June 11 , 2006

A Week of Writers and Readings

Supposedly Mark Twain said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."  That's how I feel about spring in Boston.  How to coax myself out of hibernation?  I could stay home and catch the season finale of every tv show I avoided all year or plunk myself at the computer and get sucked into Internet quicksand.  But on any given day poets and writers are reading their work around town, so why not go to a reading?  In fact, why not go to a week of readings?

I started on a Monday night in Cambridge at Porter Square Books, where Donald Hall was scheduled to read.  The crowd had spread across half the store when Hall  arrived a few minutes late.  He said he'd need to sit down for a minute to recover from getting lost when his car's navigation system led him to East Boston.  But he remained standing and proceeded to offer an engaging reading of poems from his latest book, White Apples and the Taste of Stone:  Selected Poems 1946-2006.

The next night I went to the Boston Public Library.  A sizable audience had braved a pelting downpour to hear Nathaniel Philbrick on the first day of a tour for his book, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  As we sat, smelling of wet wool, Philbrick mesmerized us with the story of the 55-year period between the landing of the Mayflower and the devastating King Philip's War.

Wednesday night is poetry night at the Cantab in Central Square, Cambridge.  This Wednesday the featured poet was Ron Goba and the crowd was SRO.  For a decade Goba has been the doorkeeper for the poetry venue and a mentor and friend to aspiring and accomplished poets, many of whom paid him tribute in the open mike preceding his feature and in the standing ovation following it.  Goba, who has been ill, reciprocated by handing out gift copies of his new book, Collage As Silkscreen.

Thursday was another dark and stormy night and a hard choice, with the monthly Tapestry of Voices poetry reading at Borders in Downtown Crossing and, at Brookline Booksmith  a reading by contributors to Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Mothers Tell All.  I decided on Harvard Bookstore, where Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert was discussing his book, Stumbling On Happiness, which looks at why our brains are usually bad at predicting what will make us happy. 

On Friday back at Porter Square Books I heard Charles Rappeleye talk about his fascinating new  book Sons of Providence:  The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution.

On Saturday morning I joined the weekly "Bagels and Bards" discussion at Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.  The roundtable, started by local poets and venue hosts Doug Holder and Harris Gardner, starts at 9 and is open to all early-risers.  Then I stopped at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square.  Grolier is newly reopened under the ownership of Ifeanyi Menkiti, a poet and Wellesley professor. 

Then, on Saturday night  it was back to Harvard Square to help celebrate the release by new publisher Arrowsmith Press, of Bergstein, a book on the paintings of Gerald Bergstein (cq), with responses by writers and poets including Sue Miller, Askold Melnyczuk, Lloyd Schwartz, and Jill Kneerim. (I was one of the "and others.")

On Sunday I stayed home, read the paper, planned my reading ventures for the next week, and thanked the good fortune that landed me in such a vibrantly literary city.

Ellen Steinbaum can be reached at citytype@globe.com. You can see past City Type columns at www.ellensteinbaum.com.

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©2004 Ellen Steinbaum

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