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Presented By: University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers' Program

Presentation and Q&A: Querying for Poets

Poetry Editor Sumita Chakraborty

Sumita Chakraborty Sumita Chakraborty
Sumita Chakraborty
This event is virtual-only (via Zoom) and is open to Helen Zell Writers' Program MFA students, Zell Fellows, and alumni, as well as U-M graduate and undergraduate students. It is not open to the general public. Please email Ashley Bates (asbates@umich.edu) for login instructions.

Currently, the dominant model of first-book publishing in poetry is the contest route; I’ll share alternative possibilities from my perspective as someone who successfully queried for a first book and who currently sits on the editorial board of Alice James Books, as well as pros/cons for both methods. Attendees can also expect a discussion of what to expect in poetry book contracts (and what to insist on!); in the Q&A, students can expect that any question about any element of “PoBiz” will be most welcome.


Sumita Chakraborty is a poet, essayist, and scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection Arrow (Alice James Books (U.S.)/Carcanet Press (U.K.), 2020), which received coverage in the New York Times, NPR, and the Guardian. Her first scholarly book, Grave Dangers: Poetics and the Ethics of Death in the Anthropocene, is in progress and under advance contract with the University of Minnesota Press.

Her poetry has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, the Best American Poetry series, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, The Rumpus, The Offing, and elsewhere. Her essays most frequently appear in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her scholarship appears has appeared in Cultural Critique, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Modernism/modernity, College Literature, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and a Kundiman Fellow, and has been shortlisted for a Forward Prize from the Forward Arts Foundation (UK). Arrow received the New Writers Award from the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Seamus Heaney Prize for a First Collection from the Seamus Heaney Centre (U.K.), and received honors from the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize from the English Association (U.K.), the Julie Suk Award, and the Forewords Indie Book Prize.

Literary editing was, in many ways, Sumita’s earliest introduction to contemporary literature. She began working for AGNI Magazine as an editorial assistant while she was an undergraduate and went on to work for the magazine for thirteen years, moving first to the position of assistant poetry editor and subsequently to the position of poetry editor. That experience also led her to work with every element of the literary magazine submission, selection, curation, and publication process, as well as with publicity and design. Her other editorial roles have included serving as art editor for At Length and a reader for the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. She has also served as a guest editor for the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series as well as a judge for 92Y's Discovery Poetry Contest, Michigan Quarterly Review’s Laurence Goldstein Prize, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships for the Poetry Foundation, AWP’s Donald Hall First Book Prize, and more. In 2021, she joined the Editorial Board of Alice James Books, which, among other things, judges the Alice James Award.

Sumita is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Previously, she held the positions of Helen Zell Visiting Professor in Poetry at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and Visiting Assistant Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She received her BA in English and creative writing from Wellesley College and her PhD in literature with a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory.

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