Books

A unique debut poetry collection, a second Harvard Book Store, and this year’s Thoreau Prize winners

Christie Towers’s new poetry collection is in conversation with Hildegard of Bingen.Spuyten Duyvil

Verses of visions

A vision emerges unbidden, seemingly delivered not from inside the mind, but from outside, as though from the gods, or the God, arriving through some superhuman or supernatural force, an offering to the inner eye. In 12th century Germany, Hildegard of Bingen, mystic, writer, composer, philosopher, began having visions when she was three years old. In “And Again I Heard the Stars(Spuyten Devil), a pulsing and sensual debut poetry collection, Somerville-based poet Christie Towers intertwines with Hildegard, bringing language from Hildegard’s visions into the poems, conjuring something alive and new. These are poems of, above all, wanting, of desire and yearning, and the flames that define the feeling, sometimes smoldering warm and low, sometimes burning bright and hot: “provoked swollen or intensified red/luminosity a strong feeling a quickening/arousal a source of illumination.” Towers’s lines are grounded in “a body entire,” and she treads the thread between the flesh, its heated presence, and the ecstatic, the joining — or the desire to join — with something or someone outside yourself. “I speak as one / in doubt taught inwardly great / secrets,” Towers writes. There is an abiding not-knowing, a sense of question, and “the restraint of flesh/this burning perversity.” Towers wonders what arises from the heat of not having, not knowing, and her answers are powerfully erotic, charged with the touch of feathers and stars. Towers will read from her work, with poet Aly Pierce, this Wednesday, July 27 at 7 pm at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

A new outpost for books

The book business in Boston is booming. Harvard Book Store, the mighty independent bookstore in Cambridge, now joins the ranks of area bookstores opening second locations in Boston. In the spring of 2023, the bookstore will open an outpost in the Prudential Center, taking over what was once a Barnes & Noble. It’ll occupy nearly 30,000 square feet, a massive space, especially compared to the 5500 square foot Cambridge location. “In the simplest terms,” Chief Creative Officer Alex Meriwether says, “we’ll have more space to do things we’re excited about.” That includes an expanded events program, a much bigger children’s book section, and a number of community spaces. The expansion is due in part to the bookstore’s recent partnership with John and Linda Henry, owners of Liverpool FC, the Red Sox, and this newspaper. Meriwether is excited about giving the space its own character. “It’s going to have our philosophy on what kinds of books we display,” he says. The difference is “it’s not going to be an academic bookstore in an academic community,” and he, and the rest of the bookstore team, are looking forward to “learning who this community is and working to make this a special store for them” While retaining “a sense of who Harvard Book Store is as well.”

Thoreau prizes

“Hylodes cease to peep. Purring frogs (Rana palustris) cease. Lightning-bugs first seen. Bullfrogs trump generally. Mosquitoes begin to be really troublesome. Afternoon thunder-showers almost regular. Sleep with open window . . . Turtles fairly and generally begun to lay.” So wrote Henry David Thoreau in his journal in June of 1860, observing the onset of summer, and reminding us of what it is to attune ourselves to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. The Thoreau Society recently announced the winners of this year’s Thoreau Prize, awarded to a writer “who wishes to speak for nature and embodies the spirit of Thoreau as a gifted writer, insightful naturalist, and ethical thinker.” This year’s prize went to Jane Goodall. The Walter Harding Distinguished Achievement award, recognizing scholarly achievement that furthers the mission of the Thoreau Society, went to Shoko Itoh, founder of the Thoreau Society of Japan; Pulitzer Prize winner Megan Marshall; and professor, translator, and editor François Specq. The Distinguished Service Award went to D.B. Johnson, author of children’s books about Thoreau’s experiences. And the Thoreau Society Medal, recognizing sustained contributions to the legacy of the study of Thoreau and his ideals, went to Lawrence Buell and Rebecca Solnit.

Coming out

Mother in the Darkby Kayla Maiuri (Riverhead)

Denialby Jon Raymond (Simon & Schuster)

How to Read Nowby Elaine Castillo (Viking)

Pick of the week

Mary Cotton at Newtonville Books in Newtonville, Massachusetts, recommends “Bewildernessby Karen Tucker (Catapult): “This book had me at page one! I’m drawn to books about female friendship, and this one, about two young women living on the edges of society and poverty, drawn into opioid use and dealing, is edgy and astonishing. This will be able to find readers whose interests in Elena Ferrante and ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ intersect!”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.

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