stomach that is necessary for every creative activity. . . . If our own literature in Africa is too political, then I think the literature of the U.S. is too apolitical.”

Osundare believes in a “golden mean” that writers should strive for. And while Osundare’s work often has political themes, Isidore Diala argues in this Contemporary Literature article that the poet’s work contains a “vibrant and sustained global humanistic vision” that has been overlooked by critics who focus too narrowly on the poems’ Nigeria-specific social and political commentary.

Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Burden of the Visionary Artist: Niyi Osundare’s Poetry,” by Isidore Diala

And read the interview on JSTOR: “An Interview with Niyi Osundare”


“How might we think about postcolonial state formation and literary form together? Can we determine a relationship between them that goes beyond that of simple opposition?”

Jini Kim Watson on NINOTCHKA ROSCA

In 1973, Filipina writer Ninotchka Rosca was imprisoned under the Marcos dictatorship for her antigovernmental journalism. Later, from exile in the U.S., she wrote a short story collection, The Monsoon Collection, and a novel, State of War, about life during the Marcos regime. In the outlines of Rosca’s biography, argues Jini Kim Watson in her article “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” we find that the “repressive, unchecked (usually third-world) dictatorial state is conceived of in inherent opposition to the freedom and free speech of committed writers.” This vision of the relationship between the writer and the authoritarian state is seen, for example, in the literary and humanitarian organization PEN International, which fights for freedom of expression and strives to protect writers from state persecution.

While writers do face very real persecution, Watson argues that it is dangerous to oversimplify the dynamic between writers and the authoritarian state, since this could imply that third-world states are simply “tyrannical and backwards”—a judgment that privileges Western norms of “good” government and ignores the agency of individual citizens. “How might we think about postcolonial state formation and literary form together?” Watson asks. “Can we determine a relationship between them that goes beyond that of simple opposition?” Watson puts these questions to Rosca’s State of War, examining the ways the novel confounds a simplistic view of state tyranny through formal experimentation and a nuanced narrative.

Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” by Jini Kim Watson


To learn more about Contemporary Literaturesubscribe to the journal, browse the latest table of contents, or sign up for new issue email alerts.

2019 #SeptWomenPoets Book Giveaway!

Poet Shara Lessley launched the #SeptWomenPoets hashtag (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) as a way to create an online book club where readers share selections and covers from books by women poets. The challenge has encouraged readers to showcase and discuss some of their favorite poems and poets across social media. Here are some University of Wisconsin Press collections we encourage you to consider for your #SeptWomenPoets TBR pile:

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We are giving away a set of debut collections by two of the talented female poets published in the Wisconsin Poetry Series edited by Ronald Wallace and Sean Bishop (entry form and guidelines below).

One winner will receive an advance copy of these forthcoming titles:

Enter your email address in the form below before October 4th for a chance to win!

An Interview with Poet Rae Armantrout

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we present three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our final poet is Rae Armantrout, a central figure of the Language poetry movement of the 1970s and 1980s who was nevertheless somewhat separate from that collectivity, crafting her own flavor of poetry that over time has remained “distinctive and distinctively fresh, particularly in its allegiance to a honed version of lyric that brings to mind the poetry of Emily Dickinson or George Oppen, and in its attention to the degradations—and the surprises—of American speech that permeate our consciousness and infiltrate even our dreams,” according to interviewer Lynn Keller. The conversation presented here touches on everything from physics to religion to ghosts to feminism. Armantrout discusses her cancer diagnosis and how it has impacted the practice and content of her writing, leading her to write poems more quickly and to dwell on mortality (though she says, “I’ve always had an attraction to the dark stuff anyway. I used to say I was channeling Kali. (Not so funny now.)”). When Keller asks Armantrout about the religious imagery in her recent work, she replies that though she’s not religious, she sees a parallel between religious practice and the act of creating a poem or other artwork:

Who are we talking to when we write? I don’t really think, in my case, that I’m talking to a specific audience; I think I’m talking to myself, but when I’m talking to myself, who am I talking to? It feels very much like when I was a child and I prayed, so it’s not that I actually believe there is an entity called God who hears what I say, but there is this desire to somehow perfect utterance. But make it perfect for whom, you know? I think in a way we are making something for the gods that we don’t believe in.

Read the full interview here, and then go read Armantrout’s poems!


And check out our other poetry month offerings:

An interview with Marge Piercy

An interview with Myung Mi Kim

An Interview with Poet Myung Mi Kim

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we’re presenting three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our second poet is Myung Mi Kim, in conversation with Lynn Keller. Kim, a Korean-American, refers to herself as “as a poet arrived at an uncanny familiarity with another language—or more precisely, as a poet transcribing the interstices of the abbreviated, the oddly conjoined, the amalgamated—recognizing that language occurs under continual construction.” As Keller puts it, in Kim’s hands, language

is subject to fracture and disruption, excision and rearrangement. It functions not as a means of gaining an illusory stability but rather as a register of the often jarring instability of human experience in time, and of the stumblings, the incoherencies, the polyphonic complexity of the immigrant’s experience in and between several cultures.

The wide-ranging discussion presented here touches on the poet’s process, childbirth and family, documentary poetry, poetic forms that privilege visual impact, the pastoral, geological time, the slipperiness of nostalgia, the generative power of silence, migration, and loss and mourning. Kim and Keller’s conversation bounces among so many different topics in part because Kim’s vision of poetry is so expansive and all-encompassing. As she describes it, “Poetry invites a practice of language/perception that embraces mutability, undecidability, the motion underneath and around what’s codified in conventions of language, grammar, syntax, semantics, and so forth. Poetry produces new ways of participating in perception, thinking, historical being and becoming.”

Read the full interview here, and then go read Kim’s poems!


And if you missed yesterday’s post, check out an interview with poet Marge Piercy.

An Interview with Poet Marge Piercy

As National Poetry Month draws to a close, we will be presenting three interviews with living poets, originally published in Contemporary Literature journal. The interviews are freely available to access until May 1.

Our first offering features poet, novelist, and memoirist Marge Piercy. Interviewer Bonnie Lyons describes Piercy’s poetry in this way:

Valuing usefulness highly, Piercy writes poems that are accessible to ordinary readers without sacrificing rich imagery and subtle sound effects. Her poetry embodies her belief in the importance of attention in her precise word choice and acute perception. Tikkun olam, Hebrew for “healing the world,” is central to her poetry, which works to awaken her readers’ passionate recognition of all that could and should be changed through human effort.

To date, Marge Piercy has written nineteen volumes of poetry, seventeen novels, and a memoir. When asked how she navigates multiple genres, she characterizes herself as “a poet who also writes novels.” She describes the benefits of her chosen genre:

You can write poetry when you are dying. The Plains Indians would try to have a final utterance. You can write poetry in a prison cell—you can scrawl it on the walls. You can memorize your poems. You can carry them around with you. A novel is a far more artificial construction, and it takes huge amounts of time to write one. If you were fighting as a guerrilla, you couldn’t write a novel, but you could write poetry. A novel is far less portable.

Lyons and Piercy discuss the writer’s long history of social and political activism. Piercy articulates how she has created a balance between activism and writing—two fields of activity that are often felt to be in conflict with one another. Piercy explains,

When I was a full-time organizer, I basically gave up sleeping to write. In my life since then, because I have been able to reach people through my writing, I feel much less of a conflict. In fact, it’s all of a piece with me. I don’t divide things up that way. I don’t make a value judgment that one type of poetry is more important than another—neither my poems about Judaism, or poems about love, or poems about the war in Iraq or the environment.

The interview also touches on the usefulness of poetry, the importance of reading in order to write, poetry as an act of attention similar to a religious practice, making a living as a writer, Piercy’s reputation as an “anti-academic” poet and how poetry can thrive outside of academe, and writing about sex, aging, and the body.

Read the full interview here, and then go read Piercy’s poems!

Contemporary Literature Journal Seeks Articles and Interviews

Call for Papers and Interviews

Contemporary LiteratureContemporary Literature seeks scholarly essays on post-World War II literature written in English which offer scope, supply a new dimension to conventional approaches, or transform customary ways of reading writers. Additionally, CL welcomes interviews that focus on an author’s writing, pursue and elaborate a line of questioning and response, and provide insight into central aspects of the writer’s significance. Past interviews have featured writers such as Dorothy AllisonRae Armantrout, Edwidge Danticat, Rachael KushnerBen LernerViet Thanh Nguyen, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Charles Yu.

See the journal’s submission guidelines for more information. Questions may be directed to the editorial office at CL@english.wisc.edu.

About CL: Contemporary Literature publishes scholarly essays on contemporary writing in English, interviews with established and emerging authors, and reviews of recent critical books in the field. The journal welcomes articles on multiple genres, including poetry, the novel, drama, creative nonfiction, new media and digital literature, and graphic narrative. CL published the first articles on Thomas Pynchon and Susan Howe and the first interviews with Margaret Drabble and Don DeLillo; it also helped to introduce Kazuo Ishiguro, Eavan Boland, and J. M. Coetzee to American readers. As a forum for discussing issues animating the range of contemporary literary studies, CL features the full diversity of critical practices. The editors seek articles that frame their analysis of texts within larger literary historical, theoretical, or cultural debates.

To learn more, subscribe to the journal, browse the latest table of contents, or sign up for new issue email alerts.