Poetry by Marge Piercy, an anthology on life during the pandemic, and New England authors whose work was shortlisted for the National Book Awards.
20th collection of poetry by Marge Piercy, “When you go out, turn off the light(Knopf), released this week, contains his singular mix of politics and personnel. She approaches our tense moment in “anger for my country” with ironic nods at the possible apocalypse we are heading towards. It refers to immigrants and abortion, our warming planet, our extinction – both individual and species-wide. Some poems are like lists, items and deeds that accumulate to make a moment, a series of thoughts, the span of a lifetime, the way a mind moves in time: “Far too early marriage / Course de français / Chicago un été / The various flavors of argumentation. Aging and her indignities draw her sensitive, sometimes funny, attention to her, and Piercy, who lives on Cape Cod, is particularly dexterous in noticing the moments when she has entered herself: “in the wasteland overgrown with grass. ragweed and bright blue chicory. . . something unbuilt / untamed took root in me and grew. There is a force in her definition of self: “my radical bigmouth / sexually busy Jewish self.” And the feeling, in aging, of turning towards openness and the opportunity of silence, of rediscovering “little pleasures”. . . that come to us when “we spread silence around us. . . and allow us to calm down and wait.
A new anthology brings together a number of writers responding to the pandemic. “Alone Together: Love, Sorrow and Comfort in the Era of COVID-19(Central Avenue) is the brainchild of editor Jennifer Haupt, who wanted to do something about her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The book, which came together in less than two months, includes poems, essays and interviews by and with 55 authors (with 21 more in the digital edition), including a number of big names – Kwame Alexander, Nikki Giovanni, Ada Limón, Lidia Yuknavitch, Pam Houston, among others, as well as local voices including Andre Dubus III, Steve Yarbrough, Major Jackson, Jenna Blum, Lise Haines, Jessica Keener, Jennifer Rosner and Grace Talusan, who writes: “I think my dead are appearing to me now, in my forties, because I finally have time to mourn them.” All net proceeds from the book will be donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which works to strengthen the community of independent booksellers.
Waiting for rewards
Long lists for this year’s National Book Awards were recently announced and works by a number of New England authors have been selected. New Englanders won four of the 10 spots on the non-fiction list, including Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, who lives in New Haven, for “Americans without papers“ (One world); Michelle Bowdler, Executive Director of Health and Wellness at Tufts University, for “Is rape a crime ?: A brief, an investigation and a manifesto“ (Flatiron); Jill Lepore, professor at Harvard, for “If so: how the Simulatics Corporation invented the future” (Liveright); and Jerald Walker, professor of writing at Emerson College, for “How to make a slave and other trials“ (Mad Creek). In poetry, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Associate Professor of English at UMass-Boston, where they teach and lead the Masters program in Creative Writing, has been selected for their collection “Transvestite generator“(Noemi). And in children’s literature, Marcella Pixley, a grade eight language arts teacher at Carlisle, was shortlisted for “Trowbridge Road(Candlewick). Prices will be announced on November 18.
“Foreign faces” by Namwali Serpell (Transit)
“Cardinal” by Tyree Daye (Copper Canyon)
“Some girls enter the country they come from” by Sawako Nakayasu (Wave)
Choice of the week
Charlee Bianchini at the Gloucester Bookstore recommends “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and a Way to Mend Our Hearts and Bodies“ by Resmaa Menakem (Central Recovery): “Racism in America is brought into the spotlight and the damage it causes is studied from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology. Menakem describes the problem of deep-rooted white supremacy in America and offers steps towards recovery and a brighter future.