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New England Literary News | Nina MacLaughlin

Celebrating Calderwood Courtyard; newly discovered Plath story to be published

The history of the Calderwood

Something happens to visitors when they walk into the light-filled Calderwood Courtyard at the heart of the Harvard Art Museums. Faces tilt upward toward the light as chests rise in inhale. The feeling? Uplift. Such is what architecture can do, when the play of lines — the curves, the pillars, the entryways, the arches — and the play of light combine the way they do here.

A new book tells the history of the Calderwood, how it came to be in 1927, modeled after a 16th-century house in Montepulciano, Italy, and redesigned and expanded by architect Renzo Piano in 2014. “Rhythm & Light’’ (Harvard Art Museums) pairs sharp and elegant photographs by Matthew Monteith with illuminating essays by curator Danielle Carrabino and architect Mark Carroll, with details that include a battle over what sort of stone to use — pricey travertine imported from Italy or a cheaper imitation. (A fund-raiser began; they went with the Italian stone.) Monteith’s images show movement and life, the interplay between lines, light, art, and the visitors moved by them in stirring combination.

Discovering Plath’s ‘Ninth Kingdom’

An archivist named Judith Raymo recently discovered a new and unpublished short story written by Sylvia Plath when she was a 20-year-old at Smith College. Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom will be published by Harper Perennial in the middle of next month. The story has a propulsive and fable-like force. Set on a train heading deep into some mysterious north, a young girl, deposited there by her parents, sets off on a journey that bends toward doom. The sophistication of its pace and tension, and the elegant specificity of her language both belies the young age of the writer, and demonstrates the heroic skill the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet was coming into, as well as lines of grim foreboding: “Everyone has to go away sooner or later.”


Exploring the ‘soft wallow of time’

An earthy atmosphere saturates the poems in Howard Faerstein’s recently released collection of poetry, Googootz and Other Poems’’ (Press 53). Faerstein, a retired adjunct professor, opens doors into the small secrets, the quotidian beauties. The Florence resident writes of “new moon tides,” “knots and nests,” “a colony of adder tongues,” the “soft wallow of time. Set in a northeastern landscape of marsh and highway, beach and garden, in Provincetown, Brooklyn, where he was born and raised, and Berkshire County, places where he’d “seek/ in those linen banks of egret/ a counterpoint to Hell.” Faerstein’s first collection appeared in 1977, a second about 35 years after that, and Googootz marks a welcome third.


Coming out

Mazurka for Two Dead Men’’ by Camilo José Cela, translated from the Spanish by Patricia Haugaard (New Directions)

To Describe a Life: Notes From the Intersection of Art and Race Terror’’ by Darby English (Yale)

Where I Have Never Been: Migration, Melancholia, and Memory in Asian American Narratives of Return’’ by Patricia P. Chu (Temple)

Pick of the week

Kaleigh O’Keefe of the Harvard Bookstore recommends Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems’’ by Dominique Christina (Beacon): “Maybe you’ve heard of ‘the father of modern gynecology,’ Dr. Marion Sims. It’s less likely that you’ve heard of Anarcha, or any of the other enslaved African women that Dr. Sims tortured and experimented on in order to make his gynecological discoveries (including the invention of the speculum). Inspired by the black women who led protests that incited the removal of a statue of Sims from Central Park in New York City, Christina refuses to let Anarcha continue to be confined to the footnotes of history.”


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