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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

Poetry collection on Emmett Till; NEA awards local fellowships; Candlewick Press books receive honors

A roundup of literary news and events from around the region

Poet January Gill O'Neil's new collection, "Glitter Road," reckons with desire and history.John Andrews

New collection by Beverly poet centers on Emmett Till

The poems in January Gill O’Neil’s new collection, “Glitter Road” (CavanKerry), deal with the matter-of-fact meat of the world: a busted sump pump, peeper frogs announcing the spring, sugar on the floor, and behind each line hum the mysteries of time and desire. In a series of poems that center on Emmett Till, the Black 14-year-old boy lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman, O’Neil considers what happens when certain stories aren’t told, when dust blows off a field of collective forgetting. Three iterations of the Till memorial in Glendora, MS, had been shot, stolen, tossed in the river, “refusing us the comfort of leaving/ the past in the past.” The past is not the past, these poems impress; it’s right here with us, whispering, clawing, singing, making itself known in our bodies. “What’s left stays with me, unearthed.” At the collapsing grocery where the alleged whistle happened, O’Neil wonders “If these half-walls could talk, what half-truths would they tell?” Elsewhere she reminds us, “Everything/ has a form, even doubt.” There’s warmth and play here, too, the mythical and mystical born out of a headline: “Inside every snake is a woman. That’s the part of me I love the most —/ reticulated constrictor, word made flesh, time unfolding, lore or legend.” There’s loneliness in this book, the demands and sorrow of aging, and at the heated core of it, the power required, and the power that results when one begins again. And O’Neil savors the good stuff, too: the sanctity of tasting the sauce before sharing the meal, the long-distance laugh, an openness to the daily miracles, “your mouth made to amaze/ as I climb a trellis into the wild familiar.”

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Local writers and translators receive National Endowment for the Arts fellowships

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced its creative writing and translator fellows for 2024. Locally, fellows include: Christopher Castellani, author most recently of “Leading Men,” on the faculty of the Warren Wilson MFA program, and currently writer-in-residence at Brandeis; John Fulton, author of “Flounder and Other Stories” and director of the MFA program at UMass Boston; Alexis Lathem, author of poetry collection “Alphabet of Bones,” who lives on a small farm in Vermont; and Elizabeth Rush, author of “The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth” and “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore,” who teaches creative non-fiction at Brown and lives in Providence. Fellows receive $25,000 to “create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers.” And artistic excellence is the sole criterion. Translation fellows receive $10,000-$20,000 and locally, these translators were awarded fellowships: Mark Schafer of Roxbury, who’ll be working on translating fiction by Cuban author Virgilio Piñera to be published by New York Review Books; Paul Olchváry of Williamstown, Mass, will be working on the translation of the Hungarian memoir “Private Affair” by Aliz Halda; Daisy Rockwell, based in Vermont, will be translating the Nisar Aziz novel “The Traveler Wandered from Town to Two” from the Urdu.

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Candlewick Press books honored at 2024 ALA Youth Media Awards

Somerville-based children’s book publisher Candlewick Press recently had books honored at the 2024 American Library Association Youth Media Awards. M. T. Anderson received a Newbery Honor, recognizing “the most distinguished contributions to American literature for children,” for “Elf Dog and Owl Head,” a middle-grade fantasy book. Kenneth M. Cadow received a Michael L. Printz Honor, awarded to the best book written for teens, for his debut novel “Gather.” The Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, which recognizes the excellence of an emerging artist, went to Mukodiri Uchendu for “We Could Fly.” And Carole Boston Weatherford received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for “How Do You Spell Unfair: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee.”

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Coming out

“Wrong Norma” by Anne Carson (New Directions)

“Love Novel” by Ivana Sajko, translated from the Croatian by Mima Simic (Biblioasis)

“Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth” by Ingrid Robeyns (Astra House)

Pick of the week

Douglas Riggs of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, recommends “Ganbare!: Workshops on Dying” by Katarzyna Boni, translated from the Polish by Mark Ordon (Open Letter): “A Polish writer dredges through what was lost in the Japanese ‘triple disaster’ of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and the fallout from the catastrophic damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Above all this is a story of resiliency, but some of the more fascinating sections involve what lingers, how people, towns, and communities stumble forward, fractured forever. A remarkable document of a tragedy that is somehow very modern and deeply old all at once.”