September is a busy month for award-winning book releases. Here is just a sampling of small press and university press titles readers can look for this month.
At the beginning of September, Southeast Missouri State University Press published the winner of the 2015 Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel: Pie Man by John Surowiecki. The debut novel is told through a series of reminiscences by the titular character’s family, friends, and teachers, and explores the story of a boy, Adam Olszewski, who on his seven birthday tries to leave his family house but can’t. Soon after, the boy believes the house is alive and an inseparable part of him. Pie Man is a vivid exploration of what it means to be normal.
A Brief Alphabet of Torture: Stories by Vi Khi Nao, winner of the FC2 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, is also out this month. A Brief Alphabet of Torture is made of many modes and genres—poetry, essay fiction, drama—and almost constitutes a novel of a different kind. Each tale is a chapter that captures the concerns that pervade life.
In poetry, readers can pick up a copy of To Whitey & the Crackerjack by May Yang (Hauntie), winner of the 2016 Robert Dana Anhinga Prize, selected by Evie Schockley. Shockley says of her selection: “May Yang’s poetry pierces the silence in which the history of Hmong women has been blanketed, with indecorous wordplay, unruly rhymes, and evocative, unequivocal images. This book begins by naming names (America, global capitalism) and ends by revivifying the poetic epigram.”
Check out the publishers' websites to learn more about these newly-releaed, award-winning titles.
Flowers & Sky: Two Talks by Aaron Shurin
Mary's Dust poems by Melinda Mueller with music by Lori Goldston
Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts poetry and art by Maya Jewell Zeller and Carrie DeBacker
Les Figues Press held their NOS Book Contest every year from 2011-2015, awarding $1,000 and publication to a writer of a poetry or prose manuscript, which includes lyric essays, hybrids, translations, and more.
The 2015 contest was judged by author and performance artist lê thi diem thúy, who chose Irradiated Cities by Mariko Nagai. She says of her selection:
This book, a sifting and circling, a calm and masterful layering of voices and vantage points, a slowly emerging portrait of four different Japanese cities and their inhabitants, resists any effort at arrivals or conclusions. By doing so, it shows us that while we may have an accumulation of facts for what happened on a particular day in a particular place, perhaps even the names and words and pictures of the people to whom catastrophe struck, and would not let go, it is within the dark sedimentation and the feather-light drift of history that we might glean what yet remains, and gives off light, to summon and trouble us still.Nagai explores the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. With lyrical fragments and black-and-white photographs, Nagai guides us through loss, silence, echo, devestation, and memory, creating a haunting piece of work.
Read through advance praise of the collection and order a copy for yourself at the Les Figues Press website.
At the end of April, Arte Publico Press released a two-volume collection from Rolando Hinojosa. From Klail City to Korea with Love contains Rites and Witnesses and Korean Love Songs from the Klail City Death Trip Series.
In Rites and Witnesses, the author “captures the complex relationships and unsettling power struggles in both civilian and military life.”
Korean Love Songs has long been out of print, first published in 1978. In this section, Hinojosa presents his only poetry book, capturing the horror of war through Klail City native Corporal Rafe Buenrostro’s recollections.
Rolando Hinojosa is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Casa de las Américas prize in 1976, the most prestigious prize in Latin America. Now readers can bring home two of his books in one collection, continuing the examination of life along the border.
Learn more about From Klail City to Korea with Love at the publisher’s website.
The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes 12 emerging fiction writers for their debut story published online or in a literary magazine during the calendar year. The twelve winners each receive $2000 and are to be compilated in the inaugural anthology published by Catapult in August 2017.
This year’s winners were chosen by judges Kelly Link, Marie-Helene Bertino, and Nina McConigley, and together “they act as a compass for contemporary literature; they tell us where we’re going.” Each piece is introduced by the editor who originally published the story, providing editorial insight to aspiring writers and curious readers.
The 2017 winning writers include: Angela Ajayi, Amber Caron, Emily Chammah, Jim Cole, Crystal Hana Kim, Samuel Clare Knights, Katherine Magyarody, Grace Oluseyi, Laura Chow Reeve, Amy Sauber, Ruth Serven, and Ben Shattuck.
Nightboat Books publishes the winners of the annual Nightboat Poetry Prize, the 2015 winner to be released next month: No Dictionary of a Living Tongue by Duriel E. Harris. Judge Kazim Ali says of the poetry collection:
No Dictionary of a Living Tongue is formidable in its explorations of art, citizenship, and life as a body amid the social, political, and electronic networks that define us, hold us together, bind us. [ . . . ] An elegant use of sound couples with a keen and roving intelligence and a fierce commitment to social justice to create a unique and powerful collection of poems.
Paging through the poetry collection, I was struck by the variety in forms, visually arresting before even reading the content. I was especially drawn to the fold-out poem “Danger, Live Feed” on pages 69-70, which warrants tearing out and framing (if the idea of tearing apart a book doesn’t make you cringe, that is).
Check out the Nighboat Books website for more insight into Harris’s No Dictionary of a Living Tongue, where you will also find a PDF preview and a link to order from SPD.
Recently chosen as a NewPages Editor’s Pick, Inside My Pencil by Peter Markus (Dzanc Books, March 2017) recounts poetry lessons taught to children in Detroit public schools. Markus, an award-winning writer and a writer-in-residence with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit, sees the magic children hold inside their pencils and shares it with readers in this nonfiction book.
We start with Markus on his first day in the schools and then continue on to read his lessons on similes, metaphor, on the verb to be, the power of imagination. In prose that is poetic in itself, he brings us into the classroom and feeds us lines his students came up with in response. The creativity and imagination of the kids is a joy to read. In one chapter they define what beauty is, and in another, they turn love into metaphors, each line a beautiful display of the magic inside their pencils.
Inside my Pencil is available from the Dzanc Books website where readers can learn more.
Friends encouraged Hyong to create a website to commemorate his commitment to his wife, and now The #100 Love Notes Project: A Love Story book has been published by Lorimer Press. This beautifully crafted collection features the work of 17 artists commissioned by Hyong Li to illustrate his 100 three-line poems.
Bauhan Publishing LLC hosts the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize each year, awarding their sixth annual prize to Zeina Hashem Beck for her collection Louder than Hearts. The collection was chosen by Betsy Sholl, former poet laureate of Maine, who says Louder than Hearts “has it all—compelling language and a sense of moral gravitas, personal urgency and the ability to address a larger world with passion and artfulness.” She continues, calling the collection “timely in the way it provides a lens through which to see life in the Middle East, and hear the musical mix of English and Arabic.”
The collection will be released in April, but in the meantime, readers can read more about Zeina Hashem Beck, or they can try their hand at the May Sarton NH Poetry Prize themselves: submissions are open until the end of June.