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The intimacy of home in Maine-based poet’s new collection; anthology of teenage art and literature reflects on fears and dreams; short story collection focuses on selves and their projections

The 826 Boston Youth Literary Advisory Board.

The intimacy of home in Maine-based poet’s new collection

“A good house is a used place/ turned over and passed on/ a place of winter noons/ layered like the cemetery/ with strange names.” So writes Maine-based Franco-American poet Jeri Theriault in her latest collection, “Self-Portrait as Homestead” (Deerbrook). These are poems of houses, of the places lived in that live in us, and they draw from Theriault’s upbringing in Waterville, Maine. “Fences tilt toward the river like thirsty horses/ and houses lean/ toward one another shrugging as if to say/ it’s pretty good here. It’s okay.” There’s a resignation here, and a sense, too, of resistance against the reins, of knowing one’s place and wondering, at the same time, what else? What more? Here, the house is the home, the house is the body, and Theriault wrestles with its limits, its time-wornness, its continuation in the attics of memory, in the ocean of memory. She writes of the factories where her ancestors worked, where they “inhaled dirt and weed killer,” and about the “stories exhaled” when breathing was dangerous, “all of them makers/ of their own lives.” There’s a force and delicacy to Theriault’s language, a precision of sound and meaning, as when we read the phrase “moth-soft dusk” and know the exactness of the time; in three words she captures its total sensory experience. As a whole, the book, though rooted in a specific time, place, and culture, speaks to the intimate world of our domestic lives. “I want so much from the past and isn’t a house a harbinger/ of future endings?”


Anthology of teenage art and literature reflects on fears and dreams

Earlier this year, the Youth Literary Advisory Board of 826 Boston, the writing and literacy organization, put out a call for submissions from Boston high school students on the theme of giving a look at what’s churning and burning in the minds of teenagers right now. The resulting anthology, “Coming Up for Air: Reflections from the Teenage Mind” (826 Boston), is a powerful and varied portal into the questions, enthusiasms, fears, and dreams of people on the cusp of adulthood. Oriana Dunker writes of the moment a song on the throwback station conjures the image of her mom as a 16-year-old girl, “and she reminded me of myself.” These are works of people navigating their way into a new phase and a new world, in the potent and fraught in-between. “How do I explain to my life that I am preparing to live it?” asks Blessing Oyakhire. There’s darkness here, and discouragement, as when Miracle Ebbi laments a lack of change: “Nobody wants a woman to succeed in this society. . . . Who can change these societal norms when they can’t even change themselves?” The book, in poetry, prose, and artwork, holds an enormous amount of wisdom, too. Mariam Joumal writes, “I say focus on your body since it knows what’s wrong/ My mind should take notes from my body while my heart watches.”


Short story collection focuses on selves and their projections

John Fulton’s new collection of short stories, “The Flounder” (Blackwater), explores the tug between who we are and who we tell ourselves we are. An old woman with a collection of her loved ones’ hair and teeth and ashes plays piano as a younger couple battles and reconciles. A grandson watches as his dying grandfather gets held up at gunpoint. A man looks at the boy inside himself and sees the boy’s Charles Mansonian fears alive in him still now. Fulton, the director of the MFA program at UMass Boston, excels at capturing the big wounds and the minor gripes, the intimacies, the betrayals, the grave dissatisfactions, and the rare, quiet moments of solace, connection, and grace. There are ghosts in these stories, not footless haunters, but of memory, forces that hover in the offstages of our minds that we can’t see or name but live in us, raising the unanswerable questions that wake us in the night.


Coming out

“Small Worlds” by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Grove)

“Nothing Special” by Nicole Flattery (Bloomsbury)

“The Librarianist” by Patrick DeWitt (Ecco)

Pick of the week

Kate F. at Trident Booksellers in Boston recommends “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” (Picador): “Dr. Brittney Cooper writes in compelling, sometimes-colloquial, sometimes-academic language that makes for an engaging and digestible read. She combines personal experience with race theory and historical context to create a nuanced picture of how Black women experience race in America. Ultimately she suggests that women’s ‘rage’ can be a powerful tool not only in dismantling patriarchy, but in building something new. The book deals with race, gender, and religion, seeking to redefine feminism as intersectional.”