It's a good thing that the South End Library offers elevator access to its second-floor community room: It allowed a harried-looking mother with three young children and a squeaky-wheeled stroller to come up and listen to a reading underway by poet April Bernard on a recent Tuesday night. "It made my day," the grateful mother said afterwards.
She was not alone. A large crowd had taken every seat in the room, spellbound first by Bernard's forceful reading from her 2012 fictionalized history of Boston-based feminist Margaret Fuller, followed by five new poems received with appreciative laughter and applause. A week earlier, a standing-room audience listened intently to Lynne Potts describe her 35 years living on Holyoke Street and the research she has done to tie the colorful fortunes of that single block to the larger tale of the South End's many cycles of rise and decline.
While "Miss Fuller" is fictionalized history, it is based on years of research and "coincides with facts as known," said Bernard, who teaches creative writing at Skidmore College. The story of how Henry Thoreau traveled to the shores of Long Island hoping to find a manuscript that might have survived the shipwreck in which Fuller drowned with her husband and young son in 1850, "planted a seed in my tooth" when she first heard of it, said Bernard. "What if he found something else?" That conceit is at the root of the novel's fiction, and allowed Bernard to weave a new and complex picture of Fuller's character and beliefs, set in tumultuous times when the changes she advocated caused great discomfort not just to close friends and others but also to herself. After a few audience questions, Bernard read five new poems, titled, When I was Thirteen I Saw Uncle Vanya; Werner Herzog in the Amazon; Tis Late; Lids; and Thunder-Mountain-Mesa-Valley-Ridge, all likely to be included in Bernard's next collection. Both Lynne Potts's and April Bernard's five favorite books can be found on this web site under the tab The South End Reads.
On Tuesday, February 26, acclaimed author Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days) will read from his riveting memoir, Townie, in which he describes the violence, bullying and loneliness of his childhoodafter his father, short-story writer Andre Dubus, leaves the family. He will be introduced by his colleague, Doug Bauer. The reading starts at 6:30 PM.
Those who missed Lynne Potts's reading have another chance to hear her when she will read from her book on Thursday, February 21 at the South End Historical Society, 532 Massachusetts Ave, at 6:30 PM. Reservations are required: 617 536-4445 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.