A literary magazine celebrates its anniversary, the winners of the Mass. Book Award are announced

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Celebrating a fiery 50th anniversary

Fifty years ago, writer and editor Askold Melnyczuk founded AGNI, a literary magazine burning with countercultural fire and international energy. Over the half-century of its existence, AGNI, now based at Boston University, has published the work of many laureates – Ha Jin, EC Osondu, Seamus Heaney, Wisława Szymborska, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tomas Tranströmer, Louise Glück, among others – as well as the first works of new and upcoming voices. The editors work “to bring our reader into the living moment, not as a tourist but as an engaged participant” and “champion writers who engage the world in and around them, shaping their words so intimately that the he ripple of their vision and the quirks of their thinking are part of the picture. The magazine will celebrate its 50th anniversary this Friday, November 4. Former American Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will host the evening, which will include readings and performances by Teju Cole, Jo Ann Beard, Victoria Change, Caren Beilin, Chanda Feldman, and Boston-based music project Meridian 71. The event will take place at 7 p.m. at WBUR CitySpace, 890 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Tickets are $5 to $25. For more information, visit agnionline.bu.edu.

Mass pays homage to authors

The Massachusetts Center for the Book recently announced the winners of this year’s Massachusetts Book Award, recognizing books published in 2021 by authors currently living in the state. The Fiction Prize goes to Ruth Ozeki of Northampton for her novel ‘The Book of Form and Nothingness’. Fiction honors include Katherine Sherbrooke’s “Leaving Coy’s Hill” and Buki Papillon’s “An Ordinary Wonder.” Cambridge’s Tiya Miles won the non-fiction award for ‘All That She Carried’. Honors go to Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Under a White Sky” and Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Travels With George.” Martín Espada of Shelburne Falls wins the poetry prize for “Floaters”. Honors include “I Wish My Father” by Lesléa Newman and “Tremors” by Cammy Thomas. Concord’s Rajani LaRocca wins YA Award for “Red, White, and Whole.” Honors include “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo and “Picture a Nation” by Martin Sandler. In the picture book category, author Tricia Elam Walker and Boston-based illustrator Ekua Holmes won for “Dream Street.” Honors go to “Bubbles…UP!” by Jacqueline Davies and Sonia Sánchez and “Be a Tree!” by Maria Gianferrari and Felicita Sala! The awards ceremony will take place at the State House on January 18. For more information, visit massbook.org.

Walcott Poetry Prize

Separately, local newspaper Arrowsmith Press, in conjunction with the Boston Playwrights’ Theater and the Walcott Festival in Trinidad, recently announced the winner of the third annual Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, given to a book of complete poetry by a poet who is not a US citizen. This year’s winner is Saddiq Dzukogi for his “Your Crib, My Qibla” collection (University of Nebraska). Dzukogi, born in Nigeria, is pursuing a doctorate in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Award judge Carolyn Forché cites Dzukogi’s “beautiful linguistic synaesthesia” and “crude insights of exceptional clarity” in a collection centered on deep grief, the death of a child, the ways in which one tries to communicate through the following. “Thirty thousand leaves beg nature/ and the air is pure – and I’m picking apples/ for my daughter . . . Baha entered me/ to keep her company and they went on/ growing like two trees in a barren field , the Dream/of Marshmallows and my still-living daughter Dzukogi will receive $1,000 in prizes.

Go out

Dr. Noby Percival Everett (Grey Wolf)

Toadby Katherine Dunn (MCD)

Fosterby Claire Kegan (Grove)

Choice of the week

Charlee Bianchini of the Gloucester Bookshop recommends “This Is Happiness” by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury): “It is first and foremost a portrait of a community and all that it encapsulates. In the small village of Faha, the rain has stopped falling but the electricity is on. The story follows Noel and Christy and their lost and found love chronicles.

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “alarm clock, siren.” She can be reached at [email protected].


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