A sense of momentum thrums through Elaine Sexton’s new collection of poetry, “Drive” (Grid Books). And it’s present even amidst the stalls, the wrong turns, the mechanical failures. We are all headed one direction, after all. “The whole thing, over / in a flash,” she writes. “My stealth self / wants to know / what I am driving at / when I say drive. ” The underlayers are the various human hungers: sex, death, bodily experience, the feeling of the wind through your hair on the road, which is to say, the feeling of moving forward, toward, or away. “When / driving I think of love / as a road trip, the soaring, / the breakdown, jump- / starts, the brand new, / and old reliable. / I’m not a mechanic. ” And she reminds us of life in almost everything, the mussel, the eggplant, the butter. “Shall we fast?” she asks. It’s not an option. The whole book has New England links: Sexton grew up in New Hampshire; the painting on the cover of a red-capped swimmer jumping into water is by artist and part-time Mainer Katherine Bradford; the book is designed by Michael Russem, proprietor of the small but mighty Katherine Small Gallery in Somerville; and the Boston-based Grid Books was founded in 2003, focusing originally on work by older poets whose work was often sidelined, and now focused more broadly on work overlooked by mainstream publishing.
Vote for books
A new program gives Massachusetts teens the chance to vote on their favorite new YA books. The Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award Committee, a newly formed group of public librarians, school library media specialists, and teachers, recently announced the list of nominees for students in grades 7-12 to vote on. “It is our hope that this will encourage the teens of our state to seek out and read some of the best new fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels published for their age group,” said committee chair Suzanne Larson. The 21 books include “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” by Jennifer De Leon, “The Magic Fish” by Trung Le Nguyen, “Punching the Air” by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, and “Flamer” by Mike Curato , among others. Teens are encouraged to read the books now through the summer. Voting begins on Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 23, and the winning titles will be announced in October at the Massachusetts Library Association’s Teen Book Summit. Bay State teen bookworms are given a voice to choose what books matter most to them. For more information, a complete list of titles, and to vote, visit mateenchoicebook.org.
Printmaker, muralist, and illustrator Nura Woodson Ulreich’s children’s book illustrations have a haunting, surrealist flavor, capturing kids in dreamy in-between atmospheres, an oneiric blend of Marc Chagall and Leonora Carrington. Professionally known by her first name, Nura was born in 1899, died at age 51, and her work has been largely forgotten. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is refreshing her legacy with an expansive exhibition of her illustrations. “Finding Nura: Rediscovering an American Modernist from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection” opens Saturday, April 16, runs through Nov. 16, and highlights singular perspective on the realm of childhood. Her figures are often accompanied by small dogs or curled up cats; it can be hard to determine day and night; mirrors, question marks, shadowy apparitions hover at the margins. For more information, visit carlemuseum.org.
“If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English” by Noor Naga (Graywolf)
“An Encyclopedia of Bending Time” by Kristin Keane (Barrelhouse)
“Fighting Is Like a Wife” by Eloisa Amezcua (Coffee House)
Pick of the Week
Mike Hare at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt., Recommends “Out There” by Kate Folk (Random House): “These stories are ‘out there’ in the most off-kilter, imaginative way. Too-good-to-be-true men, sinister houses, families that torture each other for fun, strange obsessions with human organs, and other oddities percolate, pop, and please through these transgressive pages. ”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren. ” She can be reached at [email protected].