In 1971, at the Plough and Stars, a small, dark bar in Central Square, the literary magazine Ploughshares was born, founded by Peter O’Malley and DeWitt Henry. For the last 50 years, the magazine has been working to publish work “that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in art.” On October 21 at 7 pm, they’re celebrating half a century of existence with a virtual reception with writers Aimee Bender, Jamel Brinkley, Laura van den Berg, Tom Perrotta, Mario Alberto Zambrano, Don Lee, and others. Tiered ticket prices range from $25 to $500, with a range of additional perks depending on price, including mugs, subscriptions, tote bags, and access to other Ploughshares-related events and archives. In 2016, in advance of this milestone, they established the Ploughshares Anniversary Fund and set a $1.5 million goal which will allow the journal to pay their contributors in perpetuity. They’re 90% there, and a portion of the 50th anniversary event ticket sales will go towards this fund. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit pshares.org/50thcelebration.
Bookstores say ‘October is the new December’
The new Boston outpost of Porter Square Books opened its doors earlier this month down in the Seaport District as part of the new and expanded headquarters of writing organizations GrubStreet and Mass Poetry. Porter Square Books: Boston Edition, on the first floor of the new literary hub, is about 1800 square feet, with less shelf real estate than its Cambridge counterpart, but more space for events and gatherings, with a stage and a café. Positioning the writing organizations headquarters here and opening the independent bookstore is a step to try to change the Seaport’s reputation of being wealthy, white, and sterile. Porter Square Books’s inventory will reflect the tastes of its new community, and they’ll be hosting a grand opening event in November. The new location is at 50 Liberty Drive in Boston. Bookstores across the city are making pleas to customers to get ahead on their holiday shopping. Big hitches in the supply chain are causing major slowdowns in publishing, and bookstores are pressing upon people that the books they’ll want in December might not be there. “October is the new December,” Newtonville Books reminded its customers. And in a letter from its owners, Harvard Book Store noted that “publishers have warned us that titles that run out before the holidays may not be reprinted for several months,” and likewise ask that people shop now.
Vivid new verses
There’s a high-color atmosphere to Natick poet Steven Riel’s latest poetry collection, “Edgemere” out earlier this fall from Whitman, Mass-based Lily Poetry Review Books. A “vermillion station wagon, / in glossy enamel brash as nail polish”; “schools of peach and baize / parrotfish sneak by”; “a maraschino fossil / buried in last week’s Jell-O mold.” His lines and images rainbow off the page, bright, sharp, self-aware, and searching. Though that does not mean they are without their own wry darkness. Riel, a native of Monson, Massachusetts, is the editor-in-chief of Franco-American literary e-journal “Résonance,” and works at the Harvard University Library. He writes of being the bullied “fifth-grade fag” and the “neon mistake” of wearing saddle shoes with two-inch heels on his first day of high school. “I don’t need X-ray vision / to count the dimes inside / her matching change pouch, / but is this intimacy?” he asks. And if it’s not, what is?
“The Days of Afrekete” by Asali Solomon (FSG)
“Monster in the Middle” by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead)
“Trust” by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri (Europa)
Pick of the Week
Becky Dayton at the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Vermont, recommends “The Shame” by Makenna Goodman (Milkweed): “This slim novel by Vermont author Makenna Goodman punches well above its weight. Readers familiar with the feeling of inadequacy scrolling social media can set off will be moved by this razor sharp portrait of a young mother on the verge of losing herself.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at [email protected].
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