17 October 2010

Blog Action (a Day or so late) and some "Brokeback Love" for the Lit Prizes

Sheesh! Try to get back into the swing of blogging, and immediately fall behind! I was away from computers for much of Friday, and so missed out on participating in this year's Blog Action Day (October 15th). The topic this year is/was "Water".

Almost a billion people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. And in the industrialized nations, water is tied to technology (an iPhone requires half a liter of water to charge, cotton t-shirts take 1,514 liters of water to produce, jeans an extra 6,813 liters), mass produced food (24 liters of water to produce one hamburger) and our love affair with bottled water. People in the US drink an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year, requiring over 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.
More info on these facts here

(I'm guilty too, but the bottled water thing still seems a little odd because much of it tastes just like tap water to me - and that's before I reuse/refill the bottles city water!)

Please visit the links and take action -- or at the very least THINK before you slap down that $1 for a bottle of H2O or let your faucets run and run and run..


Awards season in the book world has started. Congrats to Mario Vargas Llosa for his Nobel Prize for Literature. The award has caused a flurry of discontent amongst Latin American writers because of the author's political turn to the Right, and stance against the movements of native peoples in Latin America since his run for the presidency of Peru in 1990. During our annual 'Nobel Speculatin', John and I were both pulling for Syrian poet Adonis. It seems truly wrong to me that a poet hasn't won since Wislawa Szymborska in
1996 (following "Famous Seamus" Heaney's 1995 award). What did we poets ever do to the Nobel Committee? There also hasn't been an American Nobelist since Toni Morrison (1993), but since at least one Committee is on record as not likin American Literature, I guess that's not as much of a surprise.

The National Book Award Nominees were announced as well. Like the rest of the Cave Canem family I'm very pleased to see our own T-Bone, Terrance Hayes nominated in the Poetry category, and there are other writers on the lists like Shriver, Yamishita, Youn, Williams-Garcia, and Dean of Young Adult Fiction Walter Dean Myers, I'm happy for as well. With the National Book Critics Circle finalists announced in January 2011, and then the Pulitzers in the spring, writers have about six months of waiting for the phone to ring to look forward to.

After having recently participated in a flurry of e-mails about the Yale Younger Prize (congratulations to new judge Carl Philips), I have mixed emotions about them. Sometimes the best book is nominated, and even wins, sometimes not. Sometimes the winner is memorable, at other times one barely remembers the winner a week after the announcement. And don't get me started on issues of race and gender and the Prizes! Ultimately, however I have to agree with Tayari Jones (as usual!) and her take on the whole Awards Biz (in a post titled "I Wish I Knew How to Quit You, NBAs":

I know it's foolhardy, but my relationship with these book prizes is like my relationship with a bad boyfriend that I just can't quit. I know he's trifling, but sometimes he's nice, and I keep telling myself that his heart is good, and that he will change. Silly as it is, I keep holding out for happily ever after.

I know what you mean, Tayari, even though those kinds of guys break your heart everytime, baby....

Finally, unqualified congratulations to Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, currently imprisioned in China for his non-violent human rights work. Since he also writes poetry, I guess a poet DID win a Nobel this year! Here's one of his poems, from the PEN American Center website.


for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end

daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

(Translated by Jeffrey Yang)

1 comment:

John K said...

Thanks for the poem by Liu Xiaobo. I'm no longer on the CC list, so I haven't seen the crossposts about the Yale Younger Poets Prize, but it did have quite an incredible run in the 1950s, when W. H. Auden was the judge, and then again during the Kunitz period, from 1969-1977 or so.