Ben Cosgrove

Summer Reading Lists - Ben Cosgrove

Ben Cosgrove is an amazing composer, musician, and writer. As you might know, we’re big fans of all he does. After he performed at our very first event, the Mud Season Salon, we quickly found out that we share similar taste in books. We love these recommendations that Ben shared in his summer reading list and hope you do too.

p.s. We’ll be announcing a special project with Ben soon. Stay tuned!

Horizon, by Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez has long been one of America's finest and most well-respected living nature writers —Of Wolves and Men was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1978 and the peerlessly wonderful Arctic Dreams won it in 1986 -- and Horizon reads like a sort of capstone to a long career spent poking around the corners of the world, thinking hard about what they are like and how they are connected. Its sweeping, dreamlike narrative follows him nonlinearly across time and space, and we catch versions of Lopez in Africa, Australia, Antarctica, South America at a variety of different ages and stations. Its concerns are ultimately not just ecological but philosophical: what is the relationship between time, place, and experience, particularly in a wounded world?

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Different friends of mine kept recommending this book to me for months, and I finally got my hands on a copy in June. I loved reading it. Rooney's writing isn't soaring or fancy; rather, it articulates with needle-precision the confusing and complicated internal dynamics of the sometimes-romantic-sometimes-not relationship between the novel's two main characters, a boy and a girl from a small village in western Ireland whose friendship grows, shifts, and readjusts as they head off to Dublin for university and then beyond. Her eye for detail is unbelievable, and lends a shattering realness to the novel. I thought it was wrenching and lovely, and frankly, as a fellow millennial, I felt extremely gratified to read about these people and their Byzantine, tortuous romance/nonromance.

Underland, by Robert Macfarlane

Macfarlane writes thoughtfully and beautifully about the natural world, but is especially remarkable for the special attention he pays to how people engage with it. Previous books of his have considered the language we use to talk about the landscape, or described the experience of traveling long distances on foot. His latest project, Underland, is a thrilling and often dark foray into the fictional and actual spaces beneath the ground, and winds up a thoughtful consideration not only of how humans tend to interact with the underground, but of Earth's journey through all-but-unimaginable expanses of time.

The Weather Machine, by Andrew Blum

Andrew Blum's last book, Tubes, was a detailed exploration of the physical structure of the Internet, and similarly, this follow-up is an engaging examination of the machines and methodologies undergirding our surprisingly detailed understanding of how weather works and where and when it will happen. As with Tubes, Blum is able to lend light and humanity to a story about infrastructure, and he elegantly traces the process by which a vast system of models and careful measurements have literally enabled us to predict the future.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Powers's most recent novel, the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize in Literature, tells a sprawling, powerful story about people and trees. It moves an enormous cast of characters through an staggeringly vast timeline, but its narrative momentum never weakens and it grapples meaningfully with the fundamental alienation precipitating human civilization's coming existential crisis along the way. Few books have reoriented my literal view of the world as thoroughly as this one: I have actually found that I look up more often now.

The Favourite Game, by Leonard Cohen

This is Leonard Cohen's first novel (he wrote two), and it was published in the early 1960s, several years before its author found a career as a folk singer. Its lyrical narrative centers around the adventures of an extremely Cohenlike protagonist named Breavman, who ambles around Montreal wracked with internal torment and all but consumed by a broad set of spiritual, existential, artistic, and sexual concerns. Cohen's original Canadian publisher rejected the manuscript outright after finding it "tedious, egotistical, disgusting, and morbid in its preoccupation with sex," and the English house with which he finally placed it required that he cut it in half, but the result is a beautifully written coming of age story and an introspective, uncomfortably honest rendering of what it's like to be an anxious young man trying his best to figure out just how one ought to be in the world.

The Dipper - December 2017

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know


December News

We wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.

To show our gratitude for the support you've given Literary North, we are having four giveaways this month just for newsletter subscribers. We thought it would be nice to revisit our first event of 2017, the Mud Season Salon, by giving away a poetry chapbook by Taylor Mardis Katz; the CD Salt by Ben Cosgrove; Half Wild, a book of short stories, by Robin MacArthur; and The Family, a nonfiction book by Jeff Sharlet. We'll draw names on December 15th. Good luck!



Save the Date: January 10, 2018
Heart Spring Mountain Launch Celebration!

We're partnering with the Norwich Bookstore to help launch Robin MacArthur's fabulous new novel, Heart Spring Mountain, on Wednesday, January 10, at 7:00 pm at the Norwich Bookstore. We'll be there to celebrate and provide refreshments. We hope you'll join us!

December Highlights

Join the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program for "The Hoot," their monthly poetry reading and open mic, on Wednesday, December 6, at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00). This month's featured poets are Gigi Thibodeau and Ben Berman.

Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee and Porochista Khakpour will be reading at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vermont, on Thursday, December 8, at 5:30 pm.

On Wednesday, December 13, at 7:00 pm, folks will be gathering at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to celebrate the publication of Collected Poems, by Galway Kinnell. There will be refreshments and multiple readers of his work.

Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman

The Mudroom, live storytelling at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire, presents this quarter's theme, "Guilty Pleasure," on Thursday, December 14, starting at 6:30 pm. Refreshments will be available. Advance tickets are available online for $7.50 to $10. Tickets at the door are $20.

Anne Fadiman will be at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, reading from her new memoir, The Wine Lover's Daughter, on Friday, December 15, at 7:00 pm.


Recommendations for Winter Reading & Listening

Recommended by Shari:

Recommended by Rebecca:

  • Mandible, an essay by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, with music by Linda Buckley
  • Emily Wilson's brilliant new translation of Homer's The Odyssey
  • Any episode of VPR's Brave Little State podcast
  • In the winter, I love reading about polar exploration. If you're like me, and you haven't yet read Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World, do it now. You can get it for free for your epub reader courtesy of Project Gutenberg. 
  • Or follow an Antarctic expedition as it happens by sledging over to Ben Saunder's blog, where he's posting daily updates as he attempts the first solo, unsupported, unassisted crossing of the continent.


We're Looking Forward to These December Releases


Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College has announced the 2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards, each with a $5000 honorarium: The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative FictionThe Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, and The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting. Any work published no earlier than June 1, 2015 is eligible. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2017. For more information, please visit the Neukom Awards website.

Applications are now open for two scholarships at The Frost Place:

  • The Gregory Pardlo Scholarship for Emerging African American Poets is open to African American Poets writing in English who have published up to one book of poetry. The winner will receive a full scholarship to attend the Poetry Seminar, including room and board, and will give a featured reading at the Seminar. For more information, please visit the Gregory Pardlo Scholarship page.
  • The Latin@ Scholarship is open to applicants that self-identify as Latin@, have a strong commitment to the Latin@ community, and are at least 21 years of age. The winner will receive tuition, room and board, and travel for The Frost Place Conference on Poetry. For more information and to apply, please visit the Latin@ Scholarship page.

The Frost Place is accepting submissions for its 2018 Chapbook Competition until January 5, 2018. The competition is open to any poet writing in English. Entries must be accompanied by a $28 entry fee. For details about submitting your manuscript and more information about the competition, please visit their Competition page.

Also until January 5, 2018, The Frost Place is accepting applications for the Dartmouth Poet in Residence program, a six-to-eight-week residency in Robert Frost's former farmhouse. The residency is July 1 to August 15, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and $1,000 from Dartmouth College. For more information and to apply online, please visit their Residency page.

Applications for the 2018 MacDowell Colony Summer Residency (June 1 to September 30, 2018)  are being accepted through January 15, 2018.  A residency consists of exclusive use of a studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for up to eight weeks. For more information, please visit the Application Guidelines page.

Hunger Mountain, the literary journal from VCFA, holds four annual contests: The Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, The Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize, The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, and The Katherine Patterson Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing. All contests are open to submissions through March 1, 2018. For more information, please visit their Contests page.

Vermont Literary Review is taking submissions of creative work about New England until March 31, 2018. For more information, please visit Castleton University's website.

Registration is now open for the VCFA Writing Novels for Young People Retreat (March 23 to 25, 2018). Faculty includes Donna Gephart, Nova Ren Suma, Amanda Maciel, Maggie Lehrman, and Sarah Aronson. A $200 deposit is required (refundable if the retreat is able to fill your spot). For more information please visit the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat page.

Registration is also open for the VCFA Novel Retreat (May 15 to 21, 2018). Faculty includes Connie May Fowler, Jeff Kleinman, Richard McCann, and Crystal Wilkinson. A $200 non-refundable deposit is required. For more information, please visit the Novel Retreat page.

The New England Review is open for Poetry and digital submissions through May 31, 2018. For more information, please visit the NER Submissions page.


Mud Season Salon: Sign of the Times resources

As part of this month's Salon, we asked our presenters to recommend resources, things that they found pertinent to the evening's theme, or things that helped give them solace and hope during difficult times. During the evening, many other resources came up as part of the conversation. Thank you to everyone who shared their words, thoughts, questions, answers, and inspiration!

Robin recommends

Read Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit, which has inspired Robin to get out on the streets and join with other people in activism, and also reaffirmed the importance of making art and the positive influences that can come from writing. Here are a few quotes from Solnit's book that Robin shared:

  • “Writing is lonely, it’s an intimate talk with the dead, with the unborn, with the absent, with strangers, with the readers who may never come to be and who even if they read you will do so weeks, years, decades later.”
  • “Every line we succeed in publishing today—no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it—is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.”
  • “Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit.”
  • “Inside the word emergency is emerge; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”

Jeff recommends, "the one source that, if you read it and endured it, knew that this was coming." Reading Breitbart will give you a glimpse into the alternate universe that's happening every day.

After you read that, because it'll be a bit of poison, clear your mind by reading, rereading, or seeing a production of Tony Kushner's play, Angels in America, Parts One and Two. It's like reading a newspaper from today.

Read Carolyn Forche's poem, "The Colonel," and the book from which it came, The Country Between Us. The book includes a series of reported poems about El Salvador during the years of the US-sponsored war there. 

And let's remember a time when poets had pop star status, when Marianne Moore, a devoted baseball fan, threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in 1968. Let's not forget there was a time when poets had that kind of recognition.

Finally, read Prophesy Deliverance!, where Cornel West writes about the nature of the relationship between hope and despair, how the two are so closely related that they cannot exist without each other, that hope arises out of despair. 

Taylor recommends

Attend Town hall meetings, which are are "boring in the most important way." Democracy isn't something that just happens. Democracy is something you do, participate in, cultivate.

Subscribe to Read Literately, a monthly newsletter for ravenous readers to distract you from the the crazy out there and remind you that there are thoughtful, creative people in the world writing things for us.

Download The New Economy Chapbook Cookbooka free PDF cookbook put together by a group of poets, activists, and home cooks. The cookbook, subtitled "Inexpensive, Healthy, Hopeful Feasts for 2017," collects fortifying recipes for cooking on a budget.

Read writers who are writing now, publishing today, who are almost writing as fast as you need them to. Poets like Morgan Parker who are writing poems we need to read right now.

And go back to the things you love, the books and movies that you already know and love, to appreciate them all over again, and find solace in things that haven't changed and still bring delight. 

Ben recommends

Find a place between land and air by following roads that aren't really there, going to places where you can't depend on where the ground is, like roads on ice that melts, or flood plains that are land and then aren't. See where the intermediary and temporary spaces are and get comfortable with being there.

Read anything by Rebecca Solnit. Maybe you've already started with Robin's suggestion of Hope in the Dark. After that, continue on with A Field Guide to Getting Lost, River of Shadows, and Wanderlust. These books continue the conversation about the value of looking to the landscape for metaphor and ballast.

Sink into Jane Kenyon's Collected Poems. You'll find sad beauty there, but also much hope and solace.

Shari And Rebecca recommend

Read "The Long and Pretty Good-bye" by Megan Mayhew Bergman (Paris Review).

Read "Grace Paley, the Saint of Seeing," by George Saunders (The New Yorker).

Print your own pocket constitution.

Fold a paper crane.

Take a walk. A long walk. Sing some protest songs while you're walking. Sing loud.

Read anything by Grace Paley, Terry Tempest Williams, and Barry Lopez. For example, Grace's poem, "That Country," Terry's book, Refuge, and Barry's essay, "The Invitation."

Wander through Jeff's Instagram feed to see the photos that accompany his essays. 

Go to Taylor's poem site to read some of her poems and thoughts.

Get your hands on a copy of Robin's book of short stories, Half Wild.

Listen to some of Ben's music, watch his videos, and read his essays.

Mud Season Salon: Gathering together in the storm

On March 3, 2017, we held our very first event, The Mud Season Salon, in White River Junction, Vermont. Our friend EM Reynolds attended, took photos, and then wrote this terrific recap of the evening. Thank you to her, to the presenters, to the attendees, to Junction Magazine, to Open Door, and to everyone else who helped make this event even better than we had dreamed it might be.


Too often we introverts give in to the need for comfort and home. How could anything compete with pajamas and a book? But what happens if we brave the elements and attend an evening event? Such is the premise that Literary North’s debut event was founded upon. They set out to answer the question, What would entice people to come out on a snowy night?

There is something so liberating, so almost other-worldly about sitting in an audience focused on someone’s words. This evening there were three presenters: Taylor Katz, Robin MacArthur and Jeff Sharlet. Each brought a unique interpretation to the theme of "Sign of the Times," and provided an interesting balance of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Robin MacArthur

Robin MacArthur

Setting aside her mug of tea, Robin spoke first, reading from her newly finished manuscript. In her soft eloquent manner, she talked about being beside her grandfather as he died and how the themes of love and loss permeate her writing. As she spoke, she also addressed the ideas of home and land, topics near and dear to her. Her experiences often resonate emotionally, becoming the basis of fictional work. She is, in essence, the translator of her life and the generations before her to the page in front of her. A proud product of the land and her New England ancestors. And, of course, it being March in Vermont, Robin told us of her family’s weekend spent maple sugaring. It brought to mind pots of sap and fire, primal and essential. As she conjured up these images for us, she exalted a slower life. As she finished, she championed authors by claiming Art as witness; speaking to the power of writing and creating as necessity not frivolous luxury. And my inner writer nodded in agreement.

Taylor Katz

Taylor Katz

Then Taylor got up to recite some of the poems from her chapbook. I found her to be exactly what she says she is. Forthright and plainspoken, she is refreshingly authentic and original. She’s a poet for hire and a tea farmer, and both occupations inform and support the other. The advantages being you can get down in the dirt, and you can get back to the basic origins of the clichéd metaphors we all take for granted. My favorite poem was “Shout out” in which she praises volunteers and librarians and grannies and mailmen—in short, everybody. She warned us that it was a long poem and we should gird ourselves for the onslaught. But each time she gave another shout out, there was a moment of connection and I was pleased for that group to be recognized. Honestly, I wish that poem could have been longer. She says her long poems compensate for her short stature and that she used to want to be known, but her poems are out in the world and now she is seen through them. She believes that being a little louder helps to make a little goodness grow. She professed her love of adjectives like juicy and spiky, a confluence of construction that perfectly sums up this poetess.

Jeff Sharlet

Jeff Sharlet

Jeff then took the floor to read from the manuscript of his next book. He too talked about spending time with family members in need of care. When his father was recovering from a heart attack, Jeff made overnight journeys to visit him in Schenectady, NY. It was during this time that he snapped an Instagram photo with his phone and inspiration struck. His focus became about connection and witness, rather than about artifice and polished perfection. The revelation was unearthed that stories are not aligned next to each other, but stacked, piling on top of each other. To which the audience seemed in total agreement. During the time he was working on his book he struggled to put his thoughts on paper; yet even when he thought it was finished, his own heart attack caused him to rethink the end. In rewriting he began to ponder symmetry and coming to terms with what and who we are. He is, as he says, writing his way home.

Ben Cosgrove

Ben Cosgrove

Journeys became a touched upon theme of the evening, which began with Ben Cosgrove. He played before the authors spoke, these haunting original pieces. They were inspired by land, but they flowed in a way that made me feel as if I were being swept away. Playing involves so much of his body, of which his instrument is an extension. It’s almost as if he’s dancing, the way he puts his head down, pushing the notes to the side. 

At the end of the evening there was a Q and A with all four participants. As they answered queries, we could see the connections in their work. The lines were drawn, affixing land to loss to love and the need to put these emotions into words and music.

Each author brought a resource with them to share and also talked a bit about works they’ve been reading lately trying to feel inspired.


For me these events are what lift me up. I feel like I’m part of something larger. Today’s world is crazy and chaotic. Our feelings churn into overdrive when we watch the news or look at our Twitter feeds. It’s hard to look away for fear we may miss something. I would respond that we need to find ways to nourish ourselves, to find strength in gatherings. There is comfort sitting in a room of strangers, but communing in a somewhat sacred space of our own creation. A place where words and ideas are delivered as both balm and benediction.


The whole evening, despite the snow, was a warm antidote to the weather. It was thoughtfully and intentionally orchestrated. The room was beautiful, and after the discussion there were handcrafted refreshments. Because these are the efforts that matter in this world. That’s what we introverts who organize such events do, we try to provide the best way we know how. With warm tea and comfort food, toast, pastrami, jams and nut butters. The paper cranes flanking the door, the exquisite bouquet of flowers, the wheel-thrown mugs—it was all evidence of the handmade. To all of the people who helped to make the evening possible—shout out to all of them!

So much work went into the planning of this event, but with any luck we’ll have more chances to gather to be part of a larger literary community. Some evenings it’s best to come together as listeners and honor words. To step out and step up. Because sometimes ignoring the siren song of a mug of tea and reading at home by yourself is the best thing we could possibly do.


EM Reynolds is a librarian, bookseller, writer, photographer and aspiring ukulele player living in Vermont. Visit her photographs during the month of March at The Norwich Public Library: Through the Lens: a Retrospective of Community at NPL.