Lines from a survivor, ‘Bear, Coyote, Raven,’ and a farewell to the Spirit of ’76
Denise Bergman’s new book is “Three Hands None.’’
Massachusetts poet Denise Bergman’s new book, “Three Hands None’’ (Black Lawrence Press), is a searing series of poems about the harrowing assault she endured at knifepoint by a stranger in her own home, in her own bed. The tautness of the language propels the reader along; the experience of reading the book is like rushing across a tightrope to race across before you fall into the ravine below. Sections alternate between visceral and detached, and explore the way her body no longer felt like her own in the afterwards. “No one inhabited my skin,’’ she writes. Much of the poem she writes in third person, but in one of its most devastating sections, she writes of instead using the word “my": “My mouth my neck I must say that word: my . . . my is the distance the knife traveled to slash the kernel of her being into pieces.’’ In another affecting section, she repeats the words “I don’t care’’ regarding her attacker’s background: “do I care if his father left town his uncle pulled him into the woods. no. what is beaten out of the boy what is forced into the beaten-down boy so what. I don’t care.’’ This is a tense and potent collection on assault and aftermath. Bergman will read and discuss her work at the Concord Public Library on Sunday, January 12 at 3 p.m.
In his debut collection of poetry, “Bear, Coyote, Raven’’ (Resolute Bear), Jason Grundstrom-Whitney deposits us into the atemporal place of legend, myth, and mystery, by firesides and on empty roads beneath huge and starry skies. Grundstrom-Whitney, a substance abuse counselor in Augusta, Maine, and a Bear Clan member of the Passamaquoddy tribe, writes poems — playful, exuberant, melancholy, wise — that whisper of years of wandering and wondering. “We took experience / like tiny pebbles in a rattle. / One pebble, / not very musical. / Put many in a gourd / and you have a conversation / through the night.’’ And we come to know the fat and mischievous Raven, the grumbling, big-hearted bear, the coyote who moves with mystery. They joke and play and get drunk and tell stories. There is a collision of human-and-nature, and the reminder, implicit, in these days of dumpsters and power lines, of how we are all much more a part of the swirling rhythm of things than we know. “Dust seeks dust; / wild seeks wild.’’ It does what the best poetry does: it wakes us and returns us to a place we’d long ago forgotten we were looking for.
After 54 years in Marblehead, The Spirit of ’76 Bookstore is closing its closing. Owner John Hugo, who also runs the Andover Bookstore, cited a decline in sales over the past three years as the result of Amazon and the rise of digital books. Hugo writes that he was forced to close, having lost 40 percent of sales between December, 2018 and now. The store opened in 1965, occupying 500 square-feet; in 1976, it moved to its current 3000-square-foot location on a corner near Marblehead’s historic center. “The Bookstore cannot meet the fixed costs any longer doing one-third of the volume it did in the pre-Amazon era.’’ This follows the close of the Book Rack in Newburyport in September, also owned by Hugo, which occupied its location for 47 years.
“The Freedom Artist’’ by Ben Okri (Akashic)
“Mezzaluna’’ by Michele Leggott (Wesleyan)
“Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader’’ by Vivian Gornick (FSG)
Pick of the Week
Joan Grenier at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, recommends “The Flight Portfolio’’ by Julie Orringer (Knopf): “American Varian Fry is sent to Marseille by the Emergency Rescue Committee with $3,000 to rescue hundreds of European artists and intellectuals who are primarily Jewish. Highly researched, but with the imagination of a master fiction writer, the novel describes the harrowing time when the world began to understand the horror of the Nazis and that time was running out.’’
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung.’’ She can be reached email@example.com.