Weems, viewed anew
Photographer Carrie Mae Weems “has consistently set out to visually define the world on her own terms and to redefine for all of us the nature of the world we are in,” writes photographer Dawoud Bey in an new book part of the OCTOBER Files series put out by MIT Press, each one of which examines individual bodies of work in the postwar period that “have altered our understanding of art . . . and prompted a critical literature that is serious, sophisticated, and sustained.” Editors Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, an associate professor of art and architecture history and African American Studies at Harvard, and Harvard PhD candidate Christine Garnier selected a number of essays on and interviews with Weems, contextualizing and emphasizing her influence and importance as an artist and photographer. Her iconic “Kitchen Table Series” — intimate, direct, showing Weems and other figures in games of cards, with cigarettes and whiskey, snacks, meals, lamplight pouring down — is “an answer to an eternal question: how do we find our own power?” writes Lewis. The book includes a number of Weems’s photographs and installations, and is a thoughtful and rigorous look at her work, the questions it raises, and the boundaries it pushes and defies.
Agrichemical companies tell us that glyphosate — the active ingredient in weedkillers including Roundup — is harmless to humans, and every year, fields, farms, food, and parks are sprayed with hundreds of millions of pounds of it. A new book by MIT senior research scientist Stephanie Seneff tells the chilling and important story of the harm this chemical is doing to our bodies. In “Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment” (Chelsea Green), Seneff writes of the precipitous rise of diseases and disorders including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autism, obesity, and encephalitis, writing that “something terrible seems to be affecting every living thing on the planet” and she argues that the terrible thing is this weedkilling chemical we’ve all been assured is so safe. She details the history of the chemical and its negative environmental impact and digs in to how it effects the human body, disrupting the all-important gut microbiome, and the specific conditions this can lead to, including infertility, liver disease, depression, and autoimmunity. Seneff also offers a guide for which foods to avoid to keep from consuming this toxin. Urgent and eye-opening, the book serves as a loud-and-clear alarm.
Virtual poetry in Cambridge
The New England Poetry Club, in partnership with the Longfellow House in Cambridge, is running a virtual poetry festival this summer, centered around the theme of Poetry as a Voice for Activism. The festival begins today, June 27, with the Longfellow Student Poetry Award Ceremony, open to poets in 3rd through 12th grades. On July 11 Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola will read with Boston’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate Alondra Bobadilla. On July 18, acclaimed poet Donika Kelly, author of the recent collection “Bestiary” (Graywolf) will read. Pulitzer Prize winner Tyehimba Jess will read on July 25. Poet, translator, and former Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges will read with Jean Dany Joachim, a poet and playwright and adjunct professor at Bunker Hill Community College. And the festival concludes on August 29 with the presentation of the annual Golden Rose Award to Rhina P. Espaillat. All readings take place at 3 pm. They’re free, and registration is required. Visit nepoetryclub.org/events for more information and to register.
“Objects of Desire” by Claire Sestanovich (Knopf)
“Mona at Sea” by Elizabeth Gonzalez James (Santa Fe Writer’s Project)
“The Turnout” by Megan Abbott (Putnam)
Pick of the Week
Carin Pratt at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, recommends “Unsettled Ground” by Claire Fuller (Tin House): “This wonderful novel is about 51-year-old twins who live with their mother, hand-to-mouth in rural England. Their mother dies and they have to figure out how to survive. It is, to say the least, not easy. Why are they 51 and still living at home? Good question. Closely observed, wonderfully written, and intricately plotted, this book is especially for those of us who like their characters a little off plumb.”