Poems of history
Éireann Lorsung’s altering new collection of poetry, “The Century” (Milkweed), demands — not explicitly, but with the force of the depth of its inquiry — that we examine and re-examine the history of which we are part, as well as the histories we believe ourselves not to be part. These poems rise out of a grave reckoning with Time and History, and therefore, with violence, oppression, enslavement, war, connection, and loss. “I am trying to perform an excavation of a whole way of thinking,” she writes. Not pastoral odes, not lyric distillations on geese and love, but also, not without moments of stone ax beauty. “There was no forest, no city; there was no day, / no evening, no night, no moon to rise / through trees … nothing sticking to our bodies where skin / used to be; no next day, no day after that —”. Lorsung, who teaches at Emerson and lives in Portland, Maine, places herself at the intersection of beauty and horror, bringing in Bachmann and Celan, Simone Weil, Baldwin, Whitman, and Manfred Wildmann. The work mentions depleted uranium, Americium, Chernobyl, gooseberry, nettles, and yarrow. The collection feels an attempt to solve for distance and time, which, at some point, are the same thing: “When, an issue of movement.” Never didactic, offering up only her example, she reminds us, “No excuse not to work, even / if the labor comes too late; even if, / in the beginning, it is poorly done, / as beginners' work often is.” And that it is possible to have “some moral comfort or some social comfort, but not both.” The highest and best of what poetry can do is change the way we see, and such is what Lorsung has done. She’ll read and discuss her work in a virtual event on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. through the Brookline Booksmith. Visit brooklinebooksmith.com.
Words of wonder
The Wonderland stop is the last stop heading north on the Blue Line, named, it turns out, not for the Wonderland Ballroom or the Wonderland Greyhound Track, but for a short-lived amusement park — the largest in New England at 23 acres — that existed there between 1906 and 1910. The park and its surprising history is the subject of Stephen R. Wilk’s new book “Lost Wonderland: The Brief and Brilliant Life of Boston’s Million Dollar Amusement Park” (Bright Leaf). He dives into “the Wild West shows, the incubators full of premature babies, the balloon ascents … the wild animals … the sky rides and the Shoot the Chutes, the Descent into Hell, the Scenic Railroad … the Fire Fighting Spectacular, and the Scintillator as well as the collection of creative weirdos who brought it all to life. Lively and engaging, the book offers a window into a bit of lost Boston history.
To launch “The Deep End,” the next book in his mondo bestselling “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, author Jeff Kinney has organized a 20-town tour of drive-thru pool-party-themed book events at independent bookstores as an alternative to in-store events made impossible by the pandemic. These events, which start Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. at An Unlikely Story, the bookstore Kinney owns in Plainville will include various interactive pool-party scenarios — a lifeguard dunk tank, a tiki hut — and Kinney will hand over signed copies of the books in the net of a 6-foot pool skimmer, true to the theme and socially distant. He’ll be doing events at Barrington Books in Barrington, R.I. (Nov. 4 at 5 p.m.); the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst (Nov. 9, 5 p.m.); Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham (Nov. 10, 5 p.m.), Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H. (Nov. 12, 5 p.m.); and Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, N.H. (Nov. 13, 5 p.m.).
“Memorial” by Bryan Washington (Riverhead)
“Earth Keeper: Reflections on American Land” by N. Scott Momaday (Harper)
“Magic: A History, from Alchemy to Witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the Present” by Chris Gosden (FSG)
Pick of the Week
Ellen Jarrett at Porter Square Books in Cambridge recommends “A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team” by Arshay Cooper (Flatiron): “Inspiring true story from Chicago’s West Side in the turbulent 1990s. A group of young Black men from Manley High form the first black rowing team to save themselves. They reunite 20 years later to make a difference by offering the same opportunity to young black kids in their hometown. They also invite white members of the Chicago Police Department to join them in bringing people together to make a difference one stroke at a time.”