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Finding healing in poetry and drawing

Worcester Technical High School senior Anya Barrett was named the Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud Champion.
Worcester Technical High School senior Anya Barrett was named the Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud Champion.David Marshall

Mass Poetry knows that poems offer solace in times of crisis, and in response to Covid-19, and in support of the authors whose tours are being cancelled and whose books are coming out in a time when attention is aimed elsewhere, they’ve created a fantastic list of poetry collections both recent and forthcoming by Massachusetts poets or put out by Massachusetts presses. The list includes, among a great many others, Allison Adair’s The Clearing(Milkweed); Dispatchby Cameron Awkward-Rich (Persea); Bury Me in Thunderby moira j. (Sundress); Sana Sanaby Ariana Brown (Game Over); and Ragheadby Eman Hassam (Univ. of Chicago), among others. The list showcases the potency of the poetry scene, and offers multiple moods and modes to find solace and to support these poets. Visit masspoetry.org/new-releases-covid.



Local children’s book authors and illustrators have banded together to provide free resources to kids while they’re out of school. One such group includes StoryMarch, started by the Greater Boston Illustrators Group, led by Sarah Brannen, whose latest book “A Perfect Day” (Philomel) will be published in July. Kids (and everyone else) are invited to make a piece of art based on a one-word prompt, with the guiding principle that each day’s project connect in some way to the one done the day before. Find details at sarahbrannen.com/storymarch. And Vermont-based kids’ book writer Kate Messner is compiling a sampling of kids’ authors reading their books, offering online lessons and activities. Visit katemessner.com.

Prizes and honors

Anya Barrett, a senior at Worcester Technical High School, won the Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud competition earlier this month at the Old South Meeting House, winning out over 21 finalists from the state. The competition, now in its 15th year in Massachusetts and run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, involves memorizing three poems—one with 25 lines or fewer, one written pre-20th century—selected from the Poetry Out Loud anthology. Normally, Barrett would head to Washington to compete in the national finals in late April, but the event has been cancelled because of the corona virus.


In other prize news, Harvard history professor Lizabeth Cohen’s book “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age(FSG) has been awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American history and Diplomacy from Columbia University. The $10,000 prize is awarded each year for a work with “scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation” in the field of U.S. history and diplomacy. It’s the second time Cohen has won the prize; the first was in 1991 for “Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939” (Cambridge University).

The Whiting Foundation recently announced the winners of its 35th annual awards, recognizing “excellence and promise” in the work of emerging writers. The $50,000 prize is being awarded ten writers, three of whom have links to Massachusetts, including Dominican American poet Diannely Antigua; UMass graduate fiction writer Genevieve Sly Crane; and novelist Andrea Lawlor, who teaches writing at Mount Holyoke.

To read now

New Hampshire-based author Rebecca Dinerstein Knight’s smart, dark second novel, Hex(Viking) out this week, tells the story of a group of academics, poison research, and intertwining loves and lives. Her sentences are lit with sex and death and the power of plants and the mood is bright-dark with witchy revelings.


Coming Out

Breasts and Eggsby Mieko Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa)

Sin Eaterby Megan Campisi (Atria)

Afropessimismby Frank B. Wilderson III (Liveright)

Pick of the Week

Katherine Nazzaro at Trident Booksellers in Boston recommends Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey): “Casiopea Tun is a young woman from the Yucatan in the 1920s whose life is changed forever when she frees the Mayan God of Death from a box her grandfather has always kept locked. Along the journey, she learns about magic, forgiveness, and Mayan myths—and becomes something of a myth herself.”

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