August 10, 2022

Celebrating literary magazine Plowshares, responding to calls from booksellers to get their holiday shopping early, and a new book of poetry by a Natick author

Celebrate the ploughshares

In 1971, at the Plow and Stars, a dark little bar in Central Square, the literary magazine Plowshares was born, founded by Peter O’Malley and DeWitt Henry. For the past 50 years, the magazine has strived to publish work “that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in art”. On October 21 at 7 p.m., they’re celebrating half a century of existence with a virtual reception featuring writers Aimee Bender, Jamel Brinkley, Laura van den Berg, Tom Perrotta, Mario Alberto Zambrano, Don Lee and more. Tiered ticket prices range from $25 to $500, with a range of additional perks depending on price, including mugs, memberships, tote bags, and access to other events and archives related to Plowshares. In 2016, before this milestone, they created the Plowshares Anniversary Fund and set a goal of $1.5 million that will see the journal pay its contributors in perpetuity. They are 90% there and a portion of the ticket sales for the 50th anniversary event will go to 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 earlier this month in the Seaport District as part of the expanded new headquarters of writing organizations GrubStreet and Mass Poetry. Porter Square Books: Boston Edition, on the first floor of the new Literary Center, is around 1,800 square feet, with less shelf space than its Cambridge counterpart, but more space for events and gatherings, with a stage and a coffee. The positioning of the writing organizations’ headquarters here and the opening of the independent bookstore is a step in trying to change the seaport’s reputation of being wealthy, white and barren. Porter Square Books’ inventory will reflect the tastes of its new community and will host a grand opening event in November. The new location is at 50 Liberty Drive in Boston. Bookstores across the city are asking customers to go ahead with their holiday shopping. Big problems in the supply chain are causing major slowdowns in publishing, and bookstores are pressuring people that the books they 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 are also asking people to buy now.

New Vivid Verses

There’s a colorful atmosphere in poet Natick Steven Riel’s latest book of poetry, “Edgemere” released earlier this fall from Whitman, Lily Poetry Review Books. A “vermilion station wagon, / in impetuous shiny enamel as nail polish”; “shoals of fishing and felt / parrotfish weave through”; “a maraschino fossil / buried in the Jell-O mold from last week.” His lines and images pop off the page, bright, crisp, self-aware and in search. Although that doesn’t mean they’re without their own ironic darkness. Riel, a native of Monson, Massachusetts, is the editor of the Franco-American electronic literary journal “Résonance” and works at the Harvard University library. He writes that he was the bullied “fifth-grade queer” 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 pennies inside / its matching coin pouch, / but is it privacy?” he asks. And if not, what is it?

To go out

Afrekete Daysby Asali Solomon (FSG)

monster in the middleby Tiphanie Yanique (River)

Confidenceby Domenico Starnone, translated from Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri (Europe)

Choice of the week

Becky Dayton of 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 that can be triggered by scrolling through social networks 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 contacted at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.