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Finalists Announced for the 24th Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Neustadt Prize is known as “America’s Nobel” for literature; finalists are selected by an international jury of their peers with the winner to receive $50,000 cash prize

NORMAN, Okla. (May 27, 2015) – World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, today announced the finalists for the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The Neustadt Prize is the most prestigious international literary award given in the United States, often cited as “America’s Nobel” for its reputation as a lead-up to the Swedish Academy’s annual selection. An international, nine-member jury of accomplished writers selected the shortlist, with their sole criterion for nominating finalists being distinguished and continuing literary achievement. Any living author in the world writing in any genre is eligible to be nominated.

The Neustadt Prize is celebrated for its exclusive focus on literary merit, being recognized as one of the most truly international literary awards given in the world. This year’s nominees are from around the globe, and, notably for the first time, female authors make up the majority of the finalists. Seven of the nine 2016 finalists are women; previously, the highest number of women nominees in a single year was four.

The finalists for the 2016 Neustadt Prize for International Literature* are:

  • Can Xue, China
  • Caryl Churchill, England
  • Carolyn Forché, United States
  • Aminatta Forna, Scotland/Sierra Leone
  • Ann-Marie MacDonald, Canada
  • Guadalupe Nettel, Mexico
  • Don Paterson, Scotland
  • Dubravka Ugresic, Croatia/The Netherlands
  • Ghassan Zaqtan, Palestine

Jury members will convene at the annual Neustadt Festival in October at the University of Oklahoma, where they will discuss the merits of each finalist and vote for the winner. The 2016 laureate, who will be announced at the festival’s closing banquet, will receive $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver, a certificate of recognition and the next year’s Neustadt Festival hosted in his or her honor.

The Neustadt Prize was first given in 1970 to Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. Notable winners have included Nobel Prize in Literature recipients Gabriel García Márquez (1972), Czeslaw Milosz (1978), Octavio Paz (1982) and Tomas Tranströmer (1990) as well as many well-known novelists, poets and playwrights. The 2014 Neustadt laureate was Mia Couto of Mozambique, who was recently shortlisted for the highly regarded Man Booker International Prize.

*Full finalist bios are attached to this release.

About the Neustadt International Prize for Literature

The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is a $50,000 biennial prize funded by a generous endowment from the Neustadt family of Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Dallas. The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. The charter of the award stipulates that the Neustadt Prize be conferred solely on the basis of literary merit, and each laureate is chosen by a jury of writers that World Literature Today convenes on the University of Oklahoma campus.

About World Literature Today

Founded in 1927, World Literature Today is the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture. The mission of World Literature Today is to serve the international, state and university communities by achieving excellence as a literary publication, a sponsor of literary prizes and a cultural center for students. Now in its ninth decade of continuous publication, World Literature Today has been recognized by the Nobel Prize committee as one of the “best edited and most informative literary publications” in the world, and was recently called “an excellent source of writings from around the globe by authors who write as if their lives depend on it” (Utne Reader).

Finalists Biographies

Can Xue

Can Xue (Deng Xiaohua), whose pseudonym in Chinese means both “the dirty snow that refuses to melt” and “the purest snow at the top of a high mountain,” was born in 1953 in Changsha City, Hunan Province, China. She lived in Changsha until 2001, when she and her husband relocated to Beijing. Regarded as one of the most experimental writers in the world, Can Xue describes her works as “soul literature” or “life literature.” She is the author of numerous short story collections and four novels. Seven of her works have been published in English, and she also has published books of commentary on Borges, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Calvino, Kafka and Bruno Schulz. Can Xue says all of her works are experiments in which she takes herself as the subject.

Nominated by: Porochista Khakpour / Work: Five Spice Street

Caryl Churchill

Playwright Caryl Churchill was born in September 1938 in London and grew up in the Lake District in Montreal. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she drafted her first play. That play would be first staged in 1958, winning an award at the Sunday Times’ National Union of Students Drama Festival. Following, she would write a number of plays for BBC radio, The Judge’s Wife for BBC Television, and her first professional stage production, Owners, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1972. She would go on to become Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court (1974–1975) before her play Serious Money (1987) would win the Evening Standard Award for “Best Comedy of the Year” and the Laurence Olivier / BBC Award for “Best New Play.” Churchill has authored more than a dozen plays in total and has also published translations for works such as Seneca’s Thyestes (2001). Her most recent work is Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? (2006), which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. She lives in London and is often regarded as one of the most influential playwrights of the modern era.

Nominated by: Jordan Tannahill / Work: A Number


Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit in 1950. She is the author of five books of poetry and has been distinguished with the Yale Younger Poets Award, Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Times Book Award and Robert Creeley Award. She also has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2004, she was named a trustee of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, Canada’s premier award for poetry. Her fellowships have included the National Endowment for the Arts, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Fellowship. Beyond her writing career, Forché has dedicated herself to advancing human rights, being recognized with the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture in 1998 for her work. Forché is currently a professor of English and director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.

Nominated by: Valzhyna Mort / Work: Selections from In the Lateness of the World (forthcoming) and other poems

Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain, and now lives in London. She is the award-winning author of the novels The Hired ManThe Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones. In 2014, she received Yale University’s Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize. In addition to her novels, she has published short stories and was a finalist for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in GrantaThe TimesThe Observer and Vogue magazine. Forna is a fellow and council member of the Royal Society of Literature and sits on the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain, the general committee of the Royal Literary Fund, and the council of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has acted as a judge for a number of literary prizes and was most recently a judge for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. Forna is currently a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University, and she published her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water, in 2002.

Nominated by: Mukoma Wa Ngugi / Work: The Memory of Love

Ann-Marie MacDonald

Ann-Marie MacDonald is an author, actress and playwright. She was born in Baden Sölingen, in the former West Germany. After graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada, MacDonald moved to Toronto where she immersed herself in the vibrant alternative theatre scene. Her first solo-authored play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), was honored with the Chalmers Award, the Governor General’s Award and the Canadian Authors’ Association Award. Her later dramatic works have earned several Dora Awards, including “Outstanding New Musical” for Anything That Moves. In 1996, MacDonald’s first novel, Fall on Your Knees, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, won the People’s Choice Award and was given the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Libris Award for “Fiction Book of the Year.” MacDonald’s second novel, The Way the Crow Flies, became an international bestseller, finalist for the Giller Prize and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. Her latest novel, Adult Onset, was published in 2014. Also a celebrated stage actress, she is currently working with director Alisa Palmer and musician Torquil Campbell on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the Stratford Festival. MacDonald lives in Toronto and Montreal with her family.

Nominated by: Padma Viswanathan / Work: Fall on Your Knees

Guadalupe Nettel

Born in Mexico City in 1973, Guadalupe Nettel is a prolific Mexican author and a regular contributor to both Spanish- and French-language magazines. In 2006, she was voted one of the 39 most important Latin American writers under the age of 39 at the Bogotá Hay Festival. She is now based in Barcelona, where she works as a translator and holds writing seminars and workshops on Potential Literature. She is the author of several acclaimed works, including novels and short stories. Her recognitions include the Premio Antonin Artaud, the Gilbert Owen Short Story Prize and being named a finalist for the Premio Herralde, one of Spain’s most famous literary awards.

Nominated by: Valeria Luiselli / Work: The Body Where I Was Born

Don Paterson

Don Paterson was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1963. He moved to London in 1984 to pursue a career as a jazz musician and began writing poetry at this same time. It was in the poetry that he found his true passion, and he has published numerous collections since. His works have won several awards, including the Forward Prize for “Best First Collection,” Whitbread Poetry Prize, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Most recently, he won the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010. He has also published two books of aphorisms, the compendium Best Thought, Worst Thought and has edited several anthologies. He is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the English Association. As well as poetry and aphorism, he has written drama for radio and theatre, including the melodrama The Land of Cakes for Dundee Rep, a collaborative work with composer Gordon McPherson. Paterson was honored by Queen Elizabeth II as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008.

Nominated by: Amit Majmudar / Work: Rain

Dubravka Ugresic

Dubravka Ugresic is one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists, with her work marked by a combination of irony and compassion. In 1991, as war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Ugresic took a firm antiwar stance, critically dissecting Croatian and Serbian nationalism as well as the stupidity and criminality of war. Her activism made her a target for nationalist journalists, politicians and public figures, leading to a prolonged public ostracism and persistent media harassment that would cause her to leave Croatia. In her exile that in time became her emigration, Ugresic’s works – many of which detail the disintegration of her Yugoslav homeland and the fall of the Berlin Wall – rose in prominence, eventually being translated into more than 20 languages. She has been the recipient of several recognitions, most recently as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2011 and as the winner of the 2012 Jean Améry Essay Prize. Her newest collection of essays is Europe in Sepia. Ugresic lives in Amsterdam.

Nominated by: Alison Anderson / Work: The Museum of Unconditional Surrender

Ghassan Zaqtan

Born near Bethlehem, Ghassan Zaqtan is a Palestinian poet, novelist and editor. Writing in Arabic, he has authored numerous poetry collections, the novel Describing the Past and the play The Narrow Sea, which was recognized at the 1994 Cairo Festival. He has been awarded the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, Canada’s highest poetry honor, and the National Medal of Honor in recognition of his contributions to Arabic and Palestinian literature. He has also edited the Palestine Liberation Organization’s literary magazine, Bayader, as well as the poetry journal Al-Soua’ra and the literary page of the newspaper Al-Ayyam. Founding director of the House of Poetry in Ramallah, Zaqtan has also served as director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture’s Literature and Publishing Department. He was previously a finalist for the Neustadt Prize in 2014 and has been considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Nominated by: Wang Ping / Work: Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me

Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins

As a poet interested in the social material of writing, I found a deep connection with the early paintings of Shusaku Arakawa and with Arakawa and Madeline Gins’s paradigmatic The Mechanism of Meaning (1971), as well as various early writings by Gins, particularly her essay on multidimensional architecture, which I published in 43 Poets (1984) in boundary 2 30 years ago (this work that anticipates much of Gins & Arakawa’s later work in what they called “procedural architecture”). Gins is the author of two literary masterpieces, The Mechanism of Meaning and Helen Keller or Arakawa (1994). These works, as well as Arakawa and Gins’s later works share a space with many of the poets and artists with whom I have been most engaged. / Charles Bernstein (More)

2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Winners

The PEN/America Translation Fund, now celebrating its twelfth year, is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s competition. The Fund received a record number of applications this year—226 total—spanning a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and eras. From this vast field of applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board—Esther Allen, Mitzi Angel, Peter Blackstock, Howard Goldblatt, Sara Khalili, Michael F. Moore*, Declan Spring, and Alex Zucker—has selected sixteen projects which will each receive a grant of $3,100 to assist in their completion (*Voting Chair of the PEN/Heim Advisory Board).

“Translation is the lifeblood of literature. The PEN/Heim Translation Fund is at the very center of our lives as readers, making clear each year the richness and variety of what is being done in other languages, thus adding to the freedom of the word to move us and change us.”

—Colm Tóibín, Chair, PEN World Voices Festival

Among the recipients:

Sophie Seita for her translation of Subsisters: Selected Poems, by Uljana Wolf. Wolf’s globalized, border-crossing poetry seems uniquely disposed to translation while also presenting many challenges. Sophie Seita’s rendition remixes Wolf’s German-English mélange to create a translation that is at once new and yet also brilliantly reflects the original. (Forthcoming from Belladonna*)

they say: and another committee, i say: pffft seriously. and they clear the room,
disintegrated by my relentlessness. and yet i do not feel krank! unchaperoned, although it
doesn’t look nice. until the doors open and out onto the streets. i do not mean this locally.
elsewhere i do. they say: ten things changed in the mirror room. i say: ten faces you’ll
erinner soon. i know they are changing things.


Stephan Delbos and Tereza Novická for their translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, the culmination of Vítězslav Nezval’s work as the leading poet of Czech surrealism. Published in 1937, this book of poems is not only a dark and prescient avant-garde document of Europe in crisis, but highlights Prague as the twin capital of surrealism with Paris. Delbos and Novická do us all a service with their devoted translation. (Forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press)

Adriana X. Jacobs for her translation of The Truffle Eye, the 2013 debut collection of poems by Vaan Nguyen. Born in Israel to Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen, writing in Hebrew, explores points of contact and friction between her Vietnamese heritage and her native-born Israeli identity. As Jacobs notes, the truffle resists domestication, and she skillfully incorporates this resistance into her inspired translation. (Available for publication)

Dong Li for his translation of The Gleaner Song, by Chinese poet Song Lin. In pieces selected by the poet and translator from thirty years of published work, the poet has engaged the world, East and West, creating a landscape of his extensive travels. Varying in form from short lyrics to long, serial poems, Song has, in the words of his accomplished translator, produced a “personal anthropology of our migratory world.” (Available for publication)

Meg Matich for her exquisite translations of Cold Moons, a collection of deceptively simple ecopoetry by Icelandic poet Magnús Sigurðsson who was born in 1984. She has deftly rendered the prosody of the young poet’s short, highly cadenced, enjambed verse in lines of images drawn from nature, often in the context of incursions by the modern world into this sparsely populated land of poets and sagas. (Available for publication)

Rajiv Mohabir for his translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s Holi Songs of Demerara. Published in 1916, Sharma’s collection of folksongs is the only known literary work to be written by an indentured Indo-Caribbean writer. One of hundreds of Indians indentured to work the sugarcane fields in Guyana, Sharma’s mesmerizing songs, in Mohabir’s deft and elegant translation, tell of life on the plantations, of labor, love, loss, and longing. (Available for publication)

Will Schutt for The Selected Poems of Edoardo Sanguineti. In his sparkling, playful and dynamic versions, Schutt introduces the English reader to the full sweep of Sanguineti’s protean oeuvre, from the neo-avantgardist of the early ’60s to the more introspective romantic poet of the later years. This is the first comprehensive English translation of one of post-war Italy’s most important poets. (Available for publication)

Simon Wickhamsmith for The End of the Dark Era, by Mongolian poet Tseveendorjin Oidov. This book of about a hundred poems is one of the few avant-garde collections to come out of that region. Simon Wickhamsmith’s translations bring the poems across eloquently and beautifully. (Available for publication)



Yennecott ist eine frühere Bezeichnung für die Insel [Long Island], die jetzt drei Flughäfen trägt für Gegenden zur Naherholung sehr vermögender New Yorker. Und in Yangs Text wird eine Verzichtserklärung zitiert, die die Insel ins Eigentum der europäischen Siedler übergehen lässt. Damit verbunden aber auch die Auslöschung der Namens Yennecott. Geschichte ist an Stellen von Natur überwuchert.

Yang kompiliert in seinem Text Beobachtungen und Dokumente, die er zitiert, die er in Verse bricht, und die dadurch etwas von dem preisgeben, was sie verdecken sollten, und worin ihre Intention lag. Dazwischen referiert er historische Ereignisse und Mythen. Der Text ist kaleidoskopisch, und er versucht nicht zu kitten, nicht – wie die kolonialistische Tradition es verlangt – eine konsistente Erzählung der Vergangenheit zu liefern. Denn der Text weiß, dass die Konsistenz nur durch die Unterdrückung bestimmter Momente, Störgeräusche gelingen kann. Auch die Erzählung vom Indianer als edlem Wilden ist eine kolonialistische.
Und vielleicht ist das, was Yang da macht, nur in einem Langgedicht zu leisten, weil es den Epen, die die Pfahlwurzeln unserer Kultur sind, eine ebenfalls epische Form entgegensetzt, aber eine, die Geschichte in Schichten abträgt.

Es ist, als deckte Yang – indem er die koloniale Erzählung, die angetrocknete oberste Schicht also, aufbricht, wegnimmt – ein nicht zu ordnendes Ganzes auf, das aber nur in Versatzstücken erscheint. Zumal mit der Auslöschung der Kultur den Natives, deren Überlieferung eine orale war, auch die Mythen ausgelöscht wurden. Erhalten haben sich Worte und Rekonstruktionen in Weißen Erzählungen, denen genau so wenig zu trauen ist, wie der Internetenzyklopädie. Zu bewahren wäre das Bewusstsein eines Verlustes. Und diesen Verlust macht Yang deutlich. / Jan Kuhlbrodt, Signaturen (Mehr)

Jeffrey Yang: Yennecott. Gedicht. Engl./dt. Übersetzt von Beatrice Faßbender. Berlin (Berenberg Verlag) 2015. 96 Seiten. 19,90 Euro.

American Life in Poetry: Column 521


Amanda Strand is a poet living in Maryland. I like this poem for its simplicity, clarity and directness. No frills to decorate it, just the kind of straightforward accounting of an experience that Henry David Thoreau said he looked for in an author.

Father and Daughter

The wedding ring I took off myself,
his wife wasn’t up to it.
I brought the nurse into the room
in case he jumped or anything.
“Can we turn his head?
He looks so uncomfortable.”
She looked straight at me,
patiently waiting for it to sink in.

The snow fell.
His truck in the barn,
his boots by the door,
flagpoles empty.
It took a long time for the taxi to come.
“Where to?” he said.
“My father just died,” I said.
As if it were a destination.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by Amanda Strand and reprinted by permission of the poet. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry: Column 520


With this column American Life in Poetry celebrates its tenth anniversary. Thanks to all of you for supporting us, week in and week out!

When I was a boy, I was advised that if a wasp landed on me I wasn’t to move until it flew away. I did as I was told and got stung. Here Karen J. Weyant, who lives in Pennsylvania, takes a similar risk.


When my father held his Bic lighter
to the nests in back of the garage,
the gray paper pulp sparked

then blackened. Ashes fell,
coating crawling ivy and clover.
A few yellowjackets fled,

one or two swirled, flying
into the sweaty face of my father,
but most too stunned,

their usual side-to-side swag
of a dance, flailing in the smoke.
When one landed on my arm, I stiffened.

His wings settled into a still gauze,
body coiled in yellow bands,
the same shade as buttercups we held

to our skin, cupping sunlight near our chins.
Every step, careful, quivering, as if neither
of us knew who was supposed to sting.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Karen J. Weyant and reprinted from Poetry East, Nos. 80 & 81, Fall 2013. Karen J. Weyant’s most recent book of poems is Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, (Main Street Rag, 2012). Poem reprinted by permission of Karen J. Weyant and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

How Great Poems Transform the World

Some people feel intimidated by poetry and they look away when what they should look for is poet Jane Hirshfield’s “Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World” (Knopf). In 10 essays, Hirshfield discusses the meanings of dozens of poems — by Matsuo Basho and Emily Dickinson, among others — and explains different kinds of poetic magic. / Jan Gardner, Boston Globe

Alice Notley Wins $100,000 Poetry Prize

Alice Notley, a poet who has worked in a wide variety of forms and styles in more than 25 books, has been awarded the lucrative and prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The prize, presented annually by the Poetry Foundation to to a living American poet for lifetime accomplishment, comes with $100,000.

Ms. Notley, who was associated with the New York poetry scene in the 1960s and ’70s, has lived in Paris since 1992. / John Williams, ArtsBeat Blogs

Poetry and its audience

I remember when the Carter administration invited several hundred poets to the White House for a celebration of American poetry. There was a reception, handshakes with the president, the pop of flashbulbs. Concurrent poetry readings in various White House rooms capped off the festivities. In each room a few poets had been asked to read. The rest of the poets, the ones who hadn’t been asked to read, could attend the reading of their choice. A year later, Jimmy Carter lost the presidency. / David Lehman, from The State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988-2014, bei Poetry Daily


Franz Wright, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, died at 62 years old on Thursday at his home in Waltham, Massachusetts. His publishing house Alfred A. Knopf confirmed the news.

“Franz gave us so much,” Deborah Garrison, his longtime editor at Knopf, said in an email to The Huffington Post. “He lived for poetry and was a riveting voice — I think the most irreverent believer we ever met on the page. And then the most reverent unbeliever, too, as he surveyed the gifts that life gave even those who are brought low. He wrote fearlessly about mental illness, addiction, and loneliness, but at the same time celebrated the small beauties around him and the larger beauty of language, which truly kept him alive. And so witty! Only Franz could have written ‘The only animal that commits suicide / went for a walk in the park…’ ! Just to mention one of my favorite examples (‘The Only Animal.’)” / Huffington Post


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