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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Writing poetry inspired by paintings; a journalist’s cancer memoir; a Peace First primer

Poet and literary performer Regie Gibson.

Poetry in the galleries

Inspiration takes many forms — the right slant of light on a late September afternoon, a fragment of conversation overheard on the street, the fading notes of a song.  To that end, Mass Poetry is running Poets in the Galleries this fall, a series of Wednesday workshops from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hosted by local poets the programs will invite participants to write verse based on specific exhibits. Poet and literary performer Regie Gibson, author of  Storms Beneath the Skin” and featured on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” starts things off in the “French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault” exhibit, beginning Sept. 5, and every Wednesday in September. Kathi Aguero, author of “Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth,” “After That,” and five other collections, will hold court in the “Claes Oldenburg: Shelf Life” exhibit for October. Krysten Hill, who wrote the chapbook How Her Spirit Got Out,” will lead workshops in the “Murder in Miniature: The Nutshells Studies of Unexplained Death” exhibit beginning Oct. 31 and running through November.

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Reclaiming her body after cancer

Women’s health journalist Catherine Guthrie of Somerville has written a lot about breast cancer. But all of her reporting offered little comfort when she was diagnosed with it at age 38. She tells the story in her arresting, candid, and smart new memoir Flat: Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer’’ (Skyhorse), where she details the challenges and horrors of her experience with the illness. Many of these involve failures: the surgeon who missed getting the actual tumor during her double mastectomy; the reliable drug treatment that proved unreliable; the physician whose misstep released millions of cancerous cells into her bloodstream. With tenderness and forthrightness, she also examines how the cancer altered the relationship with her partner, Mary, as well as with her own body. “Flat’’ will be released Sept. 25 in advance of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Guthrie will do a soft launch reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge this Friday at 7 pm.

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Primer for young peace activists

Boston resident Eric David Dawson started Peace First in his college dorm room, and it’s since grown to an international nonprofit that gives small grants and mentorship to young people who propose solutions to injustice in their communities. His new book, out last month, Putting Peace First: 7 Commitments to Change the World’’ (Viking), is an impassioned and clear-sighted primer for young activists. Each chapter focuses on a commitment — putting peace first every day, taking a stand, working with your enemies, opening your heart — and ends with ways to put the commitments into action. It’s a powerful and necessary resource, one that emphasizes the truth that kids aren’t just the future; they’re also the present.

Coming out

A Cruelty Special to Our Species’’ by Emily Jungmin Yoon (Ecco)

Ponti’’  by Sharlene Tao (Simon and Schuster )

She Would Be King’’  by Wayétu Moore (Graywolf)

Pick of the week

Courtney Flynn at the recently reopened Trident Booksellers and Café in Boston, recommends American War’’ by Omar El Akkad (Knopf): “America has embarked on a bitter second Civil War over the use of fossil fuels. Climate change has eroded the coasts, forcing the capitol to relocate from D.C. to Ohio. The South secedes in rebellion, and a bloody war ensues. We follow a Louisiana family who ends up in a refugee camp and later entwined in the rebels’ cause. A fascinating read that will make everyone stop and think about what’s going to happen to the world as we know it.”

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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.