Zócalo Public SquarePrizes – Zócalo Public Square http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart Fri, 24 Nov 2017 08:01:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Zócalo Public Square Book Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/06/zocalo-public-square-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/09/06/zocalo-public-square-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 19:00:02 +0000 zocaloadmin http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=64455 The Zócalo Public Square Book Prize is awarded annually to the U.S.-published nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community and the forces that strengthen or undermine human connectedness and social cohesion.

Consistent with our mission, the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize seeks to honor the best contemporary thinking on the oldest of human dilemmas: how best to live and work together.

Because community is such a vast subject that can be explored in myriad ways, we accept submissions on a broad array of topics and themes from many fields and disciplines.

But, as with everything else we feature, we are most on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence and accessibility.

The author of the winning book will receive $5,000 and deliver a lecture at the award ceremony in spring 2018.

Our past winners are Mitchell Duneier for Ghetto: The Invention of a Place,

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The Zócalo Public Square Book Prize is awarded annually to the U.S.-published nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community and the forces that strengthen or undermine human connectedness and social cohesion.

Consistent with our mission, the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize seeks to honor the best contemporary thinking on the oldest of human dilemmas: how best to live and work together.

Because community is such a vast subject that can be explored in myriad ways, we accept submissions on a broad array of topics and themes from many fields and disciplines.

But, as with everything else we feature, we are most on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence and accessibility.

The author of the winning book will receive $5,000 and deliver a lecture at the award ceremony in spring 2018.

Our past winners are Mitchell Duneier for Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea (2017), Sherry Turkle for Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2016), Danielle Allen for Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2015), Ethan Zuckerman for Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection (2014), Jonathan Haidt for The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2013), Richard Sennett for Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (2012), and Peter Lovenheim for In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time (2011).

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Announcing Zócalo’s Sixth Annual Poetry Prize Winnerhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/04/07/announcing-zocalos-sixth-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/04/07/announcing-zocalos-sixth-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 07:01:21 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=84731 Zócalo Public Square’s daily ideas journalism and free public events aim to shed light on critical issues that explore our shared human condition and ask questions about how we navigate the world we’ve made. We publish a new poem each Friday in the same spirit, and for the last six years, it’s why we’ve awarded a prize to the poem that best evokes a connection to place.

Matt Sumpter.

This year, 417 poets submitted a total of 979 poems, transporting us to the San Gabriel Valley, the Blue Ridge, and the Salton Sea to granite mountain ranges near Yosemite, Mexican deserts, and unnamed cities of the mind.

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Colette LaBouff and the editorial staff chose to honor a poem that takes us on a journey, mediated by memory and technology, to an Ohio urban winter-scape from which events ripple out to touch people living many miles away.

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Zócalo Public Square’s daily ideas journalism and free public events aim to shed light on critical issues that explore our shared human condition and ask questions about how we navigate the world we’ve made. We publish a new poem each Friday in the same spirit, and for the last six years, it’s why we’ve awarded a prize to the poem that best evokes a connection to place.

Matt Sumpter.

Matt Sumpter.

This year, 417 poets submitted a total of 979 poems, transporting us to the San Gabriel Valley, the Blue Ridge, and the Salton Sea to granite mountain ranges near Yosemite, Mexican deserts, and unnamed cities of the mind.

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Colette LaBouff and the editorial staff chose to honor a poem that takes us on a journey, mediated by memory and technology, to an Ohio urban winter-scape from which events ripple out to touch people living many miles away. We’re thrilled to award the $500 Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize to Matt Sumpter, a native Ohioan who now makes his home in New York City with his wife and young daughter.

But he told us he still considers himself a Midwesterner “by sentiment and heart as well as birth.” Sumpter also lived in Missouri, Montana, and Oregon while working as an AmeriCorps service member, and earned a masters of fine arts at Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton, before relocating to Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.

His winning poem ranges over a terrain that’s both physical and conceptual, sensory and imaginary:

 
No World

There is no world without end, no morning
except this one in Ohio where ice
smoothes itself over ice, and neighborhood cats

hunch on hoods of idling cars. They live
outside by choice, warmed by the kindness
of wasted gas. My neighbor cracks his upstairs door,

inviting them to survive, but they ignore it,
shying from anything human skin has touched.
My neighbor, too old to go beyond the Walgreens

or the CVS, bikes each day for groceries
and wobbles home with plastic bags
hanging from the handlebars like streamers.

Sometimes he just circles around the lot,
whistling to the cats every couple passes.
No world exists without him

greeting them and saying goodbye
with one small sound. Inside, I watch footage
from a traffic cam in Cleveland:

a city park, gazebo, benches, a boy and girl
who blurrily glide past. Then they return
as a police car runs into the grass.

There is no world in which they both
walk home alive, hang up their coats,
and rush to the kitchen at the smell

of soup, forgetting to wipe their shoes.
There is no world where this is the final winter,
where every poem finally says I’m here with you.

There is no world without Verona,
Shakespeare wrote, meaning
no world exists outside Verona,

meaning, sometimes, there is no other place
than this. We wake up early. We dress,
trying to believe there is no word for exile.

 
We spoke by phone with Sumpter about the inspiration for ‘No World’ and about why he became a poet.

Q: The speaker in your poem makes several references to Ohio, but seems to be physically somewhere else.

A: I grew up in Cincinnati, but I wrote this in Binghamton, in upstate New York. It was the middle of winter and there was like a foot of snow on the ground, when the sun is just this kind of urban legend that people vaguely refer to. So mood-wise, that’s a time for some sad nostalgia, maybe, or some reminiscence about other places and other times that are also a little lonely.

Q: The poem speaks about the idea of different, self-contained worlds. There’s the self-enclosed world of the television; the world of the TV cam; the world of Ohio; the world of wherever the poem’s speaker is; the world of winter, both as a landscape and as a state of mind; the world of possibility vs. the world of what actually happens; and the world of words—the world of the poem itself. What’s missing from this list?

A: You could include the Shakespearean world that’s mentioned in the poem, if you wanted to, I suppose. In the poem there’s basically two main scenes: There’s the neighbor, and there’s the lightly veiled recounting of the Tamir Rice shooting. And both of those incidents are worlds unto themselves, worlds that are perhaps more isolated from the speaker than some of the other worlds. Isolation is certainly a big theme within this poem. It’s not necessarily one that I set out to write about, but it’s certainly something that ended up being there by the time I was done with it. The things that the speaker is thinking about and interacting with are certainly more isolated conceptually, but at the same time, the speaker is reaching out to them and trying to make some connection with them. And that was something I wanted to keep in the poem, that within these moments of isolation there’s still this way in which they affect us and we can connect them, or they reach out and connect to us. We can’t really hide from them. The poem’s speaker is trying to navigate that boundary where he’s mediating between these worlds.

Q: Then there’s the word that ends your poem, “exile.” Did you feel you were in a kind of exile from your native state when you wrote this poem?

A: My wife and I were in different cities and we were commuting a lot. I think the isolation I felt at that time is an echo of exile, though it’s not as extreme. And I think that holds true for the poem as well. The exiles the speaker is witnessing are things that have happened to, or befallen, other people. But while isolation and exile certainly don’t feel good on a personal level, distance in general is useful for me as a writer. I think that being close to something is really useful in terms of experiencing it. But when you’re writing, a bit of distance sometimes is necessary. It may be a little reminiscent of the Wordsworth quote, “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Q: How did you conceive the form of the poem?

A: Usually I start writing about something, whether it be an image or a sound or a metaphor or an idea or a situation that really sticks with me. And I’ll just keep writing and rewording it, until the first line or two seems to resemble poetry I wouldn’t be embarrassed by! And then I extrapolate from there: Does the poem go on in this way, or is there a turn in the poem that tweaks the form in some way—does the form change? And if it changes, is it going to be continually changing? Is it going to enter this dynamic, flux-y state where it’s a looser-form poem? Or is it going to maintain the current form, and is the content going to move and shift and be fluid within that form? This poem is closer to being a formal structure, because it’s pretty consistent tercets. But tercets have more instability than most regular structures. I think it worked for this poem, because a sense of incompleteness and unevenness was something this poem was trying to evoke emotionally.

Q: The poem frequently uses a short “a” sound—“cats,” “gas,” “cracks,” “plastic bags,” “passes,” “traffic jam.” These seemed to evoke the sound of cracking ice, or other sharp noises that can break through the muffled stillness of a snowy landscape.

A: Absolutely. Those short “a’s” have an abrasive feel to them. I think maybe one, by itself, would be a sort of puncture. But in larger quantities there is an abrasive feel to them, where something is being worn away, or shaken, or a placidness is being disturbed. The poem is sonically poking or jabbing at the silence around it.

Q: When did you start writing poetry, and why?

A: Reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in 11th grade really got me started. That was the first time that I was struck by poetry as being something that was immediate and felt. It reached out to me in some different way. And, I thought, No. 1, that’s really great, and No. 2, I would like to do that also!

***

Zócalo has been awarding a poetry prize in conjunction with our annual book prize since 2012. Jody Zordrager won the inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts. Our 2013 prize went to Jia-Rui Cook—prior to her joining the Zócalo staff as editor—for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live. The 2014 prize went to Amy Glynn for “Shoreline,” about a place where we can sit back and watch the tide roll out and come in. Gillian Wegener won the 2015 prize for a poem that evoked the intimacy of a diner in a small town in the midst of change. And Matt Phillips won the 2016 prize for “Crossing Coronado Bridge,” which takes us on a journey across the span that connects the city of San Diego to Coronado Island, and explores our need to venture out into cold, black water—while recognizing there’s always a depth that is beyond our reach.

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Princeton Sociologist Mitchell Duneier Wins the 2017 Zócalo Book Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/03/31/princeton-sociologist-mitchell-duneier-wins-2017-zocalo-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/03/31/princeton-sociologist-mitchell-duneier-wins-2017-zocalo-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 07:01:19 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=84607 Mitchell Duneier, author of Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea and a sociologist at Princeton University, is the winner of the seventh annual Zócalo Book Prize. Duneier traces the ghetto from its 16th-century origins—when the Jews of Venice, Italy were forced to live in il ghetto—to Nazi Germany and America today. Duneier shows how the idea of the ghetto has become unmoored from its history, and how the work of 21st-century social scientists can shine a light on the ways we understand, misunderstand, and try to solve urban poverty and institutional racism. His dexterous storytelling and careful investigation provide much-needed perspective on one of the most persistent problems in American society, and inform our selection of Ghetto as the year’s nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community and the forces that strengthen or undermine human connectedness and social cohesion.

In the wake

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Mitchell Duneier, author of Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea and a sociologist at Princeton University, is the winner of the seventh annual Zócalo Book Prize. Duneier traces the ghetto from its 16th-century origins—when the Jews of Venice, Italy were forced to live in il ghetto—to Nazi Germany and America today. Duneier shows how the idea of the ghetto has become unmoored from its history, and how the work of 21st-century social scientists can shine a light on the ways we understand, misunderstand, and try to solve urban poverty and institutional racism. His dexterous storytelling and careful investigation provide much-needed perspective on one of the most persistent problems in American society, and inform our selection of Ghetto as the year’s nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community and the forces that strengthen or undermine human connectedness and social cohesion.

zocalobookprize6b

In the wake of an election that has illustrated a sharp divergence between urban and rural America, and when the gap between wealthy and poor Americans grows ever wider, Ghetto is the kind of book we need about our nation’s divides: one that gives context without judgment and offers analysis in lieu of easy solutions. Our judges lauded Duneier for his scholarship and his ability to weave together many different voices, places, and threads. One wrote that Duneier “powerfully captures the voices of leading African American intellectuals who sought to understand the processes of segregation that have produced urban ghettos and the alternatives available to improve life in urban America. Ghetto doesn’t produce easy answers but it raises difficult and intractable questions about American society that need to be wrestled with still in 2017.” Another judge lauded the book for its “compelling stories of the sometimes forced cohesion of people, often by evil-doers, reinforcing existing communities and connectedness.”

Mitchell Duneier is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and the author of Slim’s Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity; Sidewalk, and other books. An ethnographer who works at the intersection of science and politics, he explains that he chooses his projects “with an eye to revealing both the common and distinctive elements of humanity.”

This is also at the heart of Zócalo’s mission and why we continue to recognize authors who investigate and celebrate how and where humans find common ground. Our Book Prize and our annual Poetry Prize both recognize those who search for and illuminate these places, be they geographical, ideological, or metaphorical.

As the winner of the Zócalo Book Prize, Duneier was awarded $5,000, which he generously donated back to Zócalo to be used in pursuit of our mission. Duneier will receive his award and deliver a lecture, titled “Will We Ever Eliminate Ghettos?” in Los Angeles on Friday, May 12. Please see more details on the event, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, here. In advance of his visit, we asked Duneier about his book and why we need it now.

Q: Why did you choose to use scholars and thinkers as your way into the story of the ghetto?

A: Social scientists have been enormously influential in our understanding of the U.S. ghetto, and likewise the very term, “ghetto,” embodies some of the most brilliant work in the history of the social sciences. I focus on scholars like Kenneth Clark, William Julius Wilson, Horace Cayton, St. Clair Drake, and Gunnar Myrdal. These were fascinating thinkers and people who showed what the ghetto meant for the times in which they lived. Much of their work is completely forgotten, or read outside of the historical context in which it was written. 

Q: Why is the term, “ghetto,” and its history important in this particular moment?

A: In the U.S., the ghetto never fails to be central to manifestations of racism, whether contemporary or historic. In the social sciences, the word, “ghetto,” has long symbolized housing inequality and racial residential segregation. But the term and its long Jewish history also tells a story about the extremes of semi-flourishing and social control that can manifest under conditions of spatial restriction. Understanding the history of the Jewish ghettos highlights the urgent fact that black ghettos today are characterized by much more social control by outside forces than ever before, and less human flourishing.  When you study the history of the Jewish ghetto from 16th century Venice though the Nazi era, these variations in both control and semi-flourishing come into bold relief. 

Q: Your book doesn’t make recommendations about policy or give easy answers. But what one thing can America or Americans do right now, either at a government, community, or individual level, to fight urban poverty?

A: The book is an extended argument against a longstanding American tradition of seeing the ghetto as a problem with one-shot solutions or quick fixes. At different moments in its history, the country has become fixated on solutions like changing the black family, or fixing a supposedly ingrained culture of poverty, or improving urban education, or jobs, or racism. But ghettos are the intergenerational expression of a series of vicious cycles within the realms of education, work, family life, and violence—all feeding on one another in a spatial context. A reversal of these vicious cycles is unlikely unless the country radically changes its commitments to low taxation and massive investment in military spending. And even the results of such transformations would take generations to unfold. There are no quick fixes in the here and now.

Q: What do you think your book teaches us about social cohesiveness and human connection?

A: That there is much less of it in America than many whites would like to believe. Part of the book is an effort to trace the history of America’s conception of its own morality vis-à-vis the institution of the ghetto. There is a long tradition of influential thinkers arguing that the problems of the ghetto would take care of themselves because white Americans ultimately wanted to live up to the ideals enshrined in the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Other social scientists have been far more cynical, arguing that whites only act on behalf of others when it is expedient to do so. 

***

Duneier joins a distinguished list of previous Zócalo Book Prize winners: MIT science and technology scholar Sherry Turkle, Harvard political philosopher Danielle Allen, MIT Center for Civic Media director Ethan Zuckerman, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, London School of Economics and New York University sociologist Richard Sennett, and journalist Peter Lovenheim.

Zócalo thanks this year’s panel of judges: Friends of NPR Berlin co-founder Karen Roth, Wilson Center executive vice president Andrew Selee, Wharton Sports Business Initiative director Ken Shropshire, MIT’s Zuckerman, and Zócalo publisher and founder Gregory Rodriguez.

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Zócalo Public Square Is Accepting Entries for Its Sixth Annual Poetry Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/01/03/zocalo-public-square-is-accepting-entries-for-its-sixth-annual-poetry-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/01/03/zocalo-public-square-is-accepting-entries-for-its-sixth-annual-poetry-prize/inquiries/prizes/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 08:01:21 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=68657 Since 2012, the Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize has been awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. “Place” may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political, or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary, or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original, and meaningful take on the topic.

Like everything else we feature, we are most on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence, and accessibility. Please take a look at our winning entries from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The winning poet in 2017, as judged by the Zócalo staff, will receive $500.

The poetry prize competition is hosted in conjunction with our book prize, awarded to the nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community.

Submission Guidelines

Eligibility

Poems must be

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Since 2012, the Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize has been awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. “Place” may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political, or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary, or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original, and meaningful take on the topic.

Like everything else we feature, we are most on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence, and accessibility. Please take a look at our winning entries from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The winning poet in 2017, as judged by the Zócalo staff, will receive $500.

The poetry prize competition is hosted in conjunction with our book prize, awarded to the nonfiction book that most enhances our understanding of community.

Submission Guidelines

Eligibility

Poems must be original and previously unpublished work. Entries will be accepted until February 3, 2017.

Submission

For consideration, please send up to three poems to poetry@zocalopublicsquare.org.

Please attach poem(s) as a single Word document to your email. Include your name, address, phone number, and email address on each poem. Personal identification will be removed prior to judge’s review. We will accept online submissions only.

Judging

Entries will be judged based on originality of ideas, how well the poem fits the theme, and style. Judging is at the sole discretion of Zócalo Public Square. The winner will be announced in March 2017, and the winning poet will receive $500. The winning poem will be published on zocalopublicsquare.org.

Conditions

The winning poem becomes the property of Zócalo Public Square. By entering the contest, the entrant grants Zócalo the right to publish and distribute his or her poem for media and publicity purposes, along with the poet’s name and photograph. Writers will be contacted by Zócalo before we publish any submission, either for the contest or on our site.

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Announcing Zócalo’s Fifth Annual Poetry Prize Winnerhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/04/14/announcing-zocalos-fifth-annual-poetry-prize-winner-2/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/04/14/announcing-zocalos-fifth-annual-poetry-prize-winner-2/inquiries/prizes/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 07:01:38 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=71935 Zócalo’s daily ideas journalism and free public events aim to shed light on critical issues that explain our shared human condition and ask questions about how we navigate through the world we’ve made. We’re proud that we publish a new poem each Friday with the same spirit and that we’ve been able to award a prize for the last five years to the poem that best evokes a connection to place.

This year, a record 443 poets submitted 1,016 poems, taking us to streets in South Korea, markets in Ecuador, and the river that runs through Minneapolis. We received quite a few musings from the desert—perhaps one of the more beautiful after-effects of the prolonged drought still desiccating many parts of the West.

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Colette LaBouff and the editorial staff chose to honor a poem that takes us on a journey across the bridge that connects the

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Zócalo’s daily ideas journalism and free public events aim to shed light on critical issues that explain our shared human condition and ask questions about how we navigate through the world we’ve made. We’re proud that we publish a new poem each Friday with the same spirit and that we’ve been able to award a prize for the last five years to the poem that best evokes a connection to place.

This year, a record 443 poets submitted 1,016 poems, taking us to streets in South Korea, markets in Ecuador, and the river that runs through Minneapolis. We received quite a few musings from the desert—perhaps one of the more beautiful after-effects of the prolonged drought still desiccating many parts of the West.

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Colette LaBouff and the editorial staff chose to honor a poem that takes us on a journey across the bridge that connects the city of San Diego to Coronado Island. We’re thrilled to award the $500 Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize to Matt Phillips of San Diego, California. His winning poem explores our need to venture out into cold, black water—while recognizing there’s always a depth that is beyond our reach:

 
Crossing Coronado Bridge

He’s making ocean talk—says gnarly swells and stoked for summer, but I’m counting
retired sailboats anchored northwest: I invent names like A Total Catch, Love’s Revenge,
‘Bout Time
, and I Win You Lose. His red Toyota rattles across road braille, catches
third gear, groans toward two hundred feet above black water.

I blink at signs every few car lengths: ‘Call the Suicide Hotline.’ Then we’re talking
shipwrecks off the coast, how to keep our bearings in the blackness of cold deep water—
tie a rope and unspool as you swim, follow the line back to its origin.

At the bridge’s apex, my eyes swell with Loma Peninsula; nearer, a loose association
of skyscrapers, straight as index fingers splinted with popsicle sticks—

the Toyota sighs with easy descent. I guess there are California myths I should tell, legends
conjured from memory’s undertow. I know one that says a bearded man caught three stingrays
with chopped white squid (fleshy as a tulip), cut them loose

while they made ocean talk beneath shiny-slick wings, their pink mouths whispering
soundless prayer —want for freedom in cold deep water.

 
Zócalo spoke on the phone with our winner about the poem and the poet behind it:

Q. What inspired “Crossing Coronado Bridge”?

A. It was a combination of factors. I was reading a lot of poems that have to do with the city, everything from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” to William Carlos Williams’ Paterson. And I had been doing research on the Coronado Bridge here in San Diego. I was thinking about bridging the dichotomy of these two bodies of land and the deadliness of the bridge. And then randomly I took a trip with one of my buddies, Vin, a real estate agent, to go fish beneath the bridge. So this is basically the moment of crossing the bridge with him in his little Toyota and reflecting on the camaraderie of going fishing with a buddy, and the idea of the poet being a flâneur, someone who goes around a city and takes everything in.

Q. If you had to have one poet’s talent, whose would you like to have?

A. Jim Carroll. Jim was a New York-based poet for most of his life, and was a punk musician, too. His work was made famous in the movie The Basketball Diaries, with Leonardo DiCaprio. His book Fear of Dreaming has been with me since I was 12 or 13. It’s here on my coffee table, all taped up. He worked within tradition and expanded things and created his own forms.

Q. What’s your favorite place to write poetry?

A. I write at a desk I built from an old pallet, sitting in my and my wife’s bedroom. Or I write sitting on an easy chair in the living room. I worked as a reporter for a while—I had an internship at the Denver Post—so I learned to write anywhere, even with activity going on. I don’t need total silence. I like a little noise.

Q. What subject do you find yourself returning to?

A. The subject I return to most is the emotional and physical landscape of being Californian from childhood onward. Living here in San Diego and growing up in the Coachella Valley, it’s the border culture and working-class people. Being Californian is being able to hike in the mountains and surf and run in the desert all in one day if you want, and a confluence of multiple cultures. It also means understanding that not everyone has same views as you. And it’s language—the things Vin says.

Q. How do you make a living?

A. I’m a grad student now, getting my MFA at the University of Texas at El Paso. I’m currently writing my thesis. So partly on student loans—and I have a fellowship. I also work as an editor for an admissions consulting company part-time. I help people write medical school application essays.
 

***

 
Zócalo has been awarding a poetry prize in conjunction with our annual book prize since 2012. Jody Zordrager won the inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts. Our 2013 prize went to Jia-Rui Cook—prior to her joining the Zócalo staff as editor—for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live. The 2014 prize went to Amy Glynn for “Shoreline,” about a place where we can sit back and watch the tide roll out and come in. And Gillian Wegener won the 2015 prize for a poem that evoked the intimacy of a diner in a small town in the midst of change.

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MIT’s Sherry Turkle Wins Zócalo’s Sixth Annual Book Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/03/24/mits-sherry-turkle-wins-zocalos-sixth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/03/24/mits-sherry-turkle-wins-zocalos-sixth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/#respond Thu, 24 Mar 2016 07:01:52 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=71494 Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, is the winner of the sixth annual Zócalo Book Prize, which is awarded to the author of the nonfiction book that best enhances our understanding of community, human connectedness, and social cohesion.

Turkle argues persuasively that our era of smartphones, Facebook friendships, and constant text messaging has proved that E.M. Forster’s exhortation “Only connect!” is not enough. We are constantly in connection, yet we have forgotten how to talk to one another. As a result, we are losing our ability to empathize and love, and to be thoughtful students, innovative workers, and good citizens.

Our esteemed panel of judges lauded Reclaiming Conversation for both its style and substance. One judge wrote: “Brilliantly conversational, Turkle’s book maps the growth of our isolation and social alienation through device-dependence, and displays humane wisdom in showing us solutions to

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Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, is the winner of the sixth annual Zócalo Book Prize, which is awarded to the author of the nonfiction book that best enhances our understanding of community, human connectedness, and social cohesion.

Turkle argues persuasively that our era of smartphones, Facebook friendships, and constant text messaging has proved that E.M. Forster’s exhortation “Only connect!” is not enough. We are constantly in connection, yet we have forgotten how to talk to one another. As a result, we are losing our ability to empathize and love, and to be thoughtful students, innovative workers, and good citizens.

Our esteemed panel of judges lauded Reclaiming Conversation for both its style and substance. One judge wrote: “Brilliantly conversational, Turkle’s book maps the growth of our isolation and social alienation through device-dependence, and displays humane wisdom in showing us solutions to our era’s own silent spring, as gifted to us by communications technology. We need to rebuild our capacity for empathy, and the stakes for the quality of our social fabric couldn’t be higher.”

For more than a decade, Zócalo Public Square has been working to strengthen our social fabric by bringing people together around fundamental questions, and by recognizing, presenting, and publishing thinkers who investigate how, why, and where we connect. The Zócalo Book Prize, and our annual poetry prize, are critical components of this work, and are designed to encourage more writers to consider these questions.

Sherry Turkle has spent more than 30 years studying how our digital culture affects the ways we relate to one another. Trained as a sociologist and a licensed clinical psychologist, she is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT and is also the author of a number of other books, including Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

As the winner of the Zócalo Book Prize, Turkle will receive $5,000—and on Wednesday, May 11, she’ll deliver a lecture: “Why We Must Relearn the Art of Conversation” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. Please see more details on the award ceremony here.

We asked Turkle to tell us about the relationship between smartphones and empathy, where her book’s themes bear on the presidential election, and how all of us can relearn the art of conversation:

Q. How has the advent of the smartphone changed our human relationships with one another?

A. The smartphone, a technology that is always on and always-on-us, means that we are always tempted to be “elsewhere.” And we give in to this temptation. We divide our attention between the people we are with and all the people and places we can reach on our phones. Yet the mere presence of a phone in a conversation, even a phone turned off, means that conversation turns to more trivial matters, and we feel less connected to each other. So, not by design, our always-on world has led to an assault on empathy. But it is in conversation that empathy and intimacy are born and nurtured. To the failing connections of our digital world, conversation cures.

Q. But are there ways that we can use technology to have real conversations—and nurture our empathy and intimacy?

A. I personally think we need to begin with basics: the capacity to speak to each other face-to-face. That doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t have its place in maintaining long-distance relationships or putting us in contact with people and places that would otherwise be unknown to us. But consider this: After completing a study that showed that college students in the past 20 years showed a 40 percent decline in the markers by which we measure empathy, the lead researcher, depressed by her findings, turned to writing “empathy apps” for the iPhone. I think that this impulse to turn to technology to solve problems that technology has created can alienate us from our own experience. In my view, again, conversation cures. We are the empathy app.

Q. Do you see evidence of damage wrought by our flight from conversation in this divisive presidential election?

A. Yes. We bemoan the lack of civil discourse and debate and yet, for many election cycles, we have turned to sound bites and media-ready, simplified messages instead of debating issues in their complexity. Online we are tempted to ask questions that are simple enough to be answered in an email. We dumb down our questions because we expect answers to be available in a quick response or in a “search.” But the problems we face are complex and multifaceted. Conversation teaches a respect for the complex. It is needed now more than ever.

Q. One of the motifs in your book is a quotation from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.” Technology, you explain, is also eroding our ability to be alone, to be bored. How does the solitude chair make us better at talking and being and working together?

A. The capacity for conversation begins with the capacity for solitude. When we can be alone, when we can gather ourselves, we are in a position to listen to other people, to hear them, to recognize them for who they are instead of relying on them to support our fragile sense of self. Thus, the capacity for mutuality, for relationship, begins with the capacity for solitude. Here, too, technology seems to have put us at risk. Studies show that people can feel near panic if they are left alone without their devices. In one experiment, after just six minutes sitting alone, college students begin to self-administer electroshocks rather than continue the experience of being alone with their thoughts. Reclaiming conversation begins with reclaiming solitude.

Q. So where do we start reclaiming and relearning conversation?

A. Put down your phone and begin a conversation. Create dedicated spaces in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the car, in designated areas in the workplace, that are device-free. At work, ban phones from meetings. To reclaim conversation, we have everything we need. We have each other.
 

***

 
Turkle joins a distinguished list of previous winners of the Zócalo Book Prize: Harvard political philosopher Danielle Allen, MIT Center for Civic Media director Ethan Zuckerman, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, London School of Economics and New York University sociologist Richard Sennett, and journalist Peter Lovenheim.

Zócalo thanks this year’s panel of judges for their keen discernment: Harvard’s Allen; Pete Peterson, dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy; Claudia Puig, a critic for KPCC’s FilmWeek segment and long-time film critic at USA Today; Zócalo’s publisher and founder Gregory Rodriguez; Jervey Tervalon, an award-winning novelist, poet, screenwriter, and dramatist; and Fernando Torres-Gil, a professor of social welfare and public policy at UCLA who directs the Center for Policy Research on Aging.

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Announcing Zócalo’s Fourth Annual Poetry Prize Winnerhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2015/06/08/announcing-zocalos-fourth-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2015/06/08/announcing-zocalos-fourth-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/#respond Mon, 08 Jun 2015 07:01:10 +0000 zocaloadmin http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=60870 Zócalo, with its daily ideas journalism and free public events, aims to create a welcoming space for people and communities to tackle big questions, ideas, and issues. As our reach has expanded—we now syndicate to 185 media outlets around the world—so, too, has the range of subjects we explore. Every Friday, we publish a poem by an established or an emerging poet. And in every year since 2012, we’ve awarded the Zócalo Poetry Prize.

In conjunction with our annual book prize, we honor the writer of a poem that best evokes a connection to place. In 2012, Jody Zordrager won our inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts; our 2013 prize went to Jia-Rui Cook—prior to her joining the Zócalo staff as editor—for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live. Last year’s prize went to Amy Glynn

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Zócalo, with its daily ideas journalism and free public events, aims to create a welcoming space for people and communities to tackle big questions, ideas, and issues. As our reach has expanded—we now syndicate to 185 media outlets around the world—so, too, has the range of subjects we explore. Every Friday, we publish a poem by an established or an emerging poet. And in every year since 2012, we’ve awarded the Zócalo Poetry Prize.

In conjunction with our annual book prize, we honor the writer of a poem that best evokes a connection to place. In 2012, Jody Zordrager won our inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts; our 2013 prize went to Jia-Rui Cook—prior to her joining the Zócalo staff as editor—for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live. Last year’s prize went to Amy Glynn for “Shoreline,” about a place where we can sit back and watch the tide roll out and come in.

This year, 350 poets submitted about 700 poems to our contest. They brought us to all sorts of places: from the Bronx and Finland to what we imagine heaven is like.

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Stephanie Brown and the Zócalo editorial staff chose to honor a poem about a place here in California. We’re delighted to award the $500 Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize to Gillian Wegener, who works on teacher training and curriculum development for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District and serves as the poet laureate of Modesto, Calif. Her winning poem about a small-town diner evokes the intimacy of its staff and regulars, and accepts the inevitability of change:

The Old Mill Café

Everyone knew where to sit.
Everyone knew what time the men from the dairy plant came in after the night shift.
Everyone knew when the all-night drunks would come looking for breakfast.
Everyone knew when Sandy’s girl ran away and why.
Everyone knew the size of the pancakes.
Everyone knew the windmill might really work, but then again, who could be sure.
Everyone knew when the junior college let out for summer.
Everyone knew when the talk was that the highway would be decommissioned.
Everyone knew when the hometown boy made good.
Everyone knew when the waitress was home sick and that she wasn’t sick at all.
Everyone knew and everyone commented when something wasn’t right.
Some folks commented with words and more words and some just nodded
and some didn’t nod.
Everyone knew that team didn’t deserve to win that championship game.
Everyone knew the goddamned hippies weren’t welcome.
Everyone knew the smell of fresh coffee and the little clanks of the creamer lids.
Everyone left that stool empty for a long time after Charlie passed.
Everyone clutched their coffee cups when the train passed through—could have
touched the train as it squeezed by—the truth then, but not now.
Everyone heard about the accident and then everyone knew or thought they knew.
Everyone knew wind from the west meant a little rain.
No one knew what happened to that kid who used to bus tables.
Everyone knew when the price of almonds just about dropped through the floor.
Everyone knew the overpass was coming and that the Old Mill would be razed.
Everyone knew the café would reopen way down the street and no one was happy
about it.
Everyone knew they would keep going to the new place, which they did
even though it wasn’t the same—eggs tasted different, couldn’t put a finger on it.
Everyone knew that things don’t stay the same and there’s no use in whining about
any of it.

We spoke on the phone to the winner, who wrote a piece for Zócalo last year about Modesto’s poetry scene—to tell her the good news and ask her some questions:

Q. Was the “The Old Mill Café” inspired by an actual café—and, if so, where is it?

A. The Old Mill Café is in downtown Modesto. It had a certain kind of mystique. I actually never went inside—but I used to go past it all time. It was on the Old Highway 99.

When I wrote the poem, I was imagining its history over the course of time—how the same people went there day after day, year after year. It was close to a dairy, so I imagined shift workers going there—people who’ve been at the heart of Modesto as a town over the years.

[In 2001], the city built an overpass and knocked down the old restaurant. The Old Mill was moved down street and it doesn’t have a windmill anymore. It’s a regular old diner now, but the same people still go: farmers, ranchers, and the occasional person passing through.

Q. What’s been especially rewarding about being the poet laureate of Modesto?

A. So many community groups have asked me to write poems for their events. No one needs to include a poem in an event, but people feel that a poem gives a sense of gravity to a situation. I’ve been honored to meet that need.

The most challenging poem I’ve written was for the Community Hospice, for the dedication of the Children’s Memorial Garden. I was writing for families who’ve lost a child, so I wanted to honor their experience without assuming that I knew what they were feeling. Having that kind of trust from them was an honor. It was challenging to write and also meaningful, hopefully.

Q. What do you do when you’re not writing poetry?

A. I taught 8th grade English for 22 years. I’m out of the classroom now and working on curriculum and training teachers.

Q. What subject do you find yourself returning to?

A. Sense of place. I moved around a lot growing up and didn’t have a home place. I moved to Modesto and got a teaching job. At first, I wanted to teach and then move somewhere more exciting. Then this became my home, almost in spite of myself. I’m fascinated by how home gets created around us, even when we’re not looking for it.

Q. Which English-language poet do you find especially inspiring?

A. Lorine Niedecker. She has an amazing sense of place in her work, and an amazing sense of history. She’s my go-to poet when I’m stuck, when I feel like I’m caught in little bit of a rut and need to go in a new direction. Sometimes reading her work generates ideas that have nothing to do with what’s in her poems. It’s always a pleasure to read her work and see what happens.

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Danielle Allen Is the Winner of Our Fifth Annual Book Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2015/03/31/danielle-allen-is-the-winner-of-our-fifth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2015/03/31/danielle-allen-is-the-winner-of-our-fifth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/#respond Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:01:56 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=59355 Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, is the winner of the fifth annual Zócalo Book Prize. Allen’s insights into the significance of equality in America—from the 18th century to the present—make Our Declaration the 2014 nonfiction book that best enhances our understanding of the forces that strengthen or undermine community and human connection.

The Zócalo Book Prize, which is awarded in conjunction with our annual poetry prize, furthers our mission to bring people together around ideas and to get us talking about how and why we connect, and what institutions and ideals, habits and mores, allow diverse groups to cohere. By recognizing an author whose work in this field we consider exemplary, we hope to encourage other thinkers and writers to delve into one of the most important issues of our time.

Allen, a political philosopher at the

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Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, is the winner of the fifth annual Zócalo Book Prize. Allen’s insights into the significance of equality in America—from the 18th century to the present—make Our Declaration the 2014 nonfiction book that best enhances our understanding of the forces that strengthen or undermine community and human connection.

The Zócalo Book Prize, which is awarded in conjunction with our annual poetry prize, furthers our mission to bring people together around ideas and to get us talking about how and why we connect, and what institutions and ideals, habits and mores, allow diverse groups to cohere. By recognizing an author whose work in this field we consider exemplary, we hope to encourage other thinkers and writers to delve into one of the most important issues of our time.

Allen, a political philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, joins a distinguished roster of past winners: MIT Center for Civic Media director Ethan Zuckerman, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, London School of Economics and New York University sociologist Richard Sennett, and journalist Peter Lovenheim.

Each of our winners has viewed connection and community from a different lens. In her close reading of the Declaration of Independence, Allen asserts that the document’s primary argument is not merely about the importance of freedom, but of equality, too. Contemporary political discourse has largely cast this ideal aside, in favor of defending individual rights above all.

“Such a choice is dangerous,” writes Allen in the prologue to Our Declaration. “If we abandon equality, we lose the single bond that makes us a community, that makes us a people with the capacity to be free collectively and individually in the first place.” Our Declaration explores the importance Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries placed on equality and community, and how, in just 1,337 words, they forged a document with the power to build a cohesive and united nation.

As the winner of the Zócalo Book Prize, Allen will receive $5,000—and on Friday, April 24, she’ll deliver a lecture: “Can Democracy Exist Without Equality?” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Please see more details on the award ceremony here.

We asked Allen a few questions about the themes of Our Declaration, and the state of equality and community in America today:

Q. How does our belief in equality bind Americans together?

A. Equality is fundamental to forming the social bond of democracy. If we don’t achieve equality among us, you see the citizenry—the people of the country—split up into factions. You need equality just to build a basis for solving hard problems together. Our commitment to equality has weakened considerably for the past few decades, which is one of the causes of greater social strife and tension in America today.

Q. How can the Declaration of Independence help us deal with questions and issues surrounding a lack of equality in America right now?

A. The Declaration makes a really powerful argument for why we all have a right to participate in politics and contribute to our collective decisions. It sets a really high bar for what a democracy needs to achieve. A democracy needs to give people equality as well as access to government as a tool we can use collectively to ensure our safety and happiness. The Declaration can educate us about how to think about our aspirations for equality. Our muscles for thinking about liberty are incredibly strong; ideas about freedom trip off our tongues. We no longer have ideas that trip off our tongues about equality. I’m trying to rebuild and revive a basic understanding of why equality matters and what it consists of.

Q. If equality and freedom aren’t in opposition, what is a more productive way of viewing their relationship?

A. Any time somebody evokes the concept equality, you have to ask them to define it. Are you talking about political equality, social equality, economics, moral equality? Equality and freedom always have belonged together. You can’t have freedom unless everybody is free, and you can only have that if nobody is dominating everyone else. If some people are free and dominating others, you don’t have freedom, because the people who are dominated are not free.

Economic issues are a lot harder to think about than they were in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, before industrialization hit. In the wake of industrialization, we’ve lost sight of how to think about equality and economic issues. You can resolve a lot of questions about economic inequality by asking what economic policies do the most to achieve political equality among the citizenry.

Q. What line or lines from the Declaration of Independence do you wish today’s politicians would read more closely or consider more thoughtfully?

A. For me it’s not just about politicians. It’s about all of us. The line I wish all citizens—all members of our polity, including politicians—would consider more carefully, is the concluding clause of the famous second sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident … That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The message is that every generation has a responsibility to consider how our government is working for us. Are our institutions and principles securing our safety and happiness? If not, how can we fix them?

Q. What would the Founding Fathers think about the state of community in America today?

A. I think they’d be really dismayed. One of the things that characterized the revolutionary period was a real openness of participation at all social levels in thinking about public questions. So, for example, as the Founders were trying to figure out what they thought was wrong with King George’s administration, from Georgia to Massachusetts, they had to put posters up saying, “Everybody meet in Farmer Smith’s field on Sunday to talk about what your view is and what you think is wrong.” There was a really strong participatory element in those early revolutionary days which we’ve walked away from, and which I hope we can recover.

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Announcing Zócalo’s Third Annual Poetry Prize Winnerhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/05/08/announcing-zocalos-third-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/05/08/announcing-zocalos-third-annual-poetry-prize-winner/inquiries/prizes/#respond Thu, 08 May 2014 07:01:30 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=53640 Zócalo’s daily humanities journalism aims to shed light on critical issues and trends that explain our shared human condition. Zócalo strives to do the same thing with the new poems we publish every Friday. We’re proud that, over the past six years, we’ve become a welcoming space for both established and emerging poets to share their work.

For the past two years, in conjunction with our annual book prize, we’ve honored the writer of the poem that best evokes a connection to place—which we interpret quite broadly. In 2012, Jody Zordrager won our inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts; last year’s prize went to Jia-Rui Cook for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live.

A record 400 poets submitted 1,000 poems to this year’s contest. They brought us to places we love (drive-in movie theaters, swimming

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Zócalo’s daily humanities journalism aims to shed light on critical issues and trends that explain our shared human condition. Zócalo strives to do the same thing with the new poems we publish every Friday. We’re proud that, over the past six years, we’ve become a welcoming space for both established and emerging poets to share their work.

For the past two years, in conjunction with our annual book prize, we’ve honored the writer of the poem that best evokes a connection to place—which we interpret quite broadly. In 2012, Jody Zordrager won our inaugural prize for “Coming Back, It Comes Back,” a poem about returning home to Massachusetts; last year’s prize went to Jia-Rui Cook for “Fault,” a poem about the shifting ground on which Southern Californians live.

A record 400 poets submitted 1,000 poems to this year’s contest. They brought us to places we love (drive-in movie theaters, swimming lakes) and places we leave (1970s Detroit, the family farm), places we know like the back of our hands (a childhood bedroom, the backyard) and places we only imagine (Noah’s Mount Ararat, a room in a painting).

Ultimately, Zócalo poetry editor Stephanie Brown and the Zócalo editorial staff chose to honor a poem about a place you can go to watch time and the elements collide. We’re thrilled to award the $500 Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize to Amy Glynn of Lafayette, California. Her winning poem takes the form of a ghazal (originating in the Middle East and South Asia) and explores that place where we can sit back and watch the tide roll out and come in:

Shoreline

It’s not just submission, accepting you’re bound here, enslaved
to tide, lunar phase, run aground; it’s the surf’s job to pound, wave

slapping wrackline; it’s not about not-waving-drowning, or saved
from the big stuff, the depths we can’t sound, but hey, I’ll be around, wave,

no matter how you treat me now, you knave
rogue riptide. Never made or lost, we’re found, wave,

in change. Watching particles alters the way they behave
but so does the watcher’s desired outcome. We propound, wave,

that in fact we are asking to be caught inside, to be caved
in on. Each dawn the same long strands of littoral litter undrowned, wave

calcified into whelk, curl of the conch, saline-laved
corals bleached bone-pale, pulverized, ground by wave

and eon to sand, and you see what is meant by depraved
indifference, and equipoise. Surf surfaces, the compound wave

inconstant in amplitude and in velocity, rave
on, bury details, be inscrutable and deemed profound. Wave

from the breakers. We manifest what we expect. What we crave
is a whole other story. So skim or delve, let the rebound wave

suck you back to the dream-sea. See. Suffer sea-change. See, change saves
you: ride it out; undulate under the blankets of ground wave

and Love wave, the great seismic shudder. It’s so moving. Brave
as we must be to bear it: no permanence, just the inbound wave

and the outbound. And if we’re to take this with us to the grave,
make it matter. Light up every neuron, love; love me spellbound. Wave

off all else. No one sees us but angels, and they don’t care. They’ve
seen and heard every angle; that’s being part light-wave, part sound-wave.

 

We spoke on the phone with our winner about the poem and the poet behind it:

Q. What inspired “Shoreline”—any particular shoreline?

A. The shoreline I started out envisioning is a beach in Nayarit, Mexico, an area called Punta Mita. Although the poem is not supposed to refer to any specific piece of shoreline, it happens to be that one that was in my head.

Q. Why did you choose to submit this poem to our contest?

A. Because I felt like there’s something about shorelines as a place that is sort of uniquely magical. It’s the part of the planet where air and water and land all kind of come together, and there’s something magical to me in that. Beaches are a favorite place of mine.

Q. Where do you write?

A. I have a tiny, walk-in-closet-sized office in my house where I tend to do most of my writing. I have a little, tiny window, and there is an orange tree out the window, and occasionally birds and little butterflies and things come to visit it. It’s not bad.

Q. What subjects do you find yourself returning to?

A. I’m really interested in natural history, and that has been a vein of my writing for a long time. It’s a funny thing because I was a really uniquely crappy science student in school, and I avoided it like the plague. I have no idea why I find it fascinating now. There’s a lot of really rich and exciting language in things like taxonomy. I’m not a physicist, and the things I read are layman-level stuff, but I really like reading about quantum mechanics, and I’m interested in the role quantum mechanics can play in multiple meanings. I’m a late-blooming science nerd as it turns out.

Q. What do you spend most of your time doing?

A. Driving children around. I have had the privilege of being able to be a parent the last few years, and I write in the spaces that appear in there. I do some other kinds of writing and copyediting: I’m a hired gun wine writer, an essayist. I fix annual stockholder reports for an investment bank. I’ve done all kinds of weird stuff—intellectual property law research, working in Silicon Valley for a dot-com, a personal assistant to a politician. Everything short of a stint pulling espresso at a Starbucks. That, luckily, never manifested.

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Ethan Zuckerman Wins Zócalo’s Fourth Annual Book Prizehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/04/03/ethan-zuckerman-wins-zocalos-fourth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/04/03/ethan-zuckerman-wins-zocalos-fourth-annual-book-prize/inquiries/prizes/#respond Thu, 03 Apr 2014 07:01:04 +0000 zocalo http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=53237 We’re delighted to award the fourth annual Zócalo Book Prize to Ethan Zuckerman for Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. In the view of our distinguished panel of judges, Zuckerman wrote 2013’s most illuminating and compelling nonfiction book about community and human connectedness. The Zócalo Book Prize comes from an integral part of our mission: to talk and think about how diverse societies cohere. In the past 11 years, we haven’t come up with all the answers—but we’ve done what we can to encourage scholars, writers, and thinkers to keep considering the question.

In Rewire, Ethan Zuckerman challenges our assumption that the Internet will inevitably create a more connected world. Since the Victorian era, utopians have believed that technology has the power to erase prejudice, enhance cooperation, and create a new global social order. Despite the ubiquity and power of the Internet, none of this has come to

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We’re delighted to award the fourth annual Zócalo Book Prize to Ethan Zuckerman for Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. In the view of our distinguished panel of judges, Zuckerman wrote 2013’s most illuminating and compelling nonfiction book about community and human connectedness. The Zócalo Book Prize comes from an integral part of our mission: to talk and think about how diverse societies cohere. In the past 11 years, we haven’t come up with all the answers—but we’ve done what we can to encourage scholars, writers, and thinkers to keep considering the question.

In Rewire, Ethan Zuckerman challenges our assumption that the Internet will inevitably create a more connected world. Since the Victorian era, utopians have believed that technology has the power to erase prejudice, enhance cooperation, and create a new global social order. Despite the ubiquity and power of the Internet, none of this has come to pass. Zuckerman shows how the Internet reinforces the human tendency to interact with those with whom we have the most in common. At the same time, he offers optimism about the many ways in which technology can do a better job of bringing people of diverse backgrounds and interests together.

He knows this subject firsthand. Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and co-founder of Global Voices, an international community of bloggers working to make online political dialogues more globally inclusive.

As the winner of the Zócalo Book Prize, Zuckerman will receive $5,000—and on Friday, May 9, he’ll deliver a lecture: “Can the Internet Be Rewired to Build a Smaller, More Cooperative World?” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Please see more details on the award ceremony, sponsored by the California Community Foundation, here.

We recently got in touch with Zuckerman to ask him some questions about his work:

Q. What’s the biggest force against our becoming citizens of the universe—and connecting with people around the globe—in contemporary life? 

A. Unfortunately, it’s a 25-cent, sociological word: “homophily,” which explains the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together. If you are a liberal from New England and you go to a place where there are people from all sorts of backgrounds, you are naturally going to find the liberals from New England. There are piles of sociological literature that show that people will walk into a computer lab at a college and gravitate toward people they have something in common with. Homophily combines with the Internet and has made it really, really easy to find our tribes online and to get as much information as we can from our tribes. The temptation is to blame the Internet—Facebook is isolating all of us, it’s separating us into echo chambers. Some of this is true, but it’s the combination of this very basic tendency for us to sort ourselves by race, ethnicity, gender, political beliefs, and socioeconomic status, combined with the incredible amount of choice we have online.

Q. You challenge cyberutopianism but don’t dismiss it out of hand. How would you respond to criticism that your arguments are too moderate to effect real change? 

A. The cheesy way to write a trade book is to take a sharp stab in one direction and assume someone else is going to write something counterbalancing you. It’s easier to write a book saying the Internet is stupid or the Internet is giving us superpowers than it is to write a book that says the Internet is complicated. I think there’s a case to be made that this is the best tool for international understanding. There’s also a case to be made that we’re really far from using the Internet in that way. The problem is that makes it a whole lot harder to sum up the argument.

Q. Can you recommend three simple steps anyone can follow to transform oneself into what you call a “bridge figure”—a person who connects cultures?

A. 1. Pay attention to what you’re reading and what you’re listening to. I ask my students to keep a media diary—to spend a week keeping track of what you listen to, what you read, and what you watch. Getting a sense of how you’re spending your time with media gives you a sense of your patterns. I, for instance, have a bad Reddit habit. And as much as I think of myself as cosmopolitan, during football season I’m spending time on Green Bay Packer stuff. I can look at my media diary and say, “Do I want to do this or read something else?”

2. When people start looking for international news or news from other places, they dive into something like Global Voices and read everything on the site, and it’s really, really hard. When you start learning about a different world, you have to pick up a certain amount of background. My friend, [technology writer] Clay Shirky, has a good suggestion: pick one part of the world you want to know more about.

3. Find a way into other parts of the world through what you already know and what you care about. I’m a music guy. I spend a lot of time looking for music from around the world. There are countries where all I really know is what the music there sounds like. But even that is enough context that I’m more receptive to what’s going on in those countries—I’m more open to them.

Q. How can folks who want to build a more connected society use the upcoming World Cup to our advantage?

A. I think the World Cup is a great time to look at this. For starters, the World Cup is a terrific way to take a look at Brazil and to look at Brazil’s mixed feelings about the Cup. People who are passionate soccer fans and passionate about Brazil’s rise are also deeply skeptical about whether they should be spending this much money on a soccer stadium.

It’s also a wonderful time to dive into each of the nations who end up competing: their challenges, their futures, their histories. During the 2010 World Cup, Global Voices set up watching parties online for people from each country who were involved with the matches. We expected them to be full of taunting and a little stressful. Instead, it was wonderful. It was so polite. It started with each side complimenting the other and asking who on the other team was famous, who was well-known, who was loved as a player. We expected a bar fight, and it turned into a wonderful conversation between groups. I see the World Cup and the Olympics as wonderful excuses to explore our curiosity and find out about other parts of the world.

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