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New England Literary News

Spotlighting ‘Boston in Transit,’ ‘Our Kingdom,’ the MacDowell artist residency’s 10th executive director, and more

A new book details the history of transportation in Boston. Here, a photograph of Sullivan Square from 1901.Steven Beaucher

A history of the T and beyond in new book by Lowell native

Steven Beaucher took the commuter rail from Lowell into Boston as a teenager, thrilled by swifting away from the suburbs and into the city, his mind humming with questions about how people were moved around in the urban environment: How old is the trolley, when was this station built, what’s that old map with unrecognizable names? He went to get a degree in architecture, and later launched WardMaps, an antique map and transit artifact business. As he was running the store, people often asked him about a history of transportation in Boston; none existed, so Beaucher wrote one himself. In his lively and enlightening new book, “Boston in Transit: Mapping the History of Public Transportation in The Hub” (MIT), Beachuer tracks the ways transportation in Boston has shifted and evolved over its history, from 1630 to today. Packed with hundreds of images — charts, maps, archival photos, diagrams, ticket stubs, tokens — the book explores design, costs, challenges, disasters, failures, and forward movement. This thorough, deeply researched book will speak to people interested in infrastructure, in urban planning, in the evolution of how we get from one place to another, or to anyone who’s rattled along on the Red Line and wondered: How long have these tunnels been here? Or: Why is the Red line red?


New poetry collection celebrates the connections of nature

Poet Eleni Sikelianos writes of the strands that glow between us all, human and human, human and tree, the orchid and the bee; and the ignition that brought us to be on this sensual earth, in all its chaos and slick, in its varied and echoing forms. In “Our Kingdom” (Coffee House), her 10th collection of poetry, Sikelianos writes of “our animal siblings,” and how “we all passed through roots and branches of the same tree, beginning somewhere with a few molecules combusting. You share 70% of your DNA with zebrafish.” We are not so different, and what was still lives in our very cells. “The rugged sex life of the hermaphroditic banana slug, nipping/ at its partners current penis (later, its vagina) in a liquid crystal slime/ has little to do with you yet you/ can watch it and wonder at the structure/ of your own snot’s likeness to its plural wetnesses.” And what role does language play? “As soon as a bear/ crept out of a word, a word/ did its work/ to erase the bear.” In these tender, physical poems, Sikelianos, who lives in Providence and teaches at Brown, gives the animal in us back to us, offers us roots, and a gentle chance to remember our kinship with the salamander as we all go on evolving. Sikelianos will read from her work at Trident Books in Boston on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m.


MacDowell artist colony hires new executive director

MacDowell, the first artist residency in the country, which has been hosting artists, architects, composers, filmmakers, and writers and poets since 1907 in Peterborough, N.H., recently announced the hiring of a new executive director. Chiwoniso Kaitano, originally from Zimbabwe, attended law school at the London School of Economics and received a master’s in international affairs from Columbia; she has been named the 10th person to lead the organization since its founding. Kaitano will work to propel MacDowell’s creative mission and widen access for artists. MacDowell “pioneered the radical but simple idea that artists would benefit greatly from immersion in a multi-disciplinary community of exceptionally talented peers where intellectual exchange and ideal working conditions are the norm.” Kaitano, who formerly led the global NGO Girl Be Heard as well as the Brooklyn-based arts organization Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, will start her new role at MacDowell later this month.


Coming out

“Monstrilio” by Gerardo Sámano Córdova (Zando)

“The Forest: A Fable of America in the 1830s” by Alexander Nemerov (Princeton)

“The Fifth Wound” by Aurora Mattia (Nightboat)

Pick of the week

Lauren Anderson at Possible Futures in New Haven recommends “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh): “Loving son, enthusiastic sports fan, master gardener, gentle spirit, and unshakable optimist, Gay somehow always manages to find new ways to put the human heart on the page. These poems cover all manner of things for which to be grateful, including ripe figs, friends, feet, and even, “dear reader, you, for staying here with me…” These poems call us to slow down, breathe deeply, and shine light on the beauty all around, even, especially, in dark times.”