Tales in verse
The animals in Mikko Harvey’s poems are the outside ones — the actual walruses, penguins, ladybugs — and the inside ones — the ones that make our hearts beat faster, that hunger, and long, and fear. In his smart-hearted and spirited new collection, “Let the World Have You” (House of Anansi), Harvey writes poems as stories, as fairy tales, as fabulist moments with reality on slant. In one, no one volunteers to be mayor, so the librarian releases a yellow lizard named Harold, “a cousin of consciousness” to choose. In another, a bear offers vitamin B and ashwagandha tonics from his case. For their playfulness, their good humor (how difficult it is to pull off funny in a poem, how refreshing when it’s done!), there’s a darkness throbbing at the center of these poems, as there is with fairy tales. Our hidden selves remain largely incomprehensible, and it’s these hidden selves that Harvey re-introduces us to, reminding us of the one inside ourselves, the ones inside everyone and everything else. The language is forceful in its simplicity — ”you never / really know / what’s what / when it / comes to / this planet” — conversational, and wallops with deep, intimate truth: “There is a footbridge / in a forest / almost no one / ever crosses. / The human mind is the moss / growing on its stonework. / I wish / I told / you the truth more.” There’s magic here, a towering and welcoming imagination, the best kind, the kind that takes your hand into strange places, knows that fear makes sense, and helps you see what’s here.
“Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good.” So Edgar Allan Poe sums up Boston, his native city, one he had a contentious relationship with. “The Bostonians have no soul,” he continued. This weekend, April 7-10, Boston will host the fifth international Edgar Allan Poe conference, “Poe Takes Boston!”, at the Omni Parker House, a culmination of meetings that began in 1999 hosted in cities where Poe lived — Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and now the city where the writer was born. Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson is the weekend’s guest of honor and keynote speaker. And the conference will include a number of discussions and panels on how Poe’s relationship to science, his connection to Boston, how African American writers have responded to him, Poe and Lolita, “Poisoned and Possessed: Neuroscience and the Animate Body in Hawthorne and Poe,” and “Female Bodies and Male Fears in Poe and Hawthorne.” The conference will bring more than 100 scholars from around the world, for events both in person and online. Paul Lewis, an English professor at Boston College, and immediate past president of the Poe Studies Association, says that “Poe may well be the most memorialized author in the city of Boston,” citing monuments and plaques in five locations, with another in the works for the likely site of Poe’s birth at 62 Charles St.
A new bookshop
A new independent bookstore is coming to Chestnut Hill. Hummingbird Books, founded by Boston-area native Wendy Dodson, will open this spring at The Street Chestnut Hill, an open-air shopping center. Dodson, who also owns Valley Bookstore in Jackson Hole, Wyo., will run the store alongside Andrea Chiang, Clarissa Murphy, and Rachel Walerius. The store will feature a large children’s section, as well as fiction and nonfiction by local, national, and international authors. The centerpiece of the store is a custom-made tree installation called the Great Oak Tree, serving as a gathering space for events, and a place for readers to dip into their next book. The store will also sell gifts, candy, and cards, and will host story times and signings, with a particular focus on local authors. For more information, visit hummingbirdbooks.com.
“Paradise Close” by Lisa Russ Spaar (Persea)
“Private Notebooks 1914-1916″ by Ludwig Wittgenstein, translated by Marjorie Perloff (Liveright)
“In Praise of Good Bookstores” by Jeff Deutsch (Princeton University)
Pick of the Week
Zoey Walls at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge recommends “Dreaming of You” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (Astra House): “This book revealed itself in a fever dream, a moment before dying! This book kissed my face and covered me in its blood! This book crawled into my bed at night and laid eggs under my skin! Tender and funny and relatable even if you’re not into ‘reading’ or ‘books’ or ‘poetry’ or ‘necromancy,’ ‘Dreaming of You’ is living and vivid and hideous and sweet and fearful and lovely.”