John Darnielle, lyricist, singer and guitarist for the American band The Mountain Goats, will serve as poetry guest editor for The Mays XX.

Darnielle, 45, is known for his mournful odes to outsiders and for the complicated sentence structures of his eulogizing lyrics.

The New Yorker has called Darnielle “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist.” Mays editor Andrew Griffin cited Darnielle’s “excitement about new writing and art,” as well as his forays into publishing poetry, as influencing the selection.

Rejecting the idea that there could be a unified way of describing the work of emerging writers, Darnielle told The Mays that he thinks of poetry as “a continuous craft,” without “any ages or eras.”

Darnielle joins the growing number of musicians who have guest-edited The Mays, including Patti Smith in 2009 and Jarvis Cocker in 2011. His next album, Transcendental Youth, is slated for release later this year.

John Darnielle will be the poetry guest editor

Visual arts will be guest-edited by Sebastiano Barassi, outgoing curator of collections at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.

Griffin praised Barassi’s “very important and close connection with Cambridge art” and noted his commitment to supporting the work of emerging artists.

The Mays recognizes the importance of figures like Barassi and institutions like Kettle’s Yard in helping to bring wider exposure to both new and established artists—a goal which The Mays shares.

When asked what excites him about current trends in the art world, Barassi said he is “intrigued by the desire for social engagement” that he finds in the work of a younger generation of artists.

This corresponds, he says, to “a desire to open up, to be socially and politically active, to be agents for change,” though he points out that these impulses have deep roots in past avant-garde movements. The “desire to join forces” is something he sees as “a very positive and constructive approach to the creative process.”

The Mays is an anthology of the best new writing and artwork coming out of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The theme this year is “strangeness" and the deadline for submissions is this Saturday, 31st March.

Sold in bookstores by Varsity Publications and distributed to literary agents around the country, The Mays has brought attention to new writers and artists for twenty years.

Past guest editors of the anthology have included Seamus Heaney, Stephen Fry, Philip Pullman, Ted Hughes and Colm Toibin, as well as Zadie Smith, whose publication in The Mays while studying at Cambridge helped launch her literary career.

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