new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Harvard professor named poetry editor at Nation; Andover Bookstore moves — just a little

Christopher Klein for The Boston Globe

Nation names two new poetry editors

The venerable Nation magazine recently announced the hiring of two new poetry editors, Harvard professor Steph Burt (who also goes by Stephanie and Stephen) and Carmen Giménez Smith, a poet and professor from Virginia. Burt, a Belmont resident, has published three collections of poetry, with her fourth, “Advice from the Lights’’ due out from Graywolf in October. She’s also published several works of literary criticism including “Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry,’’ which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Burt talks of how she envisions her role as poetry co-editor, noting that, “It’s an exciting moment in American poetry (one not unrelated to the scary moment in America) and I’m sure our choices will reflect that moment.”

When asked about the role of poetry in this specific moment of upheaval, she suggests that it’s the wrong question. “Different poets, and poems, and concepts of poetry, have different roles. Some of them encourage us to be ourselves, stand apart from the moment, cherish our introspection. Others ask us to take a long look at history. Others still might send us to the barricades, or even persuade us to run for local office.”

Book(store) report


An old bookstore plans to make a move in Andover, and a new bookstore will open in Reading. “Founded in 1809” reads the sign of Andover Bookstore, making it the second oldest indie bookstore in the nation. It’s been in operation in its current location for the last 50 years. Next month, owner John Hugo will move his shop across the street, from 89 Main St. to 74 Main St. The new spot will be about two-thirds the size of the current one. And this fall Whitelam Books will open in a 1,600 square-foot space in downtown Reading. Founder Liz Whitelam spent much of her career in marketing as a consultant and found herself longing to spend more time near books. Besides books and gifts, Whitelam hopes to host community events.

Picoult gets a Single

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New Hampshire author Jodi Picoult recently released a short story as part of the Kindle Singles series, which puts out novella- and short-story-length e-books. “Mermaid,” which quickly went to No. 1 on the series best-seller list, uses the Kindle in Motion technology, which means it’s not just text but also animated images. Picoult tells the story of Hope Payne, who used to work as a mermaid at a “ratty theme park close to campus,” equipped with a finned tail and a concealed air tank. She marries a marine biologist who’s filled their backyard pool with flounder for an experiment. The flounder begin to vanish, and Hope appears to be the best candidate to figure out what’s happening beneath the surface.

Pick of the week

Laura Cummings at White Birch Books in North Conway, N.H., recommends “A Death Struck Year’’ by Makiia Lucier (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers): “For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country. And then cases start being reported in [her region of] the Pacific Northwest. Seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can’t ignore the call. As the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can’t help but wonder: When will her own luck run out?”

Coming out

“Feverland: A Memoir in Shards” by Alex Lemon (Milkweed)

“Katalin Street’’ by Magda Szabo, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix (New York Review Books Classics)


“The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale’’ by James Atlas (Pantheon)

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at