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New England Literary News

Spotlighting ‘Meet Scott Harney,’ ‘Do It Yourself! Self-Publishing from Letterpress to LaserJet,’ and ‘The Language of the Face: Stories of Its Uniquely Expressive Features’

A one-act play by Megan Marshall blends the life and poetry of the late Scott Harney.Megan Marshall

The life and poetry of Scott Harney in a one-act play

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall met Scott Harney in a poetry workshop taught by Robert Lowell. The two would later share their lives together until Harney’s death, at age 63, in 2019. It was only after his death that a collection of Harney’s poetry, which he’d been writing for over 30 years and tucking away in computer folders and file boxes, was published. The collection, “The Blood of San Gennaro” (Arrowsmith), reveals a poet attuned to the mystery in the quotidian; sensual, intimate, clear-eyed, melancholy, it introduces us to a man who spent his life loving. “I love this life because there is no other,/ the way I loved a girl who took me down an alley/ and let me press against her by the light/ of kitchen windows.” On April 8, Marshall will perform “Meet Scott Harney,” a one-act play she wrote that braids together Harney’s poems with stories of his childhood in Charlestown, his time at Harvard, and his experience with mantle cell lymphoma. The performance will also include David Gullette of the Poet’s Theatre, and lutenist Matthew Wright of the early music group Seven Times Salt. Poet and critic Lloyd Schwartz will lead a Q&A after the program. “Meet Scott Harney” takes place April 8 at 5 p.m. at the Bigelow Chapel at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Tickets are $25.


Creativity on display at exhibit on the history of self-publishing

There’s a rogue and renegade sense to self-publishing, a rejection of the publishing industry’s gatekeeping and decision-making, an impulse to take some control over every aspect of the creative process, whether putting out pamphlets, zines, or full-length books. An exhibit at Harvard’s Houghton Library highlights the tools, technology, and history involved with self-publishing. “Do It Yourself! Self-Publishing from Letterpress to LaserJet” traces the evolution of the practice, emphasizing the control it allows the creators. The works included — “Kew Gardens” by Virginia Woolf with woodcuts by Vanessa Bell; a manuscript by Emily Dickinson bound with twine; pages from “The Black Panther Community News Service”; Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” from the typewriter, among others — range from the lo-fi to the finest craftsmanship. And it looks at the letterpress, the typewriter, the hectograph, offset printing, the mimeo and Xerox machines, and digital print technologies. On display is a spirit of creativity, ingenuity, making do with what you have, and the risks that can be taken when one is beholden to no one. “Do It Yourself” is on view at the Houghton Library in Harvard Yard through April 21. On April 7 at 3 p.m., there’s a workshop on pamphlet-making; it’s free, but registration is required. Visit library.harvard.edu.exhibits/do-it-yourself for more information.


New book examines what the human face can say about human interiors

“The psychic agitations of our fellows — whether minor stirrings or severe, convulsive disarray — are generally undetectable to us,” writes Frank Gonzalez-Crussi. “Still, the hidden inside and the visible outside are not wholly divorced from each other.” We gather enormous amounts of information from a twitch of an eyebrow, a widening of the eye, a flaring of the nostril. How do we make sense of what a face tells us? In “The Language of the Face: Stories of Its Uniquely Expressive Features” (MIT), Gonzalez-Crussi explores how our dim interiors are expressed on our faces, through our eyes, lips, nostrils, giving a literary, artistic, medical, and historical sense of “physiognomy during the eventful history of the face-reading pseudoscience.” Gonzalez-Crussi employs a full expression of sources and draws from a range of disciplines, a “miscellaneous amassment” he calls it — stories, folk tales, science, philosophy, all of it expressed with verve, wit, and a contagious enthusiasm and curiosity. For in the face “lies embodied and supremely condensed the entire strength and vulnerability of the human condition.”


Coming out

“Buried Treasures: The Power of Political Fairy Tales” by Jack Zipes (Princeton University)

“Butter” by Gayl Jones (Beacon)

“Immanuel” by Matthew McNaught (Fitzcarraldo)

Pick of the week

Sarah Shahzad at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, recommends “Hot Stew” by Fiona Mozley (Algonquin): “Mozley splits the narrative into several first-person accounts, each character representing a particular stratum of the city’s densely packed social structure, but even as they are far removed from each other in socioeconomic terms, there is the constant sense that while you view the world through one character, another is likely to be perched a few bar stools down. Dense and richly detailed, “Hot Stew” is one of the most rewarding novels I’ve read this year.”