The spring season of Club Book--the free writers series that brings nationally known writers to libraries and community centers all over the metro area, mainly outside of the core cities--kicks off on Feb. 12. This season's lineup is diverse and strong, including Quan Barry, Sonia Nazarrio, Jonathan Odell, and Garth Stein. March is particularly busy, with five of the nine events that month.
Here's the lineup:
Peter Heller. 7 p.m. Feb. 12, Stillwater Public Library, 224 3rd St. N., Stillwater. Heller is the author of "The Dog Stars" and "The Painter," and he has written extensively for National Geographic, Outside Magazine, Men's Journal and other magazines. The Star Tribune called "The Dog Stars" "a heart-wrenching and richly written story," comparable to the work of Cormac McCarthy.
Amy Quan Barry. 7 p.m. March 4, Northtown Library, 711 County Road 10 NE, Blaine. Barry is a poet and novelist, winner of the Donald Hall Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker and Ploughshares as well as other journals and magazines, and her new novel, "She Weeps Each Time You're Born," will be published this spring.
Nadia Hashimi. 7 p.m. March 11, Highland Park Community Center, 1974 Ford Parkway, St. Paul. Hashimi is the daughter of Afghan immigrants to the United States, and her novel, "The Pearl that Broke its Shell," is the story of two Afghan women. Hashimi, a pediatrician, is working on her second book, which is about Afghan refugees in Europe.
Jonathan Odell. 7 p.m. March 17, Prior Lake Library, 16210 Eagle Creek Av. SE, Prior Lake. Odell grew up in Mississippi and now lives in Minneapolis. His novel, "The Healing," published in 2012, was a local bestseller and named an Indies Next pick by the American Booksellers Association. His new novel, "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League," about the relationship between a black woman and a white woman during the American civil rights movement, will be published this month. (It is a reimagining of his first novel, "The View from Delphi.")
Anthony Marra. 6:30 p.m. March 19, Chanhassen Public Library, 7711 Kerber Boulevard, Chanhassen. Marra, winner of a Whiting Writers Award and a Pushcart Prize, is the author of "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." Set in Chechnya, the book was longlisted for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for emerging authors.
Marisa de los Santos. 7 p.m. March 31, Roseville Public Library, 2180 Hamline Av. N., Roseville. De los Santos is a poet, young-adult writer, essayist, and the author of three New York Times best-selling novels, including "Falling Together." Her new novel is "The Precious One."
Jon Ronson. 6:30 p.m. April 13, R.H. Stafford Library, 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury. Ronson is a journalist and the author of "The Men Who Stare at Goats," later made into a movie starring George Clooney. His most recent book is, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed."
Garth Stein. 7 p.m. April 20, Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Av., Apple Valley. Stein is the author of the best-selling "The Art of Racing in the Rain," which was on the New York Times best-seller list for three years. His new novel is a ghost story, "A Sudden Light."
Sonia Nazario. 7 p.m. April 27, Southdale Library, 7001 York Av. S., Edina. Nazario is a reporter who has worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. At the Times she won the Pulitzer Prize for her serial narrative "Enrique's Journey," the true story of a young Honduran boy who was attempting to cross the border into the United States to find his mother.
Club Book is funded through the state's 2008 Legacy Amendment. All events are free and open to the public, and since 2014 have been recorded and are available as podcasts on the Club Book website. Doors open 45 minutes before the event, and each event will be followed by book sales and signings by the authors.
This fall's English @ Minnesota series will bring in novelist (and jazz musician, and memoirist, and ...) James McBride, who will talk about "The Good Lord Bird," winner of the 2013 National Book Award (and soon to be a major motion picture, starring Jaden Smith) (and produced by McBride himself).
"The Good Lord Bird" is a funny, poignant novel about a young boy (nicknamed Onion) who travels with abolitionist John Brown in the months leading up to the Civil War.
McBride will be at Coffman Union Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 8.
The program will also host:
Jeff Sharlet, Edelstein Keller visiting writer and the author of "Radiant Truths," "The Family," and other books of literary journalism. 7 p.m. Oct. 2. Upson Room, Walter Library.
Stacey D'Erasmo, author of "Wonderland" and other books. 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Weisman Art Museum.
A conference on John Berryman at 100, the weekend of Oct. 24-26, at the Elmer L. Andersen Library. Poet Berryman, who died in 1972, won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and taught at the University of Minnesota.
Hunger Relief, with Jess Row. This will be the seventh annual hunger relief benefit, organized by Charles Baxter. Jess Row, author of "Your Face in Mine," will join the English Department's faculty raising money for Second Harvest Heartland. The benefit will be at 7 p.m. Nov 3 in McNamara Alumni Center. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5.
Jamaal May, Edelstein Keller visiting writer and author of "Hum," will read at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Upson Room of Walter Library.
The series runs from July 11 through July 20 and is free and open to the public. All events will be in Room 110E of the Giddens Learning Center on the Hamline Campus, except for the keynote address, which will be in the Anne Simley Theater of the Drew Fine Arts Center.
Here's the schedule:
Ron Koertge, Marsha Qualey, Laura Ruby: Friday, July 11, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Clare Vanderpool: Saturday, July 12, 3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Gary Schmidt, Jane Resh Thomas, Marsha Chall: Sunday, July 13, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Gene Luen Yang, Anne Ursu, Phyllis Root: Monday, July 14, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Swati Avasthi, Claire Rudolf Murphy, Jackie Briggs Martin: Tuesday, July 15, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Ricki Thompson, Alicia Williams, Melinda Cordell: Wednesday, July 16, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Sara Kvois, Mike Petry, Katie Knutson: Thursday, July 17, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Maria Macioce, Araceli Esparza: Saturday, July 19, 6:45 – 8 p.m.
Vera Williams: Sunday, July 20, 3:30-4:30 p.m.,Drew Fine Arts Center, Anne Simley Theatre.
He was in good form Tuesday night, our Mr. Bly, Minnesota's most famous poet--funny and crotchety, coming alive, as he always has, for poetry. Though he is 87 now and growing frail, he declined the comfortable easy chair that had been set at the front of the room for him, and he declined the help of his old friend and fellow poet, Thomas R. Smith, who was willing to hold the microphone for him, and instead stood strong and firm at the lectern and read and occasionally recited, and made jokes (sometimes the same joke) and offered the occasional poignant aside.
Bly was at the University Club on Summit Avenue in St. Paul as part of the monthly Carol Connolly Reading Series. April is poetry month, and Connolly had packed this month's bill with nothing but fine poets. Louis Jenkins ("Nice Fish") was a crowd pleaser with his humorous prose poems; Freya Manfred, tall and strong, read her earthy poems of nature and family; and Smith opened the evening with a powerful poem of spring, which he read with vigor. "It's amazing how doing a good loud poem clears away nervousness," he said.
Each poet paid a little homage to Bly, the star of the evening. "We're all borrowing so much from Robert that in the next life we're all going to have to do his dishes and take out his garbage," Smith said, before reading a final poem that he acknowledged was inspired by Bly.
Jenkins' prose poems kept the crowd laughing--poems about regret and basements and forgetfulness and the nostalgia of red cars and blond girlfriends and the burden of too much zucchini. He, too, acknowledged a debt to Bly (who was laughing in the front row at some of Jenkins' poems), saying, "We steal from him all the time."
Manfred read a poem about the eye of a loon, telling the audience that Bly had influenced her last line, suggesting she remove one word, "dreadful." She shook her head, in amazement at herself for writing it that way in the first place, perhaps, or in amazement at Bly for the catch. "He was right about that last line," she said.
The audience was studded with poets--Charles Baxter and Joyce Sutphen, Ethna McKiernan and Su Smallen, Tim Nolan and Danny Klecko, James Lenfestey and Patricia Kirkpatrick. It was poets listening to poets on a mild spring evening during Poetry Month. But the star of the night was Bly.
He read some of the poems that he read last autumn at the launch of his latest collection, "Stealing Sugar from the Castle"--some of the old farm poems ("for a while we had goats. They were like turkeys, only more reckless"), "My Father at 86," "Keeping Our Small Boat Afloat," and several poems from "The Man in the Black Coat Turns," including "Snowbanks North of the House."
"That's the first poem I ever wrote that had some of my darkness in it," he said.
As always, as in the past, Bly's comedic timing was sharp, he repeated stanzas and last lines, he dipped his hand to the rhythm of the words. He was enigmatic, and the audience, while drinking in his every aside, wanted more.
At the end of "Snowbanks North of the House," Bly recited the final stanza twice:
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.
"Maybe there's somebody like that in each of us," he said. "If I had known what that poem meant, I wouldn't have had to write it." And the poets and the fans and the readers in the audience sat forward on their chairs, listening, as outside the big windows of the University Club the light drained from the sky and the night grew dark.
She's been called the "Hans Christian Andersen of America" for her great contribution to children's literature, but author Jane Yolen is also a poet and an essayist. Many of her children's books ride the wave between fairytales, fantasy and science fiction, though her range is much broader than that.
She will be in Minnesota this month for three appearances, the first of which will be Thursday, April 17, at the Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota, where she will deliver the annual Naomi C. Chase Lecture in Children's Literature.
The title of her talk is "Break Through into Faerie: A Meditation on the Surprising Rise of Faerie Tale Related Books, Poetry, Magazines, Conventions, TV, Movies, Games and Ephemera." But you don't need to remember the title; just remember that Yolen is the author of more than 300 books and the recipient of a whole host of awards, including two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, two Christopher Medals, and many others.
She will also read from her newest collection of poetry of Tuesday, April 22, at the Loft at Open Book. Her new collection, "Bloody Tide: Poems About Politics and Power," is newly published by Duluth's Holy Cow! Press, which has published previous titles by Yolen.
The following day, Yolen will head to Duluth (let's hope for no snow) to deliver a talk on writing about the Holocaust as part of the annual Holocaust Remebrance events at UMD.
Here are the details of her appearances:
Thursday, April 17:
5 p.m. reception; 5:45 p.m. lecture; 6:30 p.m. Q&A, 7 p.m. book signing. 120 Andersen Library, University of Minnesota. Free.
Tuesday, April 22:
7 p.m. reading with Holy Cow! Press poets Kate Green and Susan Deborah King. The Loft at Open Book. 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls. Free.
Wednesday, April 23:
4 p.m., "The Swallows Still Fly Around the Camp Chimneys: The Lasting Impressions of Holocaust on Writers and Child Readers" Chem 200, UMD. Free.
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