Jeffery Allen Releases “Song of the Shank,” a Lyrical Work of Historical Fiction Both “Dream-like and Real”

Left: Book cover for "Song of the Shank," published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.

Left: Book cover for “Song of the Shank,” published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.

Jeffery Renard Allen‘s Creative Capital-supported project, the novel Song of the Shank, is being published by Graywolf Press on June 17. At the heart of this remarkable work is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a 19th-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom. As the novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood as a sightless, probably autistic piano virtuoso to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him.

Song of the Shank is already garnering tremendous critical acclaim, including a forthcoming review on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review that calls the novel “masterly” and praises Allen as “a prodigiously gifted risk-taker. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jeff Calder calls Song of the Shank “a landmark of modern African-American literature,” and concludes, “Reading through this sagacious volume is like stumbling on a crooked monument covered in celestial carvings, something that aims for the stars and ends up reconfiguring constellations.” In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject’s performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Continue reading

Bernadette Mayer Receives the 2014 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer (2009 Literature) is the winner of the National Poetry Society’s 2014 Shelley Memorial Award. The judges, Ben Doller and Joan Larkin, wrote the following tribute: “For a generation of poets, Bernadette Mayer has stood as a brilliant example of how to live a life in poetry and how to create a poetry out of life. From her early performance-based work in which she explored the lines between memory, documentary, and presence, to her current work which excavates the DNA of the struggling city in which she lives (Troy, NY), Mayer’s writing has always been fiercely, independently ahead of its time. Feminist and expansive—in multiple directions—Mayer’s voice is one that cuts the wind, leads the charge, and always tells the smooth, hard truth. In a massive body of work that juxtaposes the quotidian with the spectacular, the public with the personal, Mayer has emerged as the chief poet of time in our time. Throughout her still-evolving career, Mayer consistently transcends category, genre, and label, carving open space for new forms of writing, thinking, and being. From her early work as the co-founder and editor of the influential 0 to 9 with Vito Acconci, to her deeply collaborative and creative poetry friendships, to her radical investigations into egalitarian pedagogy, Bernadette Mayer is a poet who has given more than she has taken—she has given proliferation back to poetry, and poetry back to art.”

Mayer received the Creative Capital award in 2009 for her project Helen of Troy, The Faces That Launched A Thousand Ships, a series of poems and photographs featuring women named Helen. Her book, The Helens of Troy, New York, was published by New Directions Press in 2013.

Artist to Artist: Queen GodIs Interviews Tracie Morris about Poetry, Performance and East New York

Tracie Morris (left) and Queen GodIs (right)

Tracie Morris (left) and Queen GodIs (right)

As part of our “Artist to Artist” interview series, Queen GodIs (2013 Performing Arts) and Tracie Morris (2000 Performing Arts) met up at the Brooklyn Museum to discuss commonalities in their work. The following is an excerpt from their conversation. You can listen online to the full podcast, or subscribe through iTunes.

Queen GodIs: This is Queen GodIs, Creative Capital grantee, 2013, with the honor of being with Tracie Morris, a Creative Capital grantee from…

Tracie Morris: The first class of Creative Capital—2000.

Queen: I’m excited. I think there are a lot of parallels that I’m interested in discovering between our work, and some new things. I’m excited to see what she’s up to in this time and figuring out what we’re doing now. I’m going to start with what I call a “check-in.” I think that before you start an interview and start with asking people questions about their business, you want to see what’s on their brain for the day. This check-in is actually inspired by a quote of yours that I heard in an interview that you did with Charles Bernstein. You said: “Our subconscious says things that our consciousness has to catch up to.” I thought that was an awesome statement—a profound statement—and one that rings true in so many ways. So for this check-in, it’s just a quick thought, word-association based on this year in America. So I’m going to throw out some words, and you just give me one or two words—short, simple, off-the-top, first things that come to mind.

Continue reading

Video: Jen Bervin at the 2013 Artist Retreat


Jen Bervin (2013 Literature) presented her project The Silk Poems at the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat. You can watch more artist presentations from the Retreat on our Vimeo channel.

This video includes a clip from a TEDx talk by Fiorenzo Omenetto, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University who is researching biomedical silk.

Video: Srikanth Reddy at the 2013 Artist Retreat

Srikanth Reddy (2013 Literature) presented on his Creative Capital-supported project, Underworld Lit, at the 2013 Artist Retreat. You can watch more artist presentations from the Retreat on our Vimeo channel.

Podcast: Working with Publishers and Developing a Publishing Strategy

At our 2013 Artist Orientation Weekend, Creative Capital Literature Consultant Ethan Nosowsky led a focus session entitled “Working with Publishers and Developing a Publishing Strategy.” It offers general advice for artists in all disciplines who will be working with a publisher and outlines key moments in the publication timeline.

LISTEN: Working with Publishers and Developing a Publishing Strategy
SUBSCRIBE: Creative Capital Podcasts on iTunes

Ethan NosowskyAbout Ethan Nosowsky
Ethan Nosowsky is Editorial Director at Graywolf Press and Literature Consultant for Creative Capital. He began his career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, served as Graywolf’s editor-at-large from 2007–2011, and was most recently Editorial Director at McSweeney’s. He has edited books by Jeffery Renard Allen, Emily Barton, Elias Canetti, Geoff Dyer, Stephen Elliott, John Haskell, J. Robert Lennon and Isaac Bashevis Singer, among many others. He has taught in the Creative Writing program at Columbia University and has written for Bookforum, the San Francisco Chronicle and Threepenny Review.

Want to learn more from Ethan? Attend his webinar “Applying for Grants & Residencies: Strategies for Writers” on Monday, June 17 at 7:00pm EST.

Bringing Art to the People: Eight Ways a Cultural Event Can Transcend Genre, Geography and Demographics

O Miami montage

Our friends at the Knight Foundation recently published this great article by Scott Cunningham on lessons learned in organizing a poetry festival for Miami-Dade County, an exceptionally diverse community of 2.6 million people. Scott and the Knight Foundation are putting these lessons to use as they prepare for the second O, Miami Poetry Festival, which will take place throughout the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month.

Three years ago, a group of friends and I started to dream up what a lot of people considered impossible: a festival that would bring poetry to all 2.6 million residents of Greater Miami.

At that time, Miami’s cultural scene was exploding. Art Basel was in full force, and we wanted to do a festival that was the opposite of the “pipe-and-blazer” readings that most people associate with poetry. We wanted to do a festival that reflected Miami’s diversity and personality.

Knight Foundation had just finished the first round of its famous “Random Acts of Culture” and we liked how those events turned everyday occurrences into cultural occasions. What if we did something like that? What if we did it every day for a month?  Continue reading

Meet Our 2013 Grantees in Emerging Fields, Literature and Performing Arts!

 	Top, left to right: Complex Movements, Nick Hallett & Shana Moulton, Jen Bervin, luciana achugar. Bottom, left to right: Laurie Jo Reynolds, Emily Johnson, Mondo Bizarro.

Today, Creative Capital announced our 2013 project grants in the categories of Emerging Fields, Literature and the Performing Arts, representing a total of 46 funded projects by 66 artists hailing from 17 states and Puerto Rico. The 2013 grantees were selected through an open-call, three-phase application process from a pool of more than 2,700 applicants. Creative Capital’s investment in each project includes up to $50,000 in direct financial support (disbursed at key points over the life of each project), plus more than $40,000 in advisory services, making our total 2013 investment more than $4,140,000.

Emerging Fields
Traditionally, Creative Capital’s Emerging Fields projects have centered on pushing the boundaries of technology. This year technology is embedded in most of the 17 funded projects, but is not the subject of the work. Instead, many are issue-focused, dealing with the environment, food, immigration, incarceration and urbanism, among others. Specifics include: a media artist who will build projectors from discarded e-waste; a public performance event planned and executed with a community in San Juan, Puerto Rico; a series of immersive dining experiences set in future worlds; and a multimedia exploration of state-sponsored human rights atrocities. Continue reading

“I Is an Other”: Writing Wojnarowicz, AIDS and the East Village

With about a week left to apply for an Arts Writers Grant, we’d like to share an example of a recently completed Arts Writers project. Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, awarded a book grant in 2008, is a biography of the controversial painter, photographer and writer, as well as a history of the East Village art scene, the AIDS crisis, and the “culture wars” of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I recently spoke to Carr about the cultural histories she weaves together in this remarkable book, which will be published by Bloomsbury on July 17.

Kareem Estefan: When the experimental writer Kathy Acker performed alongside Wojnarowicz for an ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) benefit at the Drawing Center in 1991, she called him a “saint.” Yet one of the things I appreciate most about your book is that, far from a hagiography, it is a very critical biography. You show Wojnarowicz to have been irascible and selfish as often as he was gentle and generous, and so a very complex picture emerges.

Cynthia Carr: I had to show all the sides of him in order to create a true picture. It wouldn’t be a real biography otherwise. He was definitely not a saint. He was an angry person, and yes—complicated. He also created a myth around himself, as a kind of cloak, trying to hide himself. When he was first interviewed in 1984, he was already doing it: “I was a hustler, my father beat me…” and everything else is erased, because he didn’t want to talk about his mother or siblings. The father’s dead, so he can say what he wants about him, and he can go right to the hustling, “and then I met Peter Hujar [his long-time partner],” just to make it simple.

By the time I interviewed him in 1990, he told me that he regretted doing that. I mean, those things are true. He was a hustler; he just erased a lot. And one thing you have to do in a biography is break through that: what really happened?  Continue reading

In Focus: Ben Marcus’s “The Flame Alphabet” Releases on January 17

Ben Marcus (2009 Literature) just shared the completed book trailer for The Flame Alphabet with us! Prepare to be awed (and completely creeped out) by Erin Cosgrove’s brilliant animation and Ben’s chilling story.

The Flame Alphabet, which was just selected as an Amazon Best Book for January, will be published by Knopf on January 17. Ben will be reading at events across the country in the coming months; click here for listings.