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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Poetic comics, an arresting debut, and lines from a local lawmaker

Franklin Einspruch’s “Maenad, After a Sculpture by Fritz Klimsch.”
Franklin Einspruch’s “Maenad, After a Sculpture by Fritz Klimsch.”

Could be verse

Franklin Einspruch, a Boston-based artist and pioneer in the genre of comics poetry, is recently back from Vienna, Austria, where he spent two months as an artist-in-residence in the arts district MuseumsQuartier, having been awarded a highly competitive Fulbright fellowship, offered to one American artist each year. Einspruch calls comics poetry “a hybrid creative form that uses comics to create poetic experiences.” The project he completed in Vienna, “Regarding Th.at” is a quartet of comics poems, ranging from the haiku minimalism of “City of Weather” – which opens with the mind-widening line “All the temperatures at once” – to the longer and weightier grapple with Nazism’s history in Vienna in “Anschluss (Connection).” The exuberant, sensual “Maenad, After a Sculpture by Fritz Klimsch” throbs with the energy of the language and the lines. The paintings have the look of liquefied woodblock prints, firm and flowing at once. To slide them across your screen (the only way to experience them is online) is to be slipped into an altered frame of mood and mind. They are not funny per se, but they are not without levity – beautiful minimalist treasures in unexpected combination. To see “Regarding Th.at” visit regardingth.at.

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Where they are now

Kate McQuade’s arresting debut collection of linked short stories, “Tell Me Who We Were” (HarperCollins), out this week, follows the lives of six girls, pulled together at an all-girls boarding school where a beloved teacher drowns, and moves through time from there across decades looking at the way these women’s lives unfold, together and apart. McQuade, who teaches at Phillips Andover Academy, writes with perceptive elegance, attuned to the shifting emotional weather of her six characters. “In algebra we changed the numbers we had known our whole lives into furtive letters and poked at their ghosts,” she writes. The stories, and sentences, hold an atmosphere of haunt and mystery, as the girls are deposited into heated young adulthood and then potent womanhood. Through these women, McQuade explores the questions that have no answers, and how the threads of our lives are woven in and out of so many different tapestries. McQuade will read and discuss the book next Wednesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street.

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Naturally good

Somerville-based poet Denise Provost’s new collection of poetry Curious Peach out this month from the local Ibbetson Street Press, is deeply lodged in the seasons of New England. Provost proves herself dialed into the subtleties and complexities of each season’s personality. The “rising life” of spring “beguiles us with bright April’s pointillism.” Lilacs “pump intoxication into the air.” A late-fall early-winter description of rain not quite turning to snow exactly captures weather, wonder, mood: “The frozen rain bulks up, but remains splash;/it longs to have the elegance of sleet,/who angular, Art Deco forms have dash—” Provost also serves as a state representative for Somerville, representing the 27th Middlesex district, where she serves on committees on climate change and global warming, revenue, and higher education. And her poems express an exuberant hurrah for the natural world around us.

Coming Out

Big Cabin by Ron Padgett (Coffee House)

The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele (Algonquin)

Love Drones by Noam Dorr (Sarabande)

Pick of the Week

Sally Weitzen at Wellesley Books recommends Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike (Doubleday): “This beautifully written debut story collection explores motherhood and reproduction, ranging from miscarriage to unplanned pregnancies, as well as abortion and adoption. Whether you've been there or are going to be there, these stories will resonate deeply.”

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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.