new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Lessons on compassion and mindfulness; Jewish Poetry Festival; stories of accordians and players

Angelo Paul Ramunni is the founder of the New England Accordion Connection and Museum Company.
Angelo Paul Ramunni is the founder of the New England Accordion Connection and Museum Company.

Words of wisdom

Narayan Helen Liebenson helped found the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and has been teaching there for over three decades. Her debut book, The Magnanimous Heart: Compassion & Love, Loss & Grief, Joy & Liberation’’ (Wisdom) is a deep well of wisdom for longtime meditation practitioners and laypeople alike.

With warmth, simplicity, and straightforward elegance, Liebenson reminds us that loss and suffering are inevitable parts of being alive, that within these experiences is the opportunity to live a life of joy and liberation. Joy, she suggests, is not the opposite of grief, but “the current that runs underneath all of life,” constantly accessible, and the question is how to swim in its current.

The book is deeply approachable, mixing personal anecdotes with lines from Buddhist masters and ancient teachings as well as some from poets like Rilke and Blake.


Liebenson will read and discuss her book on Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Book Store, and Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith.

Breathing life into the accordion

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Every accordion has a story to tell. Or so says Angelo Paul Ramunni founder of The New England Accordion Connection and Museum Company. The eight-year-old Canaan, Conn., museum displays more than 600 handcrafted accordions from all over the world, ornate and humble, modern and antique. Ramunni has just self-published, Accordion Stories from the Heart,’’ which recounts the histories of 40 accordions and the musicians who played them. With lush images of the instruments, the book is a loving ode to the people and the sounds of this instrument. Ramunni will discuss the work (and present a short concert) on Feb. 9, at 2 p.m. at the Lodge at Geer Village, in Canaan.

10th year for Jewish Poetry Festival

In the decade of its existence, the Jewish Poetry Festival, which takes place this afternoon, has expanded past the Brookline neighborhood where it began, drawing poets from Boston and beyond whose work wrestles with ideas of community and family and wider themes of Jewish culture and life. For it’s 10th annual gathering, the featured poet is Zvi A. Sesling, poet laureate of Brookline, whose 2018 collectionWar Zones’’ (Nixes Mate), a restrained, resigned, and plainspoken series of works on war and its aftermath. Larry Lowenthal, visiting professor in the Jewish Studies program at Northeastern, will serve as master of ceremonies, and an open mic will follow Sesling’s reading. The event takes place at 2 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 50 Sewall Ave, Brookline. It’s free and open to the public.

Coming out

The Collected Schizophrenias’’ by Esmé Weijun Wang (Graywolf)

All My Goodbyes’’ by Mariana Dimópulos, translated from the Spanish by Alice Whitmore (Transit)


Mother Winter’’ by Sophia Shalmiyev (Simon & Schuster)

Pick of the week

Val Arroyo at the Brewster Book Store, recommends American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West’’ by Nate Blakeslee: “Blakeslee offers insight into the often diverging perspectives of biologists, environmentalists, ranchers, hunters, and politicians surrounding the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. The choice to tell this story as a kind of biography of the rise and reign of one wolf, an alpha-female known as O-Six, described as ‘the most famous wolf in the world’ and a ‘once in a generation hunter’ make this story come alive.”

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