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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

A massive poetry month event, a new book about the lives and loves of the transcendentalists in Concord, and a child’s guide to becoming a rock star

A new children's book by Haverhill resident and Broadway veteran David Weiser tells the story of a boy's journey toward rock
'n' roll.
A new children's book by Haverhill resident and Broadway veteran David Weiser tells the story of a boy's journey toward rock 'n' roll.Derek Lavoie

Power in poetry

In celebration of National Poetry Month, MassPoetry and WGBH are presenting a virtual program called “The Power of Poetry,” bringing together four poet powerhouses on the local scene to talk about diversity in contemporary poetry and the ways in which they use poetry to respond to the world. The poets include Porsha Olayiwola, Poet Laureate of Boston, artistic director of MassLEAP and author of “i shimmer sometimes, too” (Button); the multi-award winning Danielle Legros Georges, former Poet Laureate of Boston, and professor and director of the MFA Program in creative writing at Lesley; the recent Jacob Ziskin Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis Chen Chen, whose collection “When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities” (BOA) was longlisted for the National Book Award; and UMass Amherst MFA program director Dara Weir. The virtual event takes place Monday, April 12 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 which includes access to the discussion as well as a digital collection of curated poems from the panel. Visit wgbh.org/events/the-power-of-poetry-virtual for more information and to register.

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Concord lives

In his new historical novel “Concord” (Serving House), Don Zancanella reimagines a year in the life of some the area’s most famed 19th-century figures—Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Sophia Peabody, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson — but Zancanella focuses on a moment before they’ve fully come into their own as writers and thinkers, in the heady time of way-finding, as their political, social, and literary personas and ideologies take root, and, especially, as they fall in love. Three strands, that of Peabody, Fuller, and Thoreau, are braided together, and Zancanella shows, with sensitivity and imagination, how this fervent moment might have looked and felt for these eventual icons. Peabody is pursued by Hawthorne; Thoreau and his brother John both fall in love with the same woman; and Fuller has a heated — if only mental — relationship with Emerson. The novel, set mostly in Concord, Salem, Cambridge, and Boston, blends the intellectual movement these people were a part of with the timelessness of heat-flushed crushes building into more, of youthful passion, of the thrill and despair of falling in and out of love.

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Kids rock

In the playful and motivating new kids’ book “The Boy Who Wanted to Rock” (BookBaby), Haverhill resident and Broadway veteran David Weiser writes a story about a kid facing the sulking and stomping frustration of not sounding like the rock star he wants to when he first picks up the instruments. On a journey, he meets some unexpected guides—a dog who teaches him rhythm, an octopus who teaches him scales, some cool cats who teach him about guitar and bass strings and the Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears mnemonic; as well as some cave-dwellers who show him rock god charisma: “We’ll teach you to strut and to do it with swagger, just like we taught Angus, Prince, and Mick Jagger.” With lively and emotive illustrations by Derek Lavoie, who studied illustration at Mass College of Art in Boston, the book underlines the importance of practice without being preachy or dogmatic about it. The audiobook version features two companion rock songs and cameos by a bunch of Broadway stars. And to help support the theater community and the way it’s been impacted by the pandemic, Weiser will donate $2 for every book sold through Bookbaby to the Actors Fund, which is giving assistance to theater workers affected by the industry shutdowns.

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Coming out

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retoldby Bolu Babalolo (William Morrow)

Feeling & Knowing: Making Minds Consciousby Antonio Damasio (Pantheon)

Terminal Boredomby Izumi Suzuki (Verso)

Pick of the week

Darwin Ellis at Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Connecticut, recommends “American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House): “This original first book purports to be the journal of a young black female FBI agent working in Intelligence. Finding herself the wrong gender and color to advance, she accepts a shadowy assignment to meddle in the politics of the newly-named Burkina Faso. A stunning debut of writing that includes the Cold War, sexism, racism, broken families, patriotic duty, and the lingering consequences of our actions.”

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