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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Performing hallucinatory poetry; Nantucket book fest highlights

Janaka Stucky in the Black Ocean studio.
Janaka Stucky in the Black Ocean studio.

Stucky presents new poetry book

Janaka Stucky: mystic, poet, impresario. He worked as an undertaker for nearly a decade, co-founded the Guerilla Poets and Black Cat Burlesque, is a twice-over National Haiku champion, runs Black Ocean Press in Somerville, and on June 13 at 6 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, he’ll be presenting his new book of poetry, “Ascend Ascend” as a multidisciplinary performance.

The work is being released by Third Man Books, the publishing arm of musician Jack White’s record label of the same name. Stucky says he wrote the book-length poem over 20 days in a 100-year-old church as he went in and out of trance states. It is steeped in soil, rot, stardust, moonlight, the dissolution of the self, and “heartblood pouring from a ram horn/ On the pubic shadow of the earth.” Part prayer, part yowl, part spell, it’s grounded in the ancient and the occult.

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Tickets for the event are $19.25 with book included, $6 without.

Nantucket Book Fest

A number of authors will make their way to the Faraway Island this weekend for the eighth annual Nantucket Book Festival, which runs June 13-16. For the Friday evening celebration, Madeline Miller (“Circe”), Ben Fountain (“Beautiful Country Burn Again”), and Dave Cullen (“Parkland”) try to answer the question: “How Can We Write When Everything’s Wrong?” Throughout the weekend, there will be discussions, readings, signings, and chances to clink glasses with authors. The line-up includes Esi Edugyan (“Washington Black”), Alex Marzano-Lesnevich (“The Fact of a Body”), Rebecca Makkai (“The Great Believers”), Susan Orlean (“The Library Book”), Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Circuit”), Neel Patel (“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi”), Elliot Ackerman (“Waiting for Eden”), Jill Abramson (“Merchants of Truth”), and a number of others. Most of the events are free; some are ticketed. For more information and a complete schedule, visit nantucketbookfestival.org.

Stories from a Yankee writer

Longtime Yankee Magazine contributor Geoffrey Douglas’s new book, “The Grifter, the Poet, and the Runaway Train: Stories from a Yankee Writer’s Notebook ” (Globe Pequot) gathers 17 pieces he’s written for the magazine over the years, covering a range of terrain, from the schisms facing a remote Maine island with 60 inhabitants, a Worcester fire that consumed six firefighters in 1999, two New Hampshire linemen working in the aftermath of a massive ice storm, Somali refugees making a home and a life in Lewiston, Me., a thwarted school shooting in New Bedford. The pieces are peopled with regular folks who’ve landed, by choice or circumstance, in higher stakes circumstances. And in this swath of humanity, Douglas, in sharp-eyed prose, addresses the more universal conditions, fortitude, resignation, grief, and hope.

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Coming out

“Maafa” by Harmony Holiday (Fence)

“Superior: The Return of Race Science” by Angela Saini (Beacon)

“BTTM FDRS” by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore (Fantagraphics)

Pick of the week

Mwahaki King at Papercuts J.P. in Jamaica Plain recommends “Things To Make and Break” by May-Lan Tan (Coffee House): “Tan’s writing has a lyrical, visceral quality that sinks its teeth into the very core of your emotions and doesn’t let go. An unabashed look at contemporary romance, this is a short-story collection you don’t want to miss.”

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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.

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