Rhythms of Maine
Julie Bouwsma, who lives off the grid in the mountains of Western Maine, was recently named the Poet Laureate of Maine. She’s the sixth poet to receive the five-year position. Her second collection of poetry, “Midden” (Fordham University), was published in 2018, won the Maine Literary Award, and excavates the troubled history of a place called Malaga Island and its mixed-race population of 40 people that mainland Mainers evicted from the island in 1912 and had many institutionalized. It’s a haunted, haunting collection, and Bouwsma is deeply attuned to the Maine landscape — the mudflats, the brambles, the blackberries — and what lives beneath the surface of things. Bouwsma has said that homesteading — growing her own food, raising hens and pigs, harvesting firewood, living in a solar powered home — has fed her poetry. The natural rhythms and shifts, as well as the severity of Maine’s seasons, are richly detailed in her work. As her role as poet laureate, she’ll work to celebrate poetry in the state, and especially in its rural reaches. She’ll also be co-hosting a radio show called “Poems from Here” on Maine Public’s radio station, alongside other Maine poets. And for a poem included in Maine’s Bicentennial Time Capsule, to be opened in 100 years, she wrote: “We lived here at the edge of the old rituals . . . Does it still snow hard enough to swallow your footsteps in light? / Do you drink sap each spring, boil your sorrow into new waft and gold?”
MIT reading series
The MIT Press, in collaboration with the MIT Press Bookstore, and the MIT Libraries, has launched a new in-person event series this spring called authors@mit. The series begins this Thursday, March 24, at 4 pm, with Maia Weinstock, author of the new book “Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus.” Weinstock, the deputy editorial director at MIT news, is a lecturer at MIT on the history of women in STEM, as well as the creator of LEGO’s “Women of NASA” line. Hers is the first biography of Dresselhaus, who died in 2017, who faced mountains of gender discrimination in her early career, going on to identify key carbon properties, leading to stronger aircraft and more energy-efficient electronics. The series continues on April 6 with Wendy Fischman and Howard Gardner discussing “The Real World of College: What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be.” And on May 10, Robert Buderi will discuss his new book delving into the singular energy and atmosphere of Kendall Square in “Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub.” The free readings will be held at the Nexus in MIT’s Hayden Library. For more information, visit mitpress.mit.edu.
Books for Black kids
Early child educator Brianna Perkins didn’t get into reading until she started finding books that reflected her experience. In the summer of 2020, as Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country and the world, and as people started to wake up to the importance of Black representation, Perkins created an Instagram page to share kids’ books by Black authors or that featured Black protagonists. The page, Lit for Black Kids, now closing in on 20k followers, took off, and she expanded the project to include an online bookstore out of her home in Waltham. Besides the online bookshop, her website also features directories for Black authors and Black illustrators, and a page of resources directing people to local (ReadBoston, 826 Boston) and national (The Conscious Kid, Learning for Justice) organizations and programs that support and celebrate reading and social justice. For more information, visit litforblackkids.com or @litforblack kids on Instagram.
“The Town of Babylon” by Alejandro Varela (Astra House)
“Monarch” by Candice Wuehle (Soft Skull)
“Portrait of an Unknown Lady” by María Gainza, translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead (Catapult)
Pick of the week
Emily Murtagh at Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine, recommends “Pretty as a Picture” by Elizabeth Little (Penguin): “It’s an enjoyable feminist take on the procedural page-turner, but what I loved most about this book is how much I learned about the process of film editing and how a movie gets made. It’s fun and fresh, so if you’re looking for a new mystery to try, this is a good one.”