We're pleased to welcome Jennifer Michael Hecht and Maggie Smith to our At Home with Literati Series in support of their recent and forthcoming titles: The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of Our Lives and You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir.
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About The Wonder Paradox: a lively, practical, and transcendent roadmap to meaning and connection through poetry.
Where do we ﬁnd magic? Peace? Connection?
We have calendars to mark time, communal spaces to bring us together, bells to signal hours of contemplation, oﬃcial archives to record legacies, the wisdom of sages read aloud, weekly, to map out the right way to live--in kindness, justice, morality. These rhythms and structures of society were all once set by religion. Now, for many, religion no longer runs the show.
So how then to celebrate milestones? Find rules to guide us? Figure out which texts can focus our attention but still oﬀer space for inquiry, communion, and the chance to dwell for a dazzling instant in what can't be said? Where, really, are truth and beauty? The answer, says The Wonder Paradox, is in poetry.
In twenty chapters built from years of questions and conversations with those looking for an authen-tic and meaningful life, Jennifer Michael Hecht oﬀers ways to mine and adapt the useful aspects of tradition and to replace what no longer feels true. Through cultures and poetic wisdom from around the world--Sappho, Rumi, Shakespeare, Issa, Tagore, Frost, Szymborska, Angelou, and others--she blends literary criticism with spiritual guidance rooted in the everyday. Linking our needs to particular poems, she helps us better understand those needs, our very being, and poetry itself.
Our capacity for wonder is one of the greatest joys of being human; The Wonder Paradox celebrates that instinct and that yearning.
Jennifer Michael Hecht, a historian and poet, is the award-winning and bestselling author of the histories Doubt, Stay, The Happiness Myth, and The End of the Soul. Her poetry books include Who Said, The Next Ancient World, and Funny. She earned her PhD in history from Columbia University and teaches in New York City.
About You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir: Poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman's personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she's known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother's fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman's love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet's attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.
Maggie Smith is the award-winning author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful, Good Bones, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, Lamp of the Body, and the national bestsellers Goldenrod and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change. A 2011 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Smith has also received several Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been widely published, appearing in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Best American Poetry, and more. You can follow her on social media @MaggieSmithPoet.