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New England Literary News

An enchanted debut, a new poetry collection, and the Concord Festival of Authors celebrates its 30th anniversary

Jasmine Sawers retells and remakes fairy tales in their debut.

Enchanted stories

Fairy tales stir something in the blood. They hit the deep places and they stay there, for their simplicity, their morality, their bewitching figures, their enchanting situations, but especially for their darkness and their brutality. In their debut book, “The Anchored World,” out this month from the local Rose Metal Press, Jasmine Sawers has made a collection of new-old fairy tales. There are whispers of the stories from the Western European tradition: “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rapunzel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” as well as reimaginings of tales from Thailand (Sawers’s mother is from Thailand; their father is a white American). Sawers’s short tales are beguiling, electric, personal, universal. There is magic here, a rich sensuality — “With hands and lips she mapped each graduation, each publication, each love letter, each reunion with a friend, each infatuation, each perfectly executed batch of scones” — and, as Sawers puts it “universal human failings.” In various forms — lists, directions, confessions, real estate propaganda — they make new myths, ones that carry questions of history and identity, of the inside-outside divide, what we absorb: the stories, the violence, the cruelty, the different kinds of love. “She slips into a sealskin/donkeyskin/goatskin and is a girl no longer. She is the pastoral backdrop. She is chewing cud. She is elevator music.” Sawers’s prose is lyrical and rhythmic, and simultaneously carries a timeless, otherworldly tone and is landed in the now.


Verses of dailiness

There’s a peculiar matter-of-factness about the poems of Somerville-based poet David Blair, who teaches at the University of New Hampshire. His claims and observations make you know the things you didn’t know you knew: “Things you do with rocks can be more/ comforting than things done with mud.” His latest collection, “True Figures” (MadHat), gathers poems and prose poems of the last nearly 25 years, and taken as a whole, the book has a nighttime feel, intimate, alert, awake to “eerie remnants” and the Morse code of “men, women, women, men, women,/ women, men, men, men, women, women.” The work gives a conspiratorial sense, that we’re in on the secret, in on the laugh, in on the weirdo mysteries of being alive. “Cool night waits in the plush seat of the car with the motor running in the rain until finally it is steakhouse weather, and there are unreflective settings.” These pieces open us in their grinning openness, in moments of vulnerability — “I am sorry/ for feigning/ personhood/ so many times/ before I was one” — and warm candor — “I don’t mind if people talk about actual [expletive]/ because life is earthy.”


A literary fest in Concord

The Concord Festival of Authors celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with nearly 40 events to choose from opening this Thursday, Oct. 13, and running through the end of the month. Gregory Maguire, Concordian and author of “Wicked,” kicks off the event on Thursday at 7 p.m. On Friday evening, professor Robert A. Gross will discuss the Minutemen and Transcendentalists as he came to know in archival research. Saturday brings local author Gary Entwistle discussing his novel of the Revolutionary War. On Saturday evening, the Ruth Ratner Miller Memorial Award for Excellence in American History will be awarded to Princeton professor Sean Wilentz. On Sunday, join LR Berger, Mark Pawlak, and Aidan Rooney for poetry at the Manse, presented by the New England Poetry Club. Annie Brewster and Lara Wilson will lead a writing workshop on healing stories on Sunday afternoon, and later Brewster will discuss the healing power of stories. Throughout the festival, join a daily tour on history and memory of Concord’s North Bridge. Highlights from the rest of the month include appearances by poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sy Montgomery, Yung Pueblo, and Rajani LaRocca; a nature writing workshop; a keynote talk by Alan Lightman; a breakfast with the authors event; as well as performances and tours. For more information and a complete schedule, visit


Coming out

The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Familyby Kerri K. Greenidge (Liveright)

A Horse at Night: On Writingby Amina Cain (Dorothy)

The Visible Unseenby Andrea Chapela, translated from the Spanish by Kelsi Vanada (Restless)

Pick of the week

Alyssa Raymond at Copper Dog Books in Beverly recommends “The Keeper of Night” by Kylie Lee Baker (Inkyard): “This 1890s historical fantasy about a half-British Reaper, half-Japanese Shinigami soul collector is delightfully fresh, dark, thrilling, and immersive, seamlessly weaving magic, mythology, and adventure with a profound exploration of biracial identity, racism, belonging, resilience, and courage. Sequel now, please!”

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