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New England literary news

Salem native publishes award-winning debut poetry collection; Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center to hold inaugural Youth Lit Week; writer publishes new memoir of a childhood on a Rhode Island farm

yle Luckoff, author of "Call Me Max," curated Youth Lit Week at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.Luciano Luzano

Salem native publishes award-winning debut poetry collection

“So bless the smallest/ of small absurdities that turn our pain ridiculous,” writes Salem-born poet J. D. Debris in his full-length poetry debut, “The Scorpion’s Question Mark” (Autumn House), winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize and published last month. And so he does. There’s music in these poems, João Gilberto, samba, tango, a corrido beat, a sinuous texture in his lines, and the stick-and-move rhythms of boxing, too; he slips the jab with the deepest tenderness, a reverence for the time we have here. He writes of “a garden-variety goon/ with a garbled, guttural monotone/ & shriveled steroid balls.” We expect a meathead villain, preening at the gym, but “every word he spoke was praise.” Debris upends our anticipations, opens us to the wilder good. “I make no claims/ on Spirit,” he writes in a series on Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri, “But I know all songs — since the first vein/ hummed with its blue debut of blood — clamor/ & scrape toward the same canopy of stars.” Wittgenstein, Heidegger, John Edgar Wideman are in the mix, Beckett and Bertolt Brecht, Tupac, and George Foreman. And he places us immediately in his own hands when he writes, with power and humility, “What I know, I’ll tell.” Debris will read from his poetry on Wednesday, May 17, at 7 p.m., at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop, 6 Plympton St., in Harvard Square.


Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center to hold inaugural Youth Lit Week in response to book bans

This summer, in direct reaction to the dark tide of book banning washing over the country, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center — hallowed writing organization where the sidewalk ends in Massachusetts — is holding its first-ever Youth Lit Week, a series of courses on writing and illustrating picture books, YA books, and writing nonfiction for young people. Kyle Lukoff, the first trans author to win a Newbery honor book for “Call Me Max,” has curated the program. Instructors include a number of authors whose books have been swiped from public school libraries and shelves in various bans. Mike Curato, whose book “Flamer” was one of the most banned books of last year, will teach on picture book illustration; Brandy Colbert, who wrote “Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre,” will lead a course on “The Power of Nonfiction Literature for Young People: A Critique Workshop”; local author Sara Farizan will lead a workshop on writing for young readers; and Aaron Aceves, who anticipated that “This Is Why They Hate Us,” about a bisexual Chicano teen, would be banned, will teach on young adult writing. Youth Lit Week runs July 23-29, and the timing overlaps with Family Equity’s Family Week in P-town, said to be the largest gathering of LGBTQ+ families in the world. For a complete schedule, and to register, visit fawc.org.


Rowley writer publishes new memoir of a childhood on a Rhode Island farm

Rowley-based author, poet, and longtime high school English teacher Carla Panciera grew up on a farm in Westerly, R.I., on “one-hundred acres in the middle of everything and yet completely invisible,” she writes in her new book “Barnflower: A Rhode Island Farm Memoir” (Loom). In 1952, Aldo Panciera bought what would turn out to be a very famous bull, making him a very famous farmer, changing the Holstein breed. Panciera’s respect for him, and the work, is evident on each page. The book illuminates the matter-of-factness of farm life: the smells, the sicknesses, the no-vacation-days hard work of it. And it’s a portrait of childhood, too, the popsicles and puppies and family games, and the other kind of hard work of trying to make sense of the adult world and finding a place in the world. More than anything, it’s a book about the love between father and daughter. Panciera shows that the power of what’s carried in the blood remains, even after the bull has died.


Coming 0ut

“The Lost Journals of Sacajewea” by Debra Magpie Earling (Milkweed)

“Tomás Nevinson” by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Knopf)

“A Duration” by Richard Meier (Wave)

Pick of the week

Lisa Paige at Book Ends in Winchester recommends “Atomic Family” by Ciera Horton McElroy (Blair): “McElroy’s well-crafted debut novel uniquely addresses the struggles of American families under the threat of nuclear war during the 1950s and early 1960s. All three narrative voices are endearing — a feat considering how much conflict is inherent in this duck-and-cover culture. She expertly weaves together the personal and the political in a page-turner I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in complex ethical questions.”