Minnesota poet Matt Rasmussen shortlisted for National Book Award

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 17, 2013 - 8:38 AM

His book, “Black Ap­er­ture,” also won the Walt Whit­man Award.

 

Min­ne­so­ta poet Matt Ras­mus­sen, win­ner of the Walt Whit­man Award for “Black Ap­er­ture,” has been short­list­ed for a National Book Award.

“My Face­book is going cra­zy,” he said Wednes­day, short­ly af­ter the final­ists were an­nounced on MSNBC. He had found out earli­er that he was a fi­nal­ist but had been sworn to se­cre­cy. “I did wake up to watch it, though,” he said. “It’s not of­ten that I get on tel­e­vi­sion, es­pe­cial­ly as a poet. Tel­e­vi­sion is the last place you find po­et­ry, u­su­al­ly.”

Two oth­er final­ists have Min­ne­so­ta con­nec­tions; young-a­dult au­thor Gene Luen Yang teach­es in the low-res­i­dence MFA pro­gram at Ham­line University in St. Paul, and poet Mary Szybist’s col­lec­tion, “In­car­na­dine,” was pub­lished by Graywolf Press.

“ ‘In­car­na­dine’ is a mar­vel of a book, a­bout the many ways we en­coun­ter the world and the world en­count­ers us,” said Graywolf Executive Ed­i­tor Jeff Shotts.

The poems of “Black Ap­er­ture,” which Ras­mus­sen worked on for a­bout 10 years, are a­bout the death by su­i­cide of his broth­er, which hap­pened when Ras­mus­sen was 16. “I think an e­vent like that takes a long time to proc­ess, or to gain any a­mount of dis­tance where you can write a­bout it in an ef­fec­tive way,” he said.

Ras­mus­sen, 38, is from International Falls; he lives in Robbinsdale and teach­es at Gus­ta­vus A­dol­phus College.

Min­ne­so­ta has made a good show­ing in the National Book Awards in re­cent years, with Lou­ise Er­drich and Will Al­ex­an­der, both of Min­ne­ap­olis, win­ning last year. T.J. Stiles, who grew up in Foley and gradu­at­ed from Car­le­ton College, won in 2009 for “The First Ty­coon,” his bi­og­ra­phy of Cor­nel­ius Van­der­bilt, which also won the Pul­it­zer Prize. J.F. Pow­ers was the first Min­ne­so­tan to win, in 1963, for his novel “Morte d’Urban.”

The win­ner will be an­nounced Nov. 20.

Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302 Twit­ter @StribBooks

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