The Mark Blog



The Mark Blog is moving to Tumblr! We will back on January 13, 2015 with a brand new look. To celebrate our snazzy new space, we will be holding a 500-word story contest. Stay tuned for more details!


Bookmark This: Remembering Poets Mark Strand and Claudia Emerson

This week, the literary community suffered the loss of two Pulitzer Prize-winning poets, Mark Strand and Claudia Emerson. Let’s remember their contributions to the written word by bookmarking these two interviews. In this Paris Review interview, Mark Strand (Blizzard of One) explains the difference between prose writers and poets, and confesses his love for Philip Roth.
“Well, I think a poet’s focus is not quite what a prose writer’s is; it’s not entirely on the world outside. It’s fixed on that area where the inside meets the outside, where the poet’s sensibility meets the weather, meets the street, meets other people, meets what he reads.” – Mark Strand
In this Birmingham Poetry Review interview, Claudia Emerson (Late Wife) reveals why she reads in a quiet poetic voice and the way she resists the passing of time.
“My lens happens to be language, the highly ordered language of poetry. It's a slow exposure, though, and a poem can take anywhere from days to years for me to bring it to its finest clarity.” – Claudia Emerson


Top Ten Books By or About Courageous Female Journalists

Anna Politkovskaya
In light of the Uber journalist scandal, in which a high-level Uber executive suggested hiring sleuths to dig up personal information about journalist Sarah Lacy in an effort to discredit her reporting, PEN Center USA is highlighting the Top Ten Books By or About Courageous Female Journalists.

Politkovskaya, the late Russian political journalist, may have been murdered for her reporting on the government of Vladimir Putin. She was assassinated on October 7th, 2006 in what appeared to be a contract killing. PEN International remains dedicated to holding those responsible for her death accountable in a court of law. Check out PEN International’s article to learn more. Putin’s Russia, her last book, contains some of the heroic and fearless reporting which so incensed the Russian establishment. Click here to purchase. 
Helen Thomas was the first female member of (and later president of) the White House Correspondents’ Association. She spent her almost 60 year career in journalism as a persistent thorn in the side of power, vociferously and fearlessly challenging Presidential administrations and their talking points. Click here to purchase.
 Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 book Silent Spring is frequently credited with catalyzing the American environmental movement. This elegiac condemnation of the widespread use of pesticides shook up the American public. Carson was strongly condemned by government and chemical industry figures, but her book helped stir public support for much stronger regulations. Click here to purchase.
Molly Ivins was a humorous and tough-minded political journalist based in Texas. Her editors once felt compelled to remove her from an assignment in Dallas because she had thoroughly antagonized civic officials. Ivins flaunted her outspoken liberalism in an extremely conservative environment and forthrightly mocked political figures in her occasionally caustic writing. This biography gives a full picture of her spirited career. Click here to purchase.
Ida B. Wells was born a slave and became one of the first leading lights of the fledgling American Civil Rights Movement. She worked as an editor and journalist for several postwar black newspapers and was one of the original members of the NAACP. At enormous personal risk, she heroically chronicled the horrific rash of lynchings in the post-Reconstruction South in two books, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and A Red Record. Click here to purchase The Light of Truth.
Tsering Woeser is a Tibetan poet, fiction writer, and journalist. Her Notes from Tibet has been banned in China and her poetry websites have been shut down by the Chinese government. She is under extreme scrutiny and her freedom of movement has been highly curtailed. As one of the only Tibetan writers who writes in Mandarin, her works are an eloquent testimony about Tibetan life that the majority Han ethnic group rarely hear. Click here to purchase.
Amira Hass is a controversial journalist who has long worked for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The daughter of two Holocaust survivors, Hass has been detained multiple times by Israeli police for living and reporting from the West Bank. Hass has been roundly criticized by many of her compatriots and harassed by government officials for her outspoken reporting on the Palestinian people. Click here to purchase.
Lydia Cacho is a Mexican journalist known for her crusades on behalf of sexually exploited women and children. In 2006, local police arrested Cacho and threatened to rape and beat her when she implicated several prominent politicians in a child pornography ring. After winning her freedom, she was almost killed by unknown assailants who sabotaged her vehicle. Cacho has displayed a heroic and unwavering commitment to bettering the lives of Mexican sex slaves. Click here to purchase Slavery Inc.
In 2009, Ling and another journalist, Euna Lee, were detained by North Korea, one of the most despotic regimes in the world. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in the notoriously violent and squalid North Korean labor camps for allegedly crossing into the country from China while filming for a story on refugees. This book, co-written with her sister, details the ordeal and the diplomatic maneuverings that eventually brought her back to the United States. Click here to purchase.
Crysdale recounts the lives of 10 female journalists who put their own health and safety on the line to pursue their craft. This is an excellent primer on some of the many female journalists who have advanced their field through their tough-minded and selfless devotion to their reporting. Click here to purchase.


Writers’ Reel: Have A Literary Thanksgiving Day!

This week, we’re featuring a reminder that spending time with your family is when the true literary drama occurs. Watch a clip from the 1997 film The Ice Storm, based on the novel by Rick Moody. The film centers around a family in 1970s Connecticut during Thanksgiving and is ripe with family dysfunction.

"Thanksgiving dinner at the O’Malleys, as Benjamin had often pointed out, was like waiting for the end of a ceasefire. Billy and her father would assume a guarded silence until the first drinks had been consumed. Then Billy would launch into his list of dissatisfactions beginning with, say, her father’s preposterous support for the House Un-American Activities Committee. Open disgust was not far away." - The Ice Storm
And to keep it light, here are some witty recipes for cooking turkey, courtesy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack Up.
“2. Turkey à la Francais: Take a large ripe turkey, prepare as for basting and stuff with old watches and chains and monkey meat. Proceed as with cottage pudding.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald 



Bookmark This: Favorite Cookbooks for Thanksgiving

This time next week, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving. To arm you with delicious tools to make the day a success, the PEN Center USA staff has selected their favorite cookbooks. Here’s to gourmet treats!
Libby Flores:
The Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours by Lisa Fain
“Every recipe makes me proud to be from Texas. Show up to a dinner party with one of these dishes, and everybody will start saying ‘y'all.’”
Grant Hutchins:
Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles by Jonathan Gold
“Restaurant recommendations for all moods and budgets in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. A necessity for the cooking-challenged Angeleno.”
Michelle Meyering:
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
The Art of Simple Food: The title says it all, really. Culinary badass Alice Waters encourages you to buy local, high-quality ingredients, and then teaches you how to cook those ingredients simply.”
Lilliam Rivera:
Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Aboy Validejuli
“This is an old school cookbook that features traditional criolla cooking. It’s a must.”
Geneva Skeen:
Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
“Christians : Bible :: Vegetarians : The Moosewood Cookbook
Stacy Valis:
The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine from the Celebrated Restaurant by Deborah Madison

“It has the best black bean chili recipe in the universe, and you can add turkey to it, which is how it relates to Thanksgiving and its leftovers.”


Writers’ Reel: David Foster Wallace in Conversation

Listen to the late David Foster Wallace being interviewed by David Kipen in San Francisco for City Arts & Lectures in 2004. The in-depth audio clip covers many topics including his writing process, how he found solace in reading, and striving to reach his reader.
“I started reading very young, and one of the reasons I started reading very young was, for whatever reason, I was lonely. One of things I went to books for was a relationship.” – David Foster Wallace

Bookmark This: PEN Center USA Literary Awards!

If you missed out on PEN Center USA's 24th Annual Literary Awards Festival held this past Tuesday, you missed quite the literary party. The star-studded event not only celebrated great literature and freedom of speech, but also went on to raise $42,000. The Los Angeles Times did a great write-up on the event. 

“The PEN Center USA literary awards, as always, honored excellent writing and celebrated heroes of free speech on Tuesday. And host Aisha Tyler exercised it with a high-energy, highly profane commentary that kicked the event's energy up a notch.”

Writers’ Reel: Celebrating Mimi Pond, Winner of the Graphic Literature Award

Graphic novelist Mimi Pond will be presented with the 2014 PEN Center USA Graphic Literature Outstanding Body of Work at tonight's Literary Awards Festival. In anticipation of the event, we are featuring this great clip illustrated by Pond that details when she met her husband, painter Wayne White. 

“Yeah, I had nice things and I could cook. So I lured him into my lair.” – Mimi Pond

A Cartoon By Mimi Pond from mr brkly on Vimeo.

The Top Ten Books About Whistleblowers

Edward Snowden
PEN Center USA is highlighting the ten best books about whistleblowers. The current administration has been relentless in its legal pursuit of government whistleblowers. We worry that this unprecedented campaign may have a chilling effect on free speech in the United States. Check out some of the most influential and explosive books on the subject below.
1. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
PEN Center USA First Amendment Award winner Glenn Greenwald’s new book details the bombshell revelations he received about American surveillance practices from Edward Snowden. Buy it here.
2. State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen
James Risen has been threatened with jail time for protecting the confidentiality of one of this book’s sources. You can purchase the book here. Read more about Risen’s situation on our Freedom to Write page here.
3. All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
The definitive book on one of the biggest whistleblower stories of the 20th century, in which Bernstein and Woodward exposed the Watergate conspiracy with the help of an anonymous whistleblower nicknamed “Deep Throat.” Buy it here.
4. The Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg
Ellsberg leaked these shocking government documents about the war in Vietnam, an action which caused him to be charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property. You can download them for free here.
5. Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron by Mimi Swartz with Sherron Watkins
Watkins was a Vice President at the energy giant Enron when she discovered and exposed the accounting irregularities that would lead to the complete collapse of the corrupt business. Purchase a copy here.
6. No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos
Markopolos discovered the massive Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. He spent years gathering evidence for the SEC, who routinely ignored his claims. More here.
7.  The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice by Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn
Kathryn Bolkovac was a human rights investigator who discovered that her employer was involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution and exposed their misdeeds at great personal risk. Buy it here.
8. Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment by James H. Jones
This is the definitive history of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, a horrific and unethical medical experiment performed on poor, black American sharecroppers. This shameful experiment was courageously exposed by Peter Buxtun, an employee of the Public Health Service who leaked information to the news media and helped end the program. Check it out.
9. The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government & Industry by Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal Glazer
This is a compendium of the stories of 64 famous “ethical resisters,” as the authors call them, who shined a light on government and corporate misdeeds. Purchase the book here.
10. The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself
This is the ultimate legal guide to protecting yourself if you are thinking about becoming a whistleblower yourself. Buy it here.

Writers’ Reel: Three Apps To Spur Your Love of Poetry

The New York Times's App Smart columnist Kit Eaton reviews three apps that are great resources for writers. The Poetry Foundation app presents poems from their archives, while the Poet’s Pad will help you design a poem with features that include a rhyming dictionary. The iPad app of T. S. Eliot’s poem "The Waste Land" includes audio readings, videos, and annotations.

Click here to watch the video.