Four reading events for new books by authors from across the Triangle—representing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—demonstrate language’s ability to capture a broad range of sociopolitical and emotional experiences. The Durham-based poet Jonathan Farmer, for instance, explores the idea that poetry is fundamentally social in his new book, That Peculiar Affirmative: On the Social Lives of Poems (Stephen F. Austin University Press), which counters the bad rap that poetry can get—the cliché of a person reading Ginsberg alone at the bar.
The idea gains momentum as Farmer, a high school English teacher, fleshes out how social values—kindness, humor, and so on—operate in the works and practices of a broad range of poets, from Claudia Rankine and Gabrielle Calvocoressi to his former college professor, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Alan Shapiro. By exploring how a deceptively solitary act is interwoven with the rest of our lives, Farmer makes a thoughtful case for close reading as a way to be together, not a way to be alone. Farmer reads with Shapiro on April 2 at Flyleaf Books. Shapiro reads from Against Translation, his latest poetry collection, which, like Farmer’s book, brushes against the scope of language: specifically, its poignant inability to truly capture loss.
After detouring through memoir with The Art of Waiting, Belle Boggs returns to fiction in The Gulf (Graywolf Press), her new novel about a Brooklyn writer and atheist who begins teaching at a Christian writing residency in Florida. It’s a perfect-storm kind of situation, capped by an actual perfect storm—a hurricane—bearing down on the retreat. Boggs is a funny, observant writer, and The Gulf is smart, timely, and well-drawn. Boggs launches the novel on April 2 at The Regulator Bookshop.
Both Boggs and Shapiro are contributors to Mothers and Strangers: Essays on Motherhood from the New South, a new UNC Press anthology edited by Samia Serageldin and Lee Smith, which will be celebrated on April 1 at Quail Ridge Books. Recent years have brought a spate of motherhood literature, with writers like Maggie Nelson and Jacqueline Rose revisiting what it means to take motherhood and pregnancy seriously. Mothers and Strangers takes a slightly different approach, focusing more on having a mother—especially in eras with different social mores than ours—than on being a mother. Creative nonfiction from writers such as Jaki Shelton Green and Clyde Edgerton hold up a mirror up to the memory of Southern motherhood. The Quail Ridge reading features Smith, Serageldin, Jill McCorkle, Steven Petrow, Hal Crowther, and Elaine Orr, to be followed by an April 4 reading at Flyleaf.