Kristal Leebrick's prize-winning love poem has it all: winter, North Dakota, young love, first love, the northern lights, sentimentality, and the wise perspective of later years. It's evocative without being sweet, nostalgic without being mawkish, and it attracted the admiration of the three fine judges of Common Good Books' second annual Love Poems competition, who awarded it first prize.
Leebrick lives in St. Paul, edits a monthly newspaper, and is the author of "Dayton's: A Twin Cities Institution."
The four runners up in the competition are:
Edwin Romond of Wind Gap, Penn.
Kathleen Novak of Minneapolis
Ann Harrington of St. Paul
and Chet Corey of Bloomington.
Judges were Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen; Leebrick wins $1,000 and the four runners-up each with $250. May they spend it on fine pens, thick journals, and lots of books!
Here is the winning poem:
New Year Love
I remember our breath
in the ciy air
and how the northern lights gathered
in a haze at the horizon,
spread up past the water tower
then vanished into the dark.
I remember that January night in North Dakota:
We left the dance,
the hoods of our dads' air force parkas zipped tight,
our bare hands pulled into the coat sleeves.
into the wind
down the drifting sidewalks of our eight-grade lives
to the brick-and-clapboard row houses on Spruce Street.
We ducked between buildings
and you pulled me close.
A flickering light from someone's TV screen.
A kitchen window.
Your fingers tracing my face.
Your hair brushing my eyes.
Your skin, your lips.
I remember that January night in North Dakota,
but I can't remember you rname.
It's cold outside but it's warm inside--inside bookstores and colleges, libraries and coffee shops and performance spaces, and if you can make it out of your alley and not spin out at those icy intersections you might want to check out some of these spring literary events coming up in the Twin Cities. And yes, I am using the word "spring" very loosely. And yes, I am bitter.
The list is long and I am not pretending to be comprehensive. Please feel free to add any missing events in the comments, so send me an email and I'll update this. Events are free unless otherwise noted. Here goes:
Talk of the Stacks with Lorrie Moore: 7 p.m. March 7, Central Library, Nicollet Mall
You know the drill--doors open at 6:15 and people start lining up ahead of time. Get there early. Some late arrivals might have to go into an overflow room, which was the case when Amy Tan spoke here last fall. The hour-long reading/q&a will be followed by a reception and booksigning.
Club Book with P.S. Duffy, 7 p.m. March 11, Merriam Park Library, St. Paul
P.S. Duffy, who lives in Rochester, is the author of "The Cartographer of No-Man's Land."
Birchbark Books Reading Series: 7 p.m. March 12, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis
William Bearhart, Sun Yung Shin, Cole Bauer, and Margaret Hasse will read their poetry.
Poetry Out Loud State Competition: 11:30 a.m. March 13, Pohlad Hall, Central Library, Minneapolis
One high school from this competition will go on to represent Minnesota at the national finals in Washington, D.C., in April. Yes, poetry is a competitive sport! (Shouldn't it have letter jackets? With lots of letters?)
University of Minnesota "First Books": 7 p.m. March 13, Weisman Art Museum
This is a spring tradition at the U, a reading by new authors. This year, the three authors--all of nonfiction--will be in conversation with Chris Fischbach, publisher of Coffee House Press (which published two of the books).
Authors are: Kate Hopper ("Ready for Air," University of Minnesota Press), Andy Sturdevant ("Potluck Supper with Meeting to Folow"), and Joshua Ostergaard ("The Devil's Snake Curve: A Fan's Notes from Left Field").
Minnesota Book Awards Nominee Readings: 7 p.m. March 14, The Loft, Minneapolis
This is always a fun event, with most of the 30 or so finalists for the Minnesota Book Award reading from their nominated works.
Normandale Community College Writing Festival: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., March 19
This is the fifth annual festival, which is free and open to the public. Keynote speeches will be by Sarah Stonich ("Vacationland") and Benjamin Percy ("Red Moon"). Other speakers include Swati Avasthi and Ed Bok Lee.
Club Book with Nikki Giovanni and Dave Zirin, 7 p.m. March 19, Southdale Library, Edina
Dave Zirin is a sportwriter and the author of "Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down." Nikki Giovanni is, of course, a poet, winner of an American Book Award.
North Hennepiin Community College Meet the Authors Reading Series, March 20 and April 21
I'm sorry that you've already missed the first two in the series--Kao Kalia Yang and Matt Rasmussen. But YA author Pete Hautman will read at 11:30 a.m. March 20, and Heid Erdrich will read at 10 a.m. April 21.
Echoes Across the Pond--Voices Irish & American: 7 p.m. March 26, The Loft at Open Book
Poets Joyce Sutphen, Tim Nolan, Patricia Kirkpatrick, Anne-Marie Fyfe, and C.L. Dallat.
Cracked Walnut Reading Festival: April 2-May 1, various spots around the Twin Cities and Duluth
The second annual spring series from this group will hold readings at coffee shops, community centers, and other neighborhood locations for most of April. The list of readers is long (and full disclosure, I will be one of them), and is still in the works, but it includes Margaret Haase, Mona Susan Power, Ryan Vine, Pam Schmid, and Anika Fajardo.
Talk of the Stacks with Ron Padgett: 7 p.m. April 3, Central Library, Mpls.
Poet Ron Padgett, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and also an editor and translator, has published his collected works this year with Coffee House Press.
Minnesota Book Awards Gala: 7 p.m. April 5, The Historic Union Depot, St. Paul
The glittering event of the season. Dress up (in black, of course, and maybe a hat with a jaunty feather? Or some jet beads? Go nuts), enjoy some jazz, have a glass of wine, and find out who wins the trophies this year. Tickets are $45 and you can register online here.
Club Book with Brian Freeman: 7 p.m. April 7, Rum River Library, Anoka
Minnesota writer Brian Freeman is the best-selling author of the Jonathan Stride mysteries.
David Mitchell: 7:30 p.m. April 9, Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota
Part of the notable Esther Freier Endowed Lectures, a continuing series that brings in significant authors to speak at a free event. Mitchell will discuss "Cloud Atlas," and will give a few peeks into his sixth novel, "The Bone Clocks," to be published in September. These lectures tend to fill up fast; go early.
Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry: 7 p.m. April 11, University of St. Thomas
This year's winner is Irish poet Catherine Phill MacCarthy, from Dublin. Go for the accent, stay for the poetry.
Club Book with Peter Geye and Amy Greene: 7 p.m. April 15, Roseville Library
Geye, who lives in Minneapolis, is the author of "Safe from the Sea" and "The Lighthouse Road," chosen as a 2014 World Book Night selection. Greene, a novelist, is the author of "Long Man," published this month by Alfred A. Knopf.
Poetry readings: 7 p.m. April 22, the Loft at Open Book, Minneapolis
Kate Green, Jane Yolen and Susan Deborah King read from their new books.
World Book Night: April 23, all day long, everywhere
This will be the third year for World Book Night in the United States (it's been going on longer in the UK), a day (and night) during which volunteers hand out free paperback copies of selected books to random folks. This year's titles includes books by Minnesota writers Garrison Keillor, Peter Geye, Eleanor Brown, and Cheryl Strayed. Try to hang out in a place where you think a giver might happen by. Good luck nabbing a free book.
Club Book with Amanda Coplin: 7 p.m. April 24, Stillwater Public Library
Amanda Coplin, who earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota, is the author of the highly acclaimed novel, "The Orchardist."
PenPals Lecture Series with Art Spiegelman: 7:30 p.m. April 24 and 11 a.m. April 25, Hopkins Arts Center
Artist and illustrator Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Maus," an illustrated history of the Holocaust (told by a mouse). Tickets are $50-40 and available here.
The Great Twin Cities Poetry Read: 7 p.m. April 26, Augsburg College, Minneapolis
Thirty poets will each read one poem. Names? Here's all thirty, in groups of five:
William Waltz, Elisabeth Workman, Sarah Fox, Christopher Bolin, Chay Douangphouxay.
Katrina Vandenberg, Kate Shuknecht, Patrick Werle, Jessica Welu, Heid Erdrich.
Paula Cisewski, Chris Martin, Dobby Gibson, Angela Mason, Jenny McDougal
Patricia Kirkpatrick, Dessa, Mary Austin Speaker, Sun Yung Shin, Kate Green
Betsy Brown, Kavi Jointe, Seth Abramson, Matt Mauch, Brad Liening
Steve Healey, Matt Rasmussen, MC Hyland, Emily Fedoruk, Tai Coleman
Children's and Young Adult Literature Conference: April 25-27, the Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis.
Register online here for the conference, which will feature workshops, lectures and panel discussions with Anne Ursu, Pete Hautman, Brian Ferrey-Latz, Molly Beth Griffin, and many others.
PenPal Lecture Series with Tracy K. Smith: 7:30 p.m. May 8 and 11 a.m. May 9, Hopkins Center for the Arts
Tracy K. Smith's "Life on Mars," published by Graywolf Press, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Tickets are $50-40 and are available here.
Talk of the Stacks with Francine Prose: 7 p.m. May 12, Central Library, Minneapolis
Francine Prose is a novelist and essayist; her new book, "Lovers at the Chameleon Club," will be published March 1.
And let's not forget all of the authors who will be coming through your neighborhood bookstores--Common Good Books, Once Upon a Crime, the various Barnes and Nobles, Magers & Quinn, Chapter 2, Valley Booksellers, Excelsior Bay, SubText, the Bookcase of Wayzata, Micawber's, Wild Rumpus, Red Balloon: check their websites for events.
And by the time you've gone to all of this events, it really and truly will be spring.
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