Escaping white noise
“We have no control over the circumstances into which we are born,” writes Jennifer De Leon in her new essay collection, “White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing,” winner of the University of Massachusetts Press Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction. “The ropes we reach for in trying to soar somewhere new, somewhere better, often carry us to unpredictable places.” In these warm and affecting essays, De Leon, a Guatemalan-American raised in Boston, and a professor of writing at Framingham State, writes of cultural pressures and expectations, of moving to Guatemala to deepen her connection to, and understanding of, her family, her roots, and herself, and of the ongoing process of integrating identities. She writes of the complicated layers of going on birth control, of climbing a volcano, of the clarity of her goals and how she reexamines them, and the complexity and strength of the cords that bind us to where we’re born and who we’re born to. With nuance and heart, De Leon writes of what can’t be spoken, what goes unspoken, and what lives so vitally, pulsing away, between the lines. De Leon will read and discuss the book in a virtual launch through Porter Square Books on Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m. Visit portersquarebooks.com to register.
Poetry in the museum
This spring, leading up to the Mass Poetry Festival on May 14-16, Mass Poetry and the Peabody Essex Museum are running a Poets-in-Residence Series. The once-a-month virtual creative writing workshops are led by poets and each connects thematically to an exhibit at the museum. This week, on March 23 from 7-9 p.m., the workshop, led by poets Eleni Sikelianos and Lucía Hinojosa Gaxiola, will center on ecopoetics and the exploration of the fraught and potent intersections of human and non-human beings and forces, using the dream-nightmare seascape paintings of Alexis Rockman, part of the “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks” exhibit, as a launching point. On Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m., poet Jack Giaour will lead a workshop on erasure and black-out poetry exploring notions of community building and social justice tied to the ongoing “Salem Stories” exhibit. And on Tuesday, May 4 at 7 p.m., join Kirun Kapur for an epistolary poem workshop rising out of the museum’s collection of illustrated letters on view in “My Dear Davey and Chester…” For more information and to register, visit pem.org.
Vermont poet Kerrin McCadden’s new collection of poetry, “American Wake” (Black Sparrow) is a book of quiet, watchful radiance. The poems, plainspoken distillations of origins and loss, explore histories, teasing at what we know without knowing, and know without remembering we know. She writes of almost getting “lost in time a woman I visit/ saying no I don’t know anything/ about your family no wait I do.” She writes, too, of her brother’s death by drug overdose. “Silent mouths — these are where dead brothers live.” She compares him to a mountain, in the way that mountains can be monstrous, and her elegies and odes to him glow with the human press of grief and love. The poems shift between New England and Ireland; rivers and fences appear and reappear, speaking to what divides us — living and dead, world and otherworld, history and present — and what can also be slipped between and bridged.
“Night Room: Essays” by Gina Nutt (Two Dollar Radio)
“The Art of Losing” by Alice Zeniter, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (FSG)
“The Vietri Project” by Nicola DeRobertis-Theye (Harper)
Pick of the week
Sam Read at Barrington Books in Barrington, R.I., recommends “The Hype Machine” by Sinan Aral (Currency): “A must read for everyone, especially those who frequently use social media. This book is an eye-opener and a stunning yet beautiful exposé of the world we live in and how we must adapt.”