Korean poetry published in Boston
The potent, independent Boston-based publisher Black Ocean has recently published, “Grotesque Weather and Good People,” the debut English translation of a collection of poems by award-winning Korean poet Lim Solah. Translated by Olan Munson and Oh Eunkyung, the book is part of Black Ocean’s “Moon Country” series which publishes English translations of contemporary Korean poetry. Solah investigates her many selves in present-day Seoul, the different ways we are reflected, cast shadows, wonder. “Me inside the window, me outside the window. We can finally disappear.” Hers are lines of forceful simplicity, not so much plainspoken as distilled and vibrating with a mysterious ache. She writes of rain on glass, of boiled pork, rice bowls, black soy beans, and rotting things. “Apricot blossoms are terrifying. They rot black overnight.” She captures a contradictory sense of stillness within all the movement, the discomfiting knowledge that time can feel stopped and hurtling forward at once. “Living is scarier than dying.” Munson and Eunkyung’s translation emphasizes the “object-like” nature of Solah’s grammatical self, the play between subjecthood and objecthood. And Solah captures, in perhaps the most direct and accurate way I’ve ever read, the fear of the writer: “I’m afraid because I have nothing to say. / I’m afraid that I might find something to say.”
Writers for causes
In June 2020, local author Lise Haines, wanting to fight against racial injustice, teamed up with five other local writers — Jessica Keener, Elizabeth Searle, Rosie Sultan, Michelle Hoover, and Delia Cabe — and started a fund-raiser through Facebook with the tag #WritersAgainstRacialInjustice, hoping to raise $10,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative, which fights against racial and economic injustice. They ended up raising almost $65,000. After that, they ran another short fund-raiser to support When We All Vote, a nonpartisan initiative created by Michelle Obama to increase election participation. Earlier this month, in response to the news about the threat of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the group ran another short fund-raiser, Writers for Women’s Reproductive Rights, raising more than $8,500 for Planned Parenthood. The effectiveness of their campaigns has motivated them to keep going, under the name “Writers for ___,” with various social justice causes filling in the blank, with the rallying cry “Let’s turn our outrage to action and advocacy” driving them along. They’ll select new causes in the future with the hope that the success of their efforts — they’ve now raised over $100,000 for their causes — might inspire others toward similar small-group fund-raising.
Awards for New England lit groups
The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced its second round of grants for this year, awarding a total of $91 million to organizations around the country. More than $1.5 million will go to literary arts organizations. Of the 77 literary arts organizations awarded grants, five are based in New England. The Boston Book Festival, with Gina Gagliano as its new executive director, will receive $15,000. Grub Street, the independent writing center occupying its sleek new space on Boston’s waterfront, will receive $35,000. Mass Poetry, which has been doing powerful work throughout the pandemic, will receive $12,000. In Farmington, Conn., the Hill-Stead Museum, which has been running the annual Sunken Garden Poetry Festival for 30 years, will receive $10,000. And in Portland, Maine, the Telling Room, a literary arts education program that empowers young writers ages 6 to 18, will receive $10,000.
“Greenland” by David Santos Donaldson (Amistad)
“Mother Ocean Father Nation” by Nishant Batsha (Ecco)
“The Midcoast” by Adam White (Hogarth)
Pick of the Week
Douglas Riggs at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “Animal Wife” by Lara Ehrlich (Red Hen): “What kinds of hunger are acceptable? In what ways are domesticity, motherhood, or even femininity itself damning? Also, wouldn’t it be cool to transform into a deer? These short stories are AMAZING.”