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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

The quiet dignity in Isa Leshko’s photographs; honoring Margaret Atwood with the Emerson-Thoreau Medal

Buddy, an Appaloosa horse, age 28, was surrendered to a sanctuary when his guardians could not properly care for him after he lost his sight.
Buddy, an Appaloosa horse, age 28, was surrendered to a sanctuary when his guardians could not properly care for him after he lost his sight.Isa Leshko


The black-and-white photographs show a horse standing in the doorway of a barn, an empty black socket where its eye should be; a rooster crouches beneath a hutch, feathers gone on a section of wing to reveal a row of dry spaghetti bones; a 24-year-old donkey named Babs looks down, shaggy-faced, weary after spending 17 years of her life used for roping practice on a ranch. The images in Salem, Mass-based photographer Isa Leshko’s book “Allowed To Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals from Farm Sanctuaries” (Univ. of Chicago) reveal the quiet dignity of creatures long in years, animals spared the gun or the kill boxes of industrial slaughter and allowed to live out their days. A 21 year-old-goat named Abe with milky eyes stands in profile with enormous gravitas; his guardian surrendered him to a sanctuary when he had to enter an assisted living facility. What Leshko shows, above all, is life, the spark and heat that lives in the faces of these animals, each one individual, singular, and often discarded, forgotten, and worse. As a fundraiser for the Salem Literary Festival, you can have tea with Leshko and hear her talk about her project and see slides of her work next Sunday, March 15 at 3 p.m. at the Salem Athenaeum on Essex Street. Tickets are $20. For more information visit salemathenaeum.net.

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Pavement Poetry

A funny moment of unexpected urban joy, to walk down a sidewalk, thoughts absorbed in this or that, and to see, there, at your feet, a poem pressed into the concrete. Cambridge is running its annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest, which began in 2015, in which residents of any age are welcome to submit an original poem, five of which will be selected to appear imprinted into sidewalk panels around the city. The deadline for submissions is this Thursday, March 12, at noon. Poems, in English only, can be a maximum of ten lines, and no more than 250 total characters, and the subject matter must be appropriate for the public. It’s free to apply, and there are an average of about 150 submissions every year. And through July 24 at the Cambridge Arts Gallery 344 on Broadway, an exhibition called “TraVerse” showcases the last five years of the poetry program. For complete rules and submission guidelines, visit cambridgema.gov/sidewalkpoetry.

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Atwood Honored

On Friday, March 13, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences will award Margaret Atwood the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for her career in literature. The award, first given in 1958 to Robert Frost, honors not an individual work but literary achievement over time. Toni Morrison, Lewis Mumford, Hannah Arendt, T.S. Eliot, and Katherine Anne Porter, among others, have all been recipients, and the Academy cites Atwood’s imagination and impact, her way of altering the ways we approach the environment, gender, and power. Atwood has written over fifty books, spanning fiction, nonfiction, criticism, poetry, kids books, and graphic novels, and she shared last year’s Booker Prize for her latest novel “The Testaments.” The Academy was founded in 1780 and “honors excellence” and supports “nonpartisan research [to] provide critical insight on issues of profound importance to the nation and the world.” The award ceremony, which will take place at the headquarters in Cambridge, includes a reception and Atwood will be in conversation with novelist Gish Jen. To register for a waitlist, visit amacad.org.

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Coming Out

The Society of Reluctant Dreamersby José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn (Archipelago)

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumidaby Clarissa Goenawan (Soho)

In the Lateness of the Worldby Carolyn Forché (Penguin)

Pick of the Week

Leila Meglio at Porter Square Books in Cambridge recommends “Zahrah the Windseeker” by Nnedi Okorafor (HMH): “Transporting and vivid, this is a tale of adventure, magic, self-acceptance, and friendship. In a world where technology is built from plants and flower petals are currency, 13-year-old Zahrah just wants to be normal. When her best friend goes missing, Zahrah must enter a mysterious forest and embrace her abilities to save him.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.