Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 11, 2022


Basic Books: What We Owe the Future by William Macaskill

Blackstone Publishing: River Woman, River Demon by Jennifer Givhan

Sourcebooks Explore: Black Boy, Black Boy by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond, illustrated by Ken Daley

Berkley Books: Pride and Protest by Nikki Payne; A Dash of Salt and Pepper by Kosoko Jackson; Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail by Ashley Herring Blake

Soho Crime: Cruz by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory N. Craig-Kuhn

Ace Books: Station Eternity (The Midsolar Murders) by Mur Lafferty

News

ABA Snow Days: 'Storytelling in the Cultural Moment'

Thursday's Snow Day opening keynote, "Storytelling in the Cultural Moment," brought together four novelists. Moderator Emma Straub (This Time Tomorrow, Riverhead, May 17) welcomed everyone and said she was sorry the panel wasn't being held in person--she'd hoped to sample chili at a place in Cincinnati mentioned by Curtis Sittenfeld in Eligible. Celeste Ng (Our Missing Hearts, Penguin Press, October 4) quickly provided the name of the spot referenced: Skyline Chili. The in-person 2022 Winter Institute wasn't the only thing sidelined by the pandemic. Straub claimed that "novels are a product of their time," regardless of genre, and asked the authors how their books were influenced by local and global events.

Jennifer Egan (The Candy House, Scribner, April 5) replied first, saying, "Fiction is the artifact of the collective dream life of the culture that creates it." She started The Candy House in 2012, what she called "a very different moment," but said that even then she'd posited an event in the novel called "The Rupture." A Visit from the Goon Squad had its own "rupture": 9/11. At first, Egan thought Trump's election would be the Rupture, then Covid came along. "I got rid of the word 'Rupture,' " Egan said, but such a moment always seemed to be in the offing. Egan started Manhattan Beach (Scribner, 2017) at the same time as The Candy House, but set the latter aside to finish the former.

Ng started Our Missing Hearts in 2016, similarly working around "a kind of 'rupture' or crisis." She had a child in kindergarten at the time. "How do I prepare him for the concept of living in the 'after'?" she asked herself. As she watched events unfold during the pandemic and the protests, she said, "I feel like there are obvious ways to help and I can't do them." She asked herself if there is something in art that helps us work toward something, prepare us for the future.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine won the prize for longest gestation period: she started Woman of Light (OneWorld, June 7) in 2005 but set it aside while earning her MFA because her instructors wanted short stories (she published her thesis as Sabrina & Corina: Stories, a 2019 NBA finalist). At the height of Covid last summer, "with marches snaking by, I watched the distance between my two timelines [in Woman of Light] severed," she said. Once OneWorld accepted her short story collection, Fajardo-Anstine's editor asked her if she had a novel. As a matter of fact, she did.

When Straub asked Ng if she had "a secret story collection," Ng answered roundly, "No! I find it hard to work in that scale, tight and compressed. Novels give me more room." Seeing so much in the news about attacks on Asian Americans was something Ng felt she had to address: "It worked its way into the book and became a seed around which the novel arranged itself." Referring to herself and the three panelists, Ng said, "All of our novels feel like they're set in our world." She added that Egan's book--about erasing memories--feels very real: "Our novels say something about our moment and also 'of' our moment."

Egan writes as escape. For The Candy House, she wondered, "What would it be like to have a world in which I could look through the eyes of people I have no access to?" She observed, "Anything image-based starts on the outside, but fiction starts on the inside."

"I love that!" Fajardo-Anstine responded. Her own ancestry, a mix of Chicana, Jewish and Filipino, drives Fajardo-Anstine's desire to show readers how to look at her family and see them as part of the American story. She cited a teacher at her predominantly LatinX high school in Denver who discussed the historical presence of the KKK in their city as "more of a social club." The KKK had terrorized Fajardo-Anstine's family in Denver in the past, and she watched the other students shift in their seats: "No one raised their hand and said, 'That's not true.' "

Straub suggested that "the need for novelists has grown; what about the role of novelists?" For Egan, "My feeling about what I'm trying to do hasn't changed at all: to be a vehicle for the culture around me, and to distill it in a novel. Entertain first." Egan aims to present in each novel "an intellectual girding of ideas, a sense of the world around it, and to have fun." When Egan was researching the 1930s for Manhattan Beach, her preferred resource was fiction: "It gives you cultural context, cultural assumptions, the things authors aren't necessarily conscious of."

When Ng begins a novel, there's "no topic or idea in my mind, it's always the people. Why are these people so fascinating to me? What's shifted is my risk tolerance; how closely am I willing to look at things that make me feel uncomfortable? My role hasn't changed, the world has pivoted." For Fajardo-Anstine, research has become her obsession. And the best resources are often the people in her own family: her great-grandfather who arrived from the Philippines, her great-grandmother born in 1912.

Egan echoed this idea of curiosity: "Fiction for me is about asking questions and not answering them." She contrasted this with her previous work as a journalist, which was intent on fact-finding. "It's about honoring and confronting the mystery, human life and human consciousness." Ng concurred, saying she couldn't write when the pandemic first hit. She felt trapped in her house. When she began taking walks, she realized what she was missing, "that feeling of discovery, that sense of there could be more to the world than we know--that's why I write fiction." --Jennifer M. Brown


Disney-Hyperion: Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things by Maya Prasad


ABA Snow Days: Black Female Entrepreneurship

On the first day of the ABA's Snow Days conference, three Black female bookstore owners convened to discuss their stores, their missions and their experiences. Hannah Oliver Depp, owner of Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., led the conversation with Donya Craddock, co-owner of The Dock Bookshop in Fort Worth, Tex., and Ramunda Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., and National Harbor, Md.

Young recalled that years ago she worked at a big-box bookstore that would "remain unnamed" and was "always amazed" by the limited selection of books by and about Black people on its shelves. Customers had to "hunt" for those titles and seeing that lack of representation stuck with her. Around 15 years ago she and her husband, Derrick Young, started MahoganyBooks as an online store, with the mission of making "Black books accessible no matter where you lived in the United States." The store is named for the couple's daughter, Mahogany; in 2017 they opened their first bricks-and-mortar location in D.C. and last year they opened in Maryland.

Craddock opened her store in Fort Worth in 2008, at a time when the area was a book desert. There was "something missing" in the community, and she noted that no community can thrive "without the education and knowledge that is needed to elevate." She described the store's early years as "tough," saying it was something of an uphill battle trying to challenge the typical mindset in Texas and the state's very long Confederate history. Through the books she carries at her store Craddock and her team try to "challenge that history" while also retelling Black history proudly and un-apologetically.

Depp noted that as a Black bookstore owner one never makes a "business decision in isolation." In addition to the existing difficulties of running a small business in America, every choice made in the store suddenly carries extra weight. Young agreed, saying that while some booksellers have the luxury of being able to make purely aesthetic choices about things as minor as tablecloths and scented candles, she considers every choice through the lens of how it will affect and reflect her community.

Recalling a situation in which a white UPS driver complained that her store's inventory was "not diversified enough" because of the emphasis on Black authors and stories, Craddock pointed out that Black booksellers, whether they want to or not, are frequently put in the position of educating white people about their own biases and having to "retrain that thinking." (Craddock added that she did eventually connect with that driver over grilling, which in Texas knows no boundaries.)

Depp said the sorts of conversations that can occur when a white person enters a space in which they are not centered for the first time are common enough that they are part of her staff's training and in her staff handbook. Young added that her customer base is a mix of locals and tourists, and the number of people who aren't Black that walk in, see the store's Black Books Matter sign and walk out amazes her.

They also discussed the curatorial work that goes into running a Black bookstore. Observing that the model for Black bookstores formed largely "outside of New York publishing," Depp said that bringing in the right books still often entails going outside of mainstream publishing. Young called it "very intentional work" and definitely a "labor of love." She tries to buy from smaller Black presses as often as possible, some of them lacking robust websites. In some cases, she remarked, she's even had to drive to them to pick up the books. Craddock said she likes to highlight newer writing and classics, as well as authors and titles that have been long overlooked, and to acquire the latter "you have to really dig for that information."

The conversation turned to activism and community building, with the panelists agreeing that the sheer amount of offers and outreach can be "overwhelming sometimes." Depp said that anything she agrees to has to "come back to the book" in order to protect her time and energy. Young said many of her efforts are guided by community needs and community feedback; these include anything from putting together book lists for teachers and pastors to hosting gatherings of Black entrepreneurs in the pre-pandemic days. Craddock emphasized that sometimes the work involves simply being there and being a place where community members can gather and talk in the wake of tragic events.

On the subject of whether a bookseller has to be an owner to make change, Depp said that the books a frontline bookseller handsells or recommends can be enough to "change someone's life." Book Twitter, Bookstagram and regional bookseller associations are all places where booksellers can get involved and start to make change. "Your voice absolutely does matter." --Alex Mutter


GLOW: Drawn & Quarterly: Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton


Leigh Nash to Become Publisher of House of Anansi Press

Leigh Nash

Leigh Nash will become publisher of House of Anansi Press, effective April 19. She is currently publisher at Invisible Publishing and teaches book publishing in York University's Professional Writing Department. Previously, she worked at Coach House Books and was a founding partner of the editorial firm Re:word Communications and co-founder of chapbook press The Emergency Response Unit. Nash is past chair of eBOUND Canada's board of directors and a past board member of the Association of Canadian Publishers and Canadian Women in the Literary Arts. She has also published a poetry collection, Goodbye, Ukulele.

House of Anansi Press president and acting publisher Semareh Al-Hillal said, "The experience, passion, and ethos that Leigh brings matches exactly the spirit of the staff at House of Anansi Press. We are building on the fabled history of the House while moving forward, collaboratively, with an innovative, passionate team. I'm excited to have Leigh join us to shape the future editorial direction of the House and know that our authors and staff are going to enjoy working with her."

Nash said, "Anansi's books have long inspired me as both a reader and a publisher, and it's an honour to have this opportunity to continue building on the press's storied literary excellence."


Blackstone Publishing: Beasts of the Earth by James Wade


Knopf Doubleday's LuAnn Walther to Retire

After a career of more than 40 years, LuAnn Walther, senior v-p and editorial director of Vintage Books, Anchor Books and Everyman's Library, is retiring, effective July 1.

She began at Bantam Books, where she founded Bantam Classics and first published Sam Shepard, becoming his lifelong editor. She then joined NAL, where she was executive editor for Plume, Meridian and Signet Classics. During the past three decades, she has played what the company called "an essential role in what is now the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group," including 32 years working for the late Sonny Mehta.

LuAnn Walther (l.) with Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood

In an announcement, Suzanne Herz, executive v-p, publisher, Vintage/Anchor Books, said that at KDPG, Walther "has exhibited her singular editorial vision and wide-ranging reading prowess time and again. Whether in the paperback imprints of Vintage and Anchor or in hardcover editions at Knopf, Pantheon, and Everyman's, she has worked closely with a myriad list of legendary authors who have collectively won the Nobel Prize, multiple Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and PEN Literary Awards. That incredible list includes Margaret Atwood, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Maxine Hong Kingston, Irving Howe, Kazuo Ishiguro, Gish Jen, Ha Jin, Alfred Kazin, Hermione Lee, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Philip Roth, Oliver Sacks, Ali Smith, Anna Deavere Smith, and Cheryl Strayed, among many others....

"Her efforts in creating the Vintage Shorts e-book series, which has now sold half a million copies, brought new readers to a wide array of Vintage/Anchor backlist authors. And her work with the acclaimed Russian translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky on new editions of Russian literary classics led to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace hitting the New York Times bestseller list for the first time in history."

In 2015, Walther was honored by the Poetry Society of America for the Pocket Poets series in Everyman's Library. In 2017, she was awarded the President's Distinguished Alumni Medal from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, which cited her "extraordinary work in elevating the written word and extending its reach to generations of diverse readers."

Walther commented: "I have been so very fortunate to work with brilliant authors, publishers, and colleagues from the very beginning right up to the present. And it is with immense gratitude that I look back on these years that were so full of the excitement and joy of reading and creating beautiful books."

Margaret Atwood said, "I am happy to celebrate LuAnn's departure--what am I saying? I am not happy to celebrate her departure. I wish she would stay on for ever and ever. But I am happy to celebrate Her. LuAnn has been my hyperintelligent reader, dedicated editor, radiant smiler, and personal friend for a very long time. Her tact, courage, and publishing smarts are well known; perhaps less well known is her ability to improvise, to stickhandle bizarre situations, and to snatch victory from the jaws of disaster. This is how I like to picture LuAnn: a will of iron concealed beneath her cheerful exterior. A combo of Little House on the Prairie, Annie Get Your Gun, a dash of The Gambler, and, say, Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Go get 'em, LuAnn! Whoever 'em may be."

And Ian McEwan said, "It is not at all difficult to single out the elements that have enabled LuAnn's distinguished career: fine editorial judgment and integrity coupled with an immense resource of personal warmth. With her spooky gift of perennial youth, she shocks us with this news of her retirement. But she has many future projects to fulfill and I wish her further brilliant successes in the years ahead."


Notes

Image of the Day: Heads or Tails with Binc

Yesterday, during ABA's Snow Days conference, the Binc Foundation hosted its popular Heads or Tails fundraiser. The game came down to two final players: Alana Haley from Schuler's Books, Grand Rapid, Mich., and Melissa DeMotte from The Well-Read Moose, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Haley won the grand prize--$250--and a total of $1,543 was raised to help booksellers in need.

Cool Idea of the Day: Newtonville Books' Surprise Gift Certificates

Newtonville Books, Newton Centre, Mass., has begun an unusual license plate holder "game": when staff spot the store's free license plate holders being used on a car, stroller or bicycle, they will leave a $15 gift certificate. (The holders read "LOVE YOUR LOCAL" and have the store's name on them.)

As the store wrote, "Maybe it will be the first time you find something under your wiper besides a parking violation!"


Personnel Changes at St. Martin's; Grand Central

At the St. Martin's Publishing Group:

Sarah Melnyk has been promoted to associate director of publicity for Minotaur Books.

Jessica Zimmerman has been promoted to associate director of publicity for the Group.

Kayla Janas has been promoted to senior publicist for Minotaur Books.

---

In publicity & marketing at Grand Central:

Tiffany Porcelli is promoted to senior marketing manager.

Alana Spendley is promoted to assistant marketing manager.

Estefania Acquaviva is promoted to publicity & marketing associate, Twelve.

Ivy Cheng is promoted to associate publicist.

Joseph Benincase is promoted to associate director, GCP marketing operations.

At Grand Central Forever:

Leah Hultenschmidt has been promoted to associate publisher, Forever.


Media and Movies

TV: The Family Chao

Lan Samantha Chang's novel The Family Chao is being adapted into a TV series after Sam Esmail and UCP optioned the rights to the book. Deadline reported that Esmail "will develop the adaptation via his Esmail Corp. banner, which has a deal at the Universal Studio Group division. He will exec produce alongside Chad Hamilton and Chang with Eli Kirschner as co-executive producer. The team is currently searching for a writer to adapt."

"I'm thrilled to be working with UCP and Esmail Corp.," said Chang. "I know Sam and his team will bring the Chao family and the mystery surrounding their small-town Chinese restaurant to life on the screen."

"A modern retelling of The Brothers Karamazov, The Family Chao centers a complex family drama against the backdrop of a murder mystery," added Esmail. "Expertly drawn characters drive this gripping narrative, exploring themes of race, family, betrayal, and the immigrant experience in America--all without being didactic. Lan Samantha Chang's character-driven story lends itself perfectly to the medium of television, and we're thrilled to help bring her vision to the screen."



Books & Authors

Awards: International Booker Prize Longlist

A 13-novel longlist has been revealed for the 2022 International Booker Prize, which recognizes a single book that is translated into English and published in the U.K. or Ireland. The contribution of author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 (about $66,625) prize split evenly between them. In addition, for the first time in 2022, the shortlisted authors and translators will each receive £2,500 (about $3,330), increased from £1,000 (about $1,330) in previous years. The International Booker Prize shortlist will be announced April 7, and a winner named May 26. This year's longlisted titles are:

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Tiffany Tsao
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen
Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated by Daniel Hahn
A New Name, Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls
After the Sun by Jonas Eika, translated by Sherilyn Hellberg
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur


Reading with... Erika Robuck

photo: Nick Woodall

Erika Robuck lives in Annapolis, Md., with her husband, three sons and a miniature schnauzer. Her seven historical novels include The Invisible Woman and Hemingway's Girl. Sisters of Night and Fog (Berkley, March 1, 2022) is based on the true stories of an American socialite and a British secret agent whose acts of courage collide in the darkest hours of World War II.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

The true story of two remarkable women--a polished American and a feisty Franco-Brit--whose Resistance work results in tragedy and triumph at Ravensbrück concentration camp.

On your nightstand now:

My staggering "to read" pile is always the dangling carrot at the end of a writing deadline. Tapping impatiently from my nightstand are galleys of the following: The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes, The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly, A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen, The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin, That Summer in Berlin by Lecia Cornwall and The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White was my childhood favorite because it doesn't shrink away from death and loss but reveals how to walk through life's challenges with dignity. And how can anyone not love a story about an unlikely friendship bound by the power of the written word? I used to read it aloud to my elementary school classes, but I always had to pass off the ending to a student. I can never get through the last chapter without bawling.

Your top five authors:

In the order they popped into my head, my top five authors are: Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, C.S. Lewis, Toni Morrison and Kate Morton.

Book you've faked reading:

I've tried and tried with Ulysses by James Joyce, but I can't get through it. I know I'm a shame to my Irish heritage and my fellow Lost Generation aficionados, but I despise it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is the book I most often recommend. It is a perfect and timeless novel.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The cover of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia sold me. Richly colored and sumptuous, it's a pleasure to look at on my bookshelf. The paperback also has a brilliant pulpy stepback that reveals even more about the story, and the story certainly delivers.

Book you hid from your parents:

My Irish grandmother snuck Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews to me when I was 13. I snuck it into Catholic school lit class to read with my BFF. When the teacher discovered it, she demanded to know where I got such smut. I told the truth.

Book that changed your life:

The Bible. The pandemic has forced me to confront existential issues, so in 2021 I listened to The Bible in a Year podcast. From an historical, sociological and spiritual standpoint, it's fascinating, revelatory and challenging. Now that I know the whole story, I'm doing it again.

Favorite line from a book:

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." --Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Five books you'll never part with:

I'll never part with my well-loved, annotated, dogeared and otherwise vandalized copies of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Possession by A.S. Byatt, Beloved by Toni Morrison and Emma by Jane Austen.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Now that I'm well into my 40s, I wish I could read Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés again for the first time. It is a transformative piece of work that I reference often in my both my writing and my spiritual life.

Books coming out soon that you're excited about:

I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Cora's Kitchen by Kimberly Garrett Brown. The novel is anchored in fictional letters between a Black woman, who's a librarian in Harlem, and Langston Hughes. Other books on the horizon that excite me are The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian, Michelle Moran's forthcoming novel about the Von Trapp family and The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester.


Book Review

Review: Time Zone J

Time Zone J by Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 paperback, 144p., 9781770464988, April 19, 2022)

Julie Doucet is a legendary alternative comics pioneer, especially in an arena dominated by men. Her fame was further elevated by her frustrated abandonment of the industry in 2006. Her semi-autobiographical Dirty Plotte (quite the double entendre: "plotte" is Québécois slang for the c-word) began as a "photocopied fanzine" in the 1980s; it was published in the 1990s by graphics indie Drawn & Quarterly, which then released a fantastic double-volume boxed compilation in 2018.

Welcome now to Time Zone J--as in Julie, most likely--another intense, electrifying, diary-inspired autobiographical title. "This book was drawn from bottom to top. Please read accordingly," Doucet directs. Already, her work is unpredictable--rarely are comics viewed so unconventionally. Even more striking is Doucet's flowing presentation, originally created in an accordion-style notebook: the result is that every panel-less, borderless page overlaps into the next so that if the pages could be lined up, long edge to long edge, the effect would be that of a long, continuous scroll.

Multiple images of Doucet immediately greet audiences, with the lower-most bubble announcing "me." On the page, Doucet reminds readers (and herself?), "I had vowed to never ever draw myself again." Despite hurting eyes and a migraine (as if her body is literally getting in her way), she quickly fills pages with random dreams: visiting a friend, meeting a cigar-smoking girl, a bulldog-driven sports car. In between, she hints at her past--"it's me, at 12," her 52-year-old-self says, pointing at another version of herself; then "it's me at 16"--until a small head pops up from Doucet's hair, rather Athena-esque, demanding "c'mon, tell us a story!" Not yet settled on which story, Doucet continues visually to age her past selves--"that's me, at 19," "that's me at 22"--while her text bubbles consider potential writing intentions, from a novel to film adaptation to a return to her old diaries. Her art, meanwhile, is a riotous collage of past works--including images from and covers of Dirty Plotte--overlaid with a dominating narrative that eventually captures a youthful affair, which begins as an epistolary exchange and leads to a complicated transatlantic liaison.

Thirty-one years ago, Doucet won the 1991 Harvey Award for Best New Talent. Her reemergence makes her new all over again to another generation of comics fans. Savvy, knowing enthusiasts will have a field day reliving her past comics here. Both audiences can expect exceptional discoveries--equally disturbing and delightful. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Pioneering comics maker Julie Doucet returns with another electrifying, multi-layered graphic creation.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Poets Take the Stage!' at ABA Snow Days

Poets did indeed take the stage for Wednesday morning's ABA Snow Days keynote. "I'm talking to these five poets who are all heroes of mine," said moderator Danny Caine, a poet (Flavortown, Harpoon Books), owner of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., and ABA board member. Described by Caine as "a truly delightful, all-star panel of poets whom I've read and adored for quite some time," the speakers were Linda Gregerson, Saeed Jones, Ada Limón, Paul Tran and Amber McBride.

In the first segment, each poet was asked to describe the "journey to the book" for their latest collection and to share a poem. Their stories were intricate and compelling. If ever there was a genuine "you had to be there" moment, this was it. I'll resist the temptation to encapsulate the words they spun to make their new books irresistible. Trust me. Just read their poems.  

Instead, let's consider another question Caine asked: Is poetry having "a moment" right now, with readers turning to the form more than they have in the past? 

Gregerson, whose latest collection is Canopy (Ecco, March 22), observed: "There is something particular to poetry, and it's got to do with form and with distillation... with scale. I think there's so much inchoate happening in the world; it's coming at us all the time from every direction, through every medium.... Finding shape can be a profound consolation when the world is as it is, when we're deeply troubled, when there are some things that are just unbearable.... I say making shape, but It's also being found.... One of the things that I think is particular to the lyric poem is the way it's able to kind of ambush us. And I say that from both the point of view of the writer and the reader."

Jones, author of Alive at the End of the World (Coffee House Press, September 13), noted that "many people who do not think of themselves as poetry readers, who might not self-identify, still have a strong relationship with poetry but it's an occasional relationship." He mentioned examples like people looking for a wedding or Valentine's Day poem, or a pandemic-themed anthology. "I love that. I celebrate it. It's Lucille Clifton's birthday and you see her poems going viral on Twitter, and people celebrating Black History Month.... And we're living in this protracted event where we've been pushed beyond a lot of the old ways and a lot of old expectations. I think people are trying to find tools to communicate to one another.... It makes sense that people are reaching to poetry." 

Limón, whose upcoming work is The Hurting Kind (Milkweed Editions, May 10), also believes "there are a lot of people who are turning toward poetry, and I think one of the reasons is that we are distrusting the old wisdom and the old ways. Poetry makes room for the liminal spaces. It makes room for the gray areas. It is not didactic. It is not binary. It makes an argument for the whole self, for wholeness, which is the entire mess.... I feel like that's what we are trusting in poetry right now. Because it isn't about certitude. And it isn't about wisdom. And it isn't about facts or something that we are somehow gaining to better one another, but instead really getting comfortable with the knowledge that the human experience is super-messy. We're turning to poetry because that makes sense."

McBride, whose YA novel-in-verse Me (Moth) is published by Feiwel & Friends, noted that "it's easy to say something is a moment when there's been so much work to that moment. I used to work for Furious Flower Poetry Center and that organization worked so hard to bring poetry, specifically Black poets, to the mainstream... [O]ne thing I do know is that there are teachers not teaching Shakespeare anymore. They're teaching people like Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, who are writing in verse, and so kids are being introduced to poetry in a way that's more accessible so much younger. So when I get to my college students, they love poetry.... people are starting to catch on because of a younger introduction to it."

Tran, author of All the Flowers Kneeling (Penguin), said: "I do feel it's a golden moment. In what other moment could I have seen someone like myself publish a book of poems, to have someone say that they care about my story. And yet I also realize that this moment was made possible for me because writers and poets have been fighting for it. So maybe it's not a golden moment, but a golden tradition, a golden struggle.... 

"Does the moment predicate itself on the expansion of readers?" they continued. "Absolutely. And why is that happening? There are so many grassroots organizations dedicated to youth literacy and youth poetry, particularly in spoken word and performance poetry. And they are helping generations of 13 to 19-year-olds enter bookstores, stand in front of those shelves, and ask themselves: Where am I here?"

Noting that the concept is "so wise, and frankly it's inspiring to me," Caine said, "The notion of the golden struggle or the golden tradition, rather than the golden moment, is making me as a bookseller think about how I fit into that; how I can help make those connections and invite people into this wonderful tradition."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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