new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Small wonders, Concord authors, and ‘Polaroid’ poems

Matthew Carter
A Buddhist lantern festival in New York City is included in “Matthew Carter’s Top Ten (minus one)” favorite things at the Katherine Small Gallery.

Strong, silent type

More people should know about the Katherine Small Gallery and bookshop — a treasure of a spot specializing in graphic design and typography — and their latest exhibit, “Matthew Carter ’s Top Ten (minus one),” is good reason to stop in. Carter, a MacArthur-winning Cambridge (England) born, and Cambridge (Mass) dwelling type designer, designed, among other things, the masthead and type for this very paper (the original hand-drawn lettering for the Globe’s masthead is on display at the gallery now), as well as the type for the New York Times, and familiar fonts including Georgia and Verdana. If you’re lucky, Carter himself might drop in while you’re there, as happened to this correspondent on a rainy October morning. With humility and humor he walked through the alphabet portfolio he designed, a glorious collection of lowercase letters that you can take home for $20k. Looking at the o, for example – a simple, bold velvety black donut – he remarked, “The simplest letters are the hardest. There’s no where to hide.” Even if Carter’s not there, invite the kind gallery-bookshop owner and acclaimed designer Michael Russem to show you. The portfolio — and the space itself — defamiliarizes part of the visual world we so often take for granted, our a’s and b’s and c’s. The show runs through January 25 and it’s at 108 Beacon Street in Somerville. Visit for more information.

Meeting of the minds

The annual Concord Festival of Authors has taken place for more than a quarter-century, and continues this year through the end of the month, with a number of readings, events, workshops, and discussions. On Sunday, take the Wayside Walk in Literary Concord, exploring the neighborhood where the Alcotts, Emerson, and Hawthorne lived and worked; Sunday evening, Sigrid Nunez (“The Friend”) gives the keynote speech. On Tuesday, take a Mindful Haiku Workshop; on Wednesday, join award-winning memoirist Grace Talusan (“The Body Papers”) for a Memoir Matters Workshop. Whitney Scharer (“The Age of Light”) and Christopher Castellani (“Leading Men”) will talk historical fiction on Wednesday evening. And on Saturday, Harvard professor and anti-slavery authority John Stauffer will receive the Miller Award for Excellence in American History. And next Sunday, short story master Peter Orner will discuss the form. In the following week, look for events with Marjan Kamali (“The Stationary Shop”) and Lewis Hyde (“A Primer for Forgetting”). For more information and a complete schedule visit

Interesting developments

Dedham-based poet Sarah Dickenson Snyder’s third collection of poetry, “With a Polaroid Camera” (Main Street Rag), out earlier this month, moves faraway and home again. Muscular and lyrical, her lean lines explore the wide world with a haiku-style simplicity that belies the force of what flows between, behind, and under her words. The natural world is given sensitive attention, and Snyder brings mystery to the simple things: “Seaweed, the sea/ deepening,/ a man with a smile, a naked/ chest, two arms—/ the blue kayak/ and a dog/ in the small hole/ where a person could have been.” From Rwanda, Rishikesh, Luang Prabang, and Otuschi, to the small downstairs bathroom wallpapered with lines from Shakespeare, to the squirrels and rhododendrons in the yard, Snyder knows that the sweep of history, the triumphs, the massacres, our hearts thumping in sorrow and joy, all fall below the “the same sun,/ the same rain.”

Coming Out


The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, translated from the Japanese by David Boyd (New Directions)

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