Good Reads with NEA Literature Fellows

By Rebecca Sutton
Black and white photo of stack of books
Books by flickr user Jonas Tegnerud
Winter was made for curling up with a good read. While we’re busy updating our Writer’s Corner with excerpts from our latest round of NEA Literature Fellows, we wanted to make sure your appetite for reading remains sated. Below are quotes from and links to interviews we’ve conducted with NEA Literature Fellows, from poets and prose writers to literary translators. So dig in and enjoy! “[N]ot all poetry can be the same kind of great because that’s boring.” –Camille Rankine “The arts matter because without them we can't fully engage with our potential.” –David Tomas Martinez “Nobody goes to a performance of a symphony to hear note-for-note what Beethoven wrote. They go to hear how the composer and the players interpret that written notation. I look at what I do as a translator as that interpretation, with all the possibilities for emphasis on rhythm or emphasis on a particular sound or with nuance…” –Katherine E. Young "I think language is fundamentally a political instrument. As translators, we have a great responsibility and a great power to wield language in ways that either empower our subjects or ways that don’t. –David Shook "I sometimes daily have to reevaluate what it means to fail or succeed. I feel like to succeed is to be able to continue believing in yourself and continue writing.” –Jennifer Givhan “Translators are something of a midwife in the sense that they arrive, through the powers of language and imagination, at the moment the text was coming to life and deliver it again in a new language.” –Ani Gjika "The arts matter because they take us into worlds that we cannot otherwise experience with the limited sensory apparatus that we come with into this world. We are limited creatures who can only exist in one state in time. Works of art can allow us to transcend that.” –Samrat Upadhyay "[W]riting in the past tense, writing reflectively, enabled me to pretend that I was writing as somebody who knew what I was talking about. That I was somebody who already was the person that I was struggling to become, and that I'd survived the things that seemed to be overwhelming me.” –Joy Ladin "I think art and art making is fundamental to human experience and how we make sense of our experience and make it worthwhile and worth living.” –Kathleen Heil "This might seem contradictory, but the advice I give to young poets is not to treat poetry as a career—to stay an amateur, a word that comes from the Latin amare, to love. Spend too much time trying to be professional, doing what we call the “poetry biz”, and you will quickly fall out of love with poetry.” –Tung-Hui Hu "I've never been on a journey of becoming. I am suspicious of narratives that employ the 'journey of becoming' rhetoric. Perhaps some people live their lives with the intentionality and purpose of a medieval knight; not I. I don't journey. I stumble passionately. Often, I stumble passionately toward art and creative expression, often I stumble passionately toward heartbreak and messiness.” –Justin Torres “[A]rt works to shake the rickety rafts of my half-truths. Art works to give me nightmares and dreams. Art works to help me see a way out of life’s many mazes. Art works to keep me connected to others and to the world around me.” –Kim Coleman Foote