Nearly 1,000 poets from all over the United States entered Common Good Books' annual spring poetry contest. The winners were announced at noon today by Garrison Keillor in a ceremony at Macalester College.
Minneapolis poets Lisa Kundrat and Ethna McKiernan, along with Kari Castor of Illinois, were the three top winners. Each won $1,000.
There were also four $500 winners--three of whom are from Minnesota. They are Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, and Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, N.Y.
The three top poems are posted below. The competition was judged by Keillor, the owner of Common Good Books.
Lisa Kundrat, "Dear You"
If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?
Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no
time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a
hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to
wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in
that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning
toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our
rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway
toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and
ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like
restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights
dangling like calcite. Driving north through the pitch black, we knew
we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the
cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.
Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into
the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You
wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we
always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and
when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our
hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on
the other side.
Ethna McKiernan, "Leaving"
I turned around tonight to say—
And then I missed you so hard
at that instant, the wry smile of you
absent, every atom of you flown,
not a particle hovering in the house.
I left too, young as you
craving wind-shifts of change,
hitching through Europe in the 70’s,
camping rough, picking grapes in France,
bleaching the stain off down in Spain,
five months of glory on the road.
Now the same winds have pushed you
to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars
in the sky last night, that long curl
dissipating into cloud.
Remember how I knew you at five
in that Ninja costume?
I knew you skate-boarding
with an attitude at Brackett Park,
and sensed for certain when
you first fell in love. I knew you
as a heartbeat beneath my ribs
at nine months, almost born.
And know you now,
Kari Castor, "Dear Roger"
I think sometimes about
that night in college when I
sat on your lap in your room
and the way we tried to devour
each other when we
realized we were alone for a moment--
Aaron graduated and in
for me to join him,
our friends returned
to the living room--
the way your thick stubble
burned my cheek
the way I was terrified
to make this mistake
and also terrified
to not make it
the way I made you drive me
home and leant my
against the cool car window
the whole way about asking
you into my empty apartment
the way we carefully
avoided touching each other
for fear of striking a spark that might
set the whole fragile veneer ablaze
and I wonder sometimes if you
all these years later
ever think about that night
the way I do
Novelist Marlon James and poet Joyce Sidman each picked up their second Minnesota Book Award on Saturday night, and previous nominees Julie Klassen and Margi Preus also were among the winners. The Star Tribune's editorial writer Lori Sturdevant picked up her first award for writing; she had previously won two Minnesota Book Awards for editing.
The annual event drew about 800 people to St. Paul’s Union Depot for a festive night of music, champagne and celebration of the written word. Here are the winners:
Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen: “Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Sidman, a Newbery Honor-winning author, won a Minnesota Book Award in 2010. She lives in Wayzata. Allen is an award-winning illustrator and printmaker in Duluth.
General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:
Nancy Koester: “Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life,” published by William B. Eerdman Publishing Co. Koester is an ordained Lutheran minister and spiritual director.
Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Julie Klassen: “The Secret of Pembrooke Park,” published by Bethany House Publishers. Klassen is the author of eight novels, including three winners of the Christy Award for Historical Romance.
Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual:
Kaethe Schwehn: “Tailings: A Memoir,” published by Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers. Schwehn is the co-editor of “Claiming Our Callings: Toward a New Understanding of Vocation in the Liberal Arts.” She teaches at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
Minnesota, sponsored by St. Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Lori Sturdevant: “Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Sturdevant is an editorial columnist for the Star Tribune and has written a number of books on Minnesota history.She won a Minnesota Book Award in 2003 for editing "Overcoming: The Autobiography of W. Harry Davis," and in 2001 for editing Elmer L. Andersen's "A Man's Reach."
Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Marlon James: “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” published by Riverhead Books. James is the author of “The Book of Night Women,” winner of a 2010 Minnesota Book Award. He teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.
Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Sean Hill: “Dangerous Goods,” published by Milkweed Editions. Hill, who was born and raised in Milledgeville, Ga., also is the author of “Blood Ties & Brown Liquor.”
Young People’s Literature, sponsored by the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University:
Margi Preus: “West of the Moon,” published by Amulet Books. Preus, who lives in Duluth, is a Newbery Honor Award-winning author of five books for young readers.
Also at the event, writer and educator Mary François Rockcastle received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award for her long-standing contributions to Minnesota’s literary community. And Harriet Bart and her collaborative partners, Philip Gallo and Jill Jevne, won the eighth annual Book Artist Award for a new piece entitled “Ghost Maps.” Since 2000, Bart, Gallo and Jevne have collaborated to produce 10 artist books, two of which have received Minnesota Book Awards.
Judges sifted through 250 books nominated for awards this year, with 32 books selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by judges from around the state.
The shortlists for the PEN Literary Awards were announced today, and there's Graywolf Press (Leslie Jamison and Claudia Rankine) as well as books published by other small presses--a growing force in the world of publishing. Tin House, Sarabande, Princeton University Press, Soho.
The winners will be announced May 13, with an awards ceremony in June.
Here are the lists, with links to Star Tribune reviews when available.
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): To an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2014—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
The UnAmericans (W. W. Norton & Company), Molly Antopol
Ruby (Hogarth), Cynthia Bond
Redeployment (Penguin Press), Phil Klay
The Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Jack Livings
Love Me Back (Doubleday), Merritt Tierce
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2014 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.
Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press), David Bromwich
Theater of Cruelty (New York Review Books), Ian Buruma
Loitering (Tin House Books), Charles D’Ambrosio
The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press), Leslie Jamison
Limber (Sarabande Books), Angela Pelster
PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2014.
War of the Whales (Simon & Schuster), Joshua Horwitz
How We Got to Now (Riverhead Books), Steven Johnson
The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt and Co.), Elizabeth Kolbert
The Age of Radiance (Scribner), Craig Nelson
Proof (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Adam Rogers
PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction ($10,000): To an author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in 2013 or 2014.
Our Declaration (Liveright), Danielle Allen
League of Denial (Crown Archetype), Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru
Five Days at Memorial (Crown), Sheri Fink
The Big Truck That Went By (Palgrave Macmillan), Jonathan M. Katz
This Changes Everything (Simon & Schuster), Naomi Klein
PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2014.
An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press), Rabih Alameddine
Every Day Is for the Thief (Random House), Teju Cole
An Untamed State (Black Cat/ Grove Atlantic), Roxane Gay
Citizen (Graywolf Press), Claudia Rankine
The City Son (Soho Press), Samrat Upadhyay
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2014.
Rebel Yell (Scribner), S. C. Gwynne
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Scribner), Jeff Hobbs
Strange Glory (Alfred A. Knopf), Charles Marsh
The Queen's Bed (Sarah Crichton Books), Anna Whitelock
Piero's Light (Pegasus Books), Larry Witham
PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2014.
Boy on Ice (W. W. Norton & Company), John Branch
Black Noon (Thomas Dunne Books), Art Garner
All Fishermen are Liars (Simon & Schuster), John Gierach
Ping-Pong Diplomacy (Scribner), Nicholas Griffin
Deep (Eamon Dolan Books), James Nestor
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2014.
Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon (Action Books), translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi
I Am the Beggar of the World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Pashto by Eliza Griswold
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Juana Inés de la Cruz (W. W. Norton & Company), translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
Breathturn into Timestead by Paul Celan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the German by Pierre Joris
Guantanamo by Frank Smith (Les Figues Press), translated from the Spanish by Vanessa Place
PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2014.
The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla (New York Review Books), translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon
Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press), translated from the Danish by Denise Newman
Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum Publishing), translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (Two Lines Press), translated from the French by Jordan Stump
Minnesota poet Matt Rasmussen has won the Theodore H. Holmes and Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize from the Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University.
Rasmussen, visiting professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College, grew up in International Falls and now lives in Robbinsdale. He has received grants and residencies from the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, Yaddo, and elsewhere. His first collection, "Black Aperture," published by Louisiana State University Press, won the Walt Whitman Award and was a finalist for a National Book Award.
The Holmes prize carries an award of $5,000.
Music inspired by four of last year's Minnesota Book Award-winning books will be performed on April 8 at the Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul.
The authors will also be there, to read from their books: Melanie Hoffert, winner for memoir and creative nonfiction, will read from "Prairie Silence." Carrie Mesrobian, winner in young people's literature, will read from "Sex & Violence." Matt Rasmussen will read from his debut poetry collection, "Black Aperture." And Ethan Rutherford will read from "The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories," which won in the category of novel and short story.
The accompanying music was written and will be performed by Ipsifendus Collective, a group of Twin Cities musicians who compose music for films and theater productions. The group includes musicians from a number of local bands, including Dreamland Faces, Bookhouse, Painted Saints and the Poor Nobodys.
The collaboration of books and music is sponsored by the Minnesota Book Awards, in advance of this year's gala event on April 18. The April 8 performace at Bedlam Theatre will begin at 7 p.m. Bedlam Theatre is at 213 E. Fourth Street, at the last stop of the Green Line in Lowertown, across from the Historic Union Depot.
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