Tag: author

W.S. Merwin standing in a well-foliaged area of Hawaii.

American Poet W.S. Merwin Has Died at 91

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

-W.S. Merwin, “Separation”

 

The world of poetry has lost one of its brightest and longest-burning lights this week. W.S. Merwin, a prolific American poet and environmental activist, has died at the age of 91 in Hai’ku, Hawaii. Those of you familiar with Merwin’s work understand the depth of loss that has occurred, and those of you who aren’t can consider this an opportunity to make the best of the situation and read through the repertoire of this exceedingly talented artist.

 

W.S. Merwin in his garden
Image via Thirteen.org

 

While we mourn his passing, no one can deny that the life Merwin lead took every advantage of the 91 years he spent on this planet. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927, just two years before the stock market crash that would set off the events of the Great Depression. The first indication of Merwin’s poetic leanings came when he was only five years old, assisting his father, a Presbyterian minister, by writing hymns. Merwin’s love of language was planted in him by his father’s ministry, specifically a reading of Chapter Six in the book of Isaiah. In an interview with Paul Holdengräber in 2017, he said:

 

I was so taken by the sound of the language that I had memorized it just by hearing it…. I thought, “I have to find more language like that because I really want that to be part of my life.”

 

Sadly, Merwin’s home life was not safe. The same father who exposed him to the love of language he would build his career on was also abusive, forcing the adolescent Merwin to act as protector on behalf of himself and his mother. These protective instincts may also be the trait that prompted his later work in conservancy.

 

A young W.S. Merwin
Image via Academy of Achievement

 

Merwin graduated from Princeton University in 1948, and spent his post-grad years as many Americans with the means chose to do: traveling across Europe. It is believed that the landscape of his home in the Midi Pyrenees region of France had a major influence on his work.

 

Merwin’s first-ever collection of poetry, A Mask for Januspublished in 1952, caught the attention of W.H. Auden— this should instill some hope in those with writing aspirations. This first volume of work drew upon classical literature, but Merwin’s successive volumes would become more experimental over time, eventually evolving into the “impersonal, indirect, and open style that eschewed punctuation” that he became known for.

 

Merwin relocated to Hai’ku Hawaii, (and I must say, Hai’ku sounds like a brilliant choice of residence for a poet) in 1976, at the age of 49, where he purchased a plot of land with the intention of restoring it to health after having been ravaged by exploitative farming practices. Merwin accomplished this goal, and it became one of the crowning achievements of his life outside of writing. Merwin was a staunch anti-war and environmental activist, attitudes that come across very strongly in his work. Merwin’s worldview may best be explained by his subscription to the philosophy of deep ecology, which aims to de-center humanity’s role on earth, i.e., humans are not the best thing since sliced bread, we are just one form of life that emerged from a vast primordial pool that spawned an unknowable amount of creatures currently populating the planet. In his lifetime, Merwin and his wife Paula (née Dunaway, a children’s books editor who passed in 2017) founded a non-profit called The Merwin Conservancy, to which the revitalized Hai’ku property will now be donated.

 

W.S. and Paula Merwin
W.S. and Paula Merwin | Image via The Merwin Conservancy

 

W.S Merwin’s work is hosted online by The Poetry Foundation, and can be read by anyone, for free, here. The Merwin Conservancy accepts donations, and you may find the link to do so here.

 

Featured image via PBS

Author Among Those Charged In FBI College Acceptance Scam

The biggest news story of the day is the massive bribery scheme that was uncovered by the FBI. The Justice Department just charged and arrested fifty people in what is called “Operation Varsity Blues”, where a group of wealthy parents, coaches and college prep executives carried out fraud in order to get students into prestigious colleges. This includes paying a college prep organization to correct answers on students tests and bribing coaches to admit students as recruited athletes regardless if they have athletic ability.

Many wealthy people have been charged in this case. The most prominent people involved are actresses Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) and Lori Loughlin (Fuller House). An FBI agent told CNN that the money paid in this scam could be anywhere between $200,000 to $6.5 million.

 

Many wealthy people have been charged in this case. The most prominent people involved are actresses Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) and Lori Loughlin (Fuller House)
Image Via CNN

 

One of the more interesting names in this case in Jane Buckingham. She is a published author and marketing consultant who runs her own media firm. She has written multiple books: The Modern Girl’s Guide To series and What’s Next: The Experts’ Guide: Predictions From 50 Of America’s Most Compelling People.

 

Image result for jane buckingham
Image Via Twitter

 

According to The Washington Post, Buckingham donated $50,000 dollars to the Key Worldwide, the “nonprofit” at the center of this scam, to get someone to take a college entrance test for her son. The FBI secretly recorded Buckingham talking to one of the people arranging the test:

 

“I know this is craziness- I know it is. And then I need you to get him into USC, and then I need you to cure cancer and [make peace] in the Middle East.”

 

So much for getting into a good school based on merit.

 

 

Featured Image Via Education Writers Association

Award-Winning Author of ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ Says Writing It Was ‘Awful’

It was just this week that Stuart Turton was named the winner of the Costa first novel prize and awarded £5,000 for his book. According to The Guardian, Turton’s novel, Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was described by judges as an “ingenious, intriguing and highly original mindbender of a murder mystery”. However, Turton himself said the process of writing it was “awful”.

 

Stuart Turton

 Image Via Amazon

The novel follows the beautiful young Evelyn who is murdered at her parents’ party. However, she doesn’t die just once; she is murdered over and over as each day repeats itself with no break in the mystery. That’s when Aiden, a party guest, tries to find the killer. But each repeated moment and day he tries, he returns in the body of another guest. His time is running out as he tries to find the clues when it seems like maybe someone doesn’t want him to.

 

The book sounds phenomenal and the judges made this choice with 117 additional entries in front of them. “We were all stunned that this exciting and accomplished novel, planned and plotted perfectly, is a debut,” the panel had said. Interestingly enough, the winners in the past have been huge bestsellers from authors like Zadie Smith to Nathan Filer. However, Turton didn’t have the typical author story.

 

Stuart Turton

Image Via Goodreads

The 38-year-old Cheshire resident never had the desire to be an author, he simply loved Agatha Christie as a child. This pushed him to write his one attempt at a crime novel when he was 21. When he saw it as “phenomenally bad”, he went on to travel all over the world and have all sorts of jobs from working on a goat ranch to cleaning toilets. It was a couple years later while he was working as a travel writer in Dubai that the idea for Evelyn suddenly came to him.

 

“It was the body-hopping and the Groundhog Day loop. I didn’t have anything else, the characters or murder, I just had that concept. The moment I got it, I thought: ‘Oh crap, now I’ve got to go and do that, and I’ve got to be in England, I need that atmosphere, those stately homes. I need to be lost in drizzly forests, I cannot do that in the desert… I was terrified the entire time, from the moment the idea came and I knew I had to follow through on it.”

 

It still didn’t come easy from there. He changed his ideas and plans more than he could say, until he finally decided to allow the story to flow where it may. Now, as a winner of this honorable award, Turton and four others will go on to compete for book of the year, a £30,000 prize.

 

Check out the list of winners below with the youngest winner being only 27! They were chosen from 641 entries altogether, so we know this will be some of their best work yet.

 

Best novel: Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber)
Best first novel: Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Raven Books)
Best biography: The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found by Bart van Es (Penguin)
Best poetry: Assurances by JO Morgan (Jonathan Cape)
Best children’s book: The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (Macmillan)

 

 

Featured Image Via The National

Toni Morrison

7 Fascinating Tidbits of Toni Morrison Trivia

Toni Morrison is a literary legend and simply an incredible woman. Her work has held a respected place in the curriculums of high school and higher education since the seventies, therefore you are very likely familiar with at least one of her books, and you know what a talent she is.

 

Morrison has lived a very eventful life; here are just a few interesting facts about Toni Morrison you may not have already known.

 

“Toni Morrison” is a pen name.

 

Toni Morrison's high school senior class photo

Image Via WorthPoint

 

Morrison was born Chloe Adelia Wofford; “Toni” is a nickname derived from Anthony her baptismal name, which she began using because people had trouble pronouncing Chloe. Morrison is her married name. 

 

One of her favorite authors is Jane Austen.

 

Jane Austen

Image via Goodreads

 

Morrison has been an avid reader from a very early age, reading everything from Austen to Tolstoy, who rank among her favorite authors.

 

She wrote her college thesis on suicide in reference to the work of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner.

 

Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner

Images Via Artnet News and Wikipedia

 

Morrison attended Howard University and graduated in 1953 with a degree in English. Afterwards, she went to Cornell University and earned a Master of Arts in English Literature.

 

She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

 

Alpha Kappa Alpha coat of arms

 

Image Via Greek Supply

 

Alpha Kappa Alpha is a legendary sorority founded at Howard University whose other notable members include Phylicia Rashad, Kamala Harris, Wanda Sykes, and Star Jones, and several honorary members, like Alicia Keys and Ava DuVernay.

 

Her original manuscripts were nearly lost in a house fire.

 

New York Times article about Toni Morrison's house fire.

Image Via The New York Times

 

On Christmas Day in 1993, the same year she became the first African American to win a Nobel Prize, her home caught fire. The home was almost completely destroyed, but a decent amount of her original manuscripts were spared. The fire was started by an errant fireplace ember which decided to take a seat on Morrison’s sofa.

 

She wrote the libretto to the opera, Margaret Garner.

 

A photo from a production of Margaret Garner

Image Via Scene4 Magazine

 

Margaret Garner was a real woman who was enslaved and attempted escape in 1856 after killing her own daughter to spare her from also being enslaved. Morrison has said that Garner was the inspiration for her book Beloved, and thus she was tapped to write the libretto to an opera composed by Richard Danielpour about Garner’s life.

 

She didn’t own a television until she was in college.

 

Posters of Law and Order and The Walking Dead

Image Via The Walking Dead Wiki and Mercado Livre

 

She is a fan of Law & Order and The Walking Dead, but she does not abide by the Real Housewives, comparing the fervor around the series to bystanders glued to the site of a car crash: “Crashes. Like those Housewives. Do you really think that your life is bigger, deeper, more profound because your life is on television? And they do.”

 

 

 

Featured Image Via NPR