New England Literary News | Nina MacLaughlin

On the Seawall’s digital rebirth; a Nigerian poet writes the laments of his mother, grandmother

Poet D.M. Aderibigbe
Poet D.M. Aderibigbe(Shilpi Suneja)

A ‘community gallery’ grows

Quincy-born and Milton-based poet, writer, biotech start-upper Ron Slate launched a website called On the Seawall back in 2007 as a repository for his commentary. Over time, the site grew and evolved into a book review site.

Recently, the old code started to collapse, and instead of letting it crumble, Slate decided to expand his corner of the Internet, and On the Seawall now lives as a full-blown literary magazine, featuring poetry, commentary, reviews, art, and new writing. “On The Seawall is a community gallery for new writing and commentary during a time of emergency. (There always is, and there always has been, an emergency),” Slate, father of comedian Jenny Slate, notes on the site.


Recently the On the Seawall featured poems by Randall Mann, Robert Wrigley, and Leah Umansky; flash fiction by Adrianne Harun; flash memoir by Joanna Penn Cooper; reviews of Marina Benjamin’s “Insomnia’’ and Victoria Patterson’s “The Secret Habit of Sorrow.’’ The site is a smart, timely, wide-ranging gathering of voice and perspectives, with an eye toward work in translation and literature that pushes at all sorts of boundaries.

Odes to strong women

The poems in Nigerian poet D.M. Aderibigbe’s debut collection, How The End First Showed,’’ out this month from University of Wisconsin Press, where it won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, center around his mother, his grandmother. They are odes to these women and bottomless laments for the physical abuse they suffered. Aderibigbe, grew up in Lagos and got his MFA in poetry at Boston University, and this collection is a sinewy, frank, and luminous examination of violence and love, a reckoning with what was and what could be. “I’ll rewrite my childhood./ Amputating my father’s hands/ and legs with ink, like rebels/ chop innocuous civilians.” Poetry becomes a means of power, tribute, sense-making. There is brutality here, and pure beauty as well. Aderibigbe will read and discuss the collection on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at Harvard Book Store, and Dec. 11 at noon at the Dudley Café in Roxbury.


The right type

Tom Holbrook, owner of Portsmouth, N.H.’s independent, estimable RiverRun Bookstore, is kind of a literary conglomerate. Holbrook has a background in bicycle repair, which is serving him well in one of the bookstore’s side-businesses: repairing and selling old typewriters. Holbrook stores a bunch of machines in his basement, cleaning and repairing them for display and sale, not just as antique relics and vintage curios but as well-oiled tools for a different type of writing. The bookstore is also home to the independent publishing concern Piscataqua Press, named for the nearby river. Authors pay to have their books published (with some exceptions), and Holbrook notes that right now the publishing business is actually more robust than the book-selling, but RiverRun remains at the heart of it all.

Coming out

“Duppies’’ by D.S. Marriott (Commune)

The Day the Sun Died’’ by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Grove)

Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra, translated from the Spanish by Achy Obejas (Melville House)

Pick of the week

Emma Ramadan at RiffRaff Bookstore in Providence recommendsSuite for Barbara Loden’’ by Nathalie Léger: “This singular book is the result of the author being commissioned to write a short encyclopedia entry about Barbara Loden and the urgent, spiraling obsession with the subject that quickly consumed her.”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at