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.
April is poetry month, and St. Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly is pulling out all the stops with her monthly Readings by Writers. Robert Bly, Thomas R. Smith, Freya Manfred and Louis Jenkins will read at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 15) at the University Club on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. I've attended four or five Bly events in the last couple of years, and each time, frankly, have wondered if it would be his last. The venerable National Award Winning poet is 87 years old, his memory is beginning to fade, he has nothing left to prove. But in October, when he launched his latest book, “Stealing Sugar from the Castle,” he rose to the occasion on stage, telling stories, cracking gentle jokes, reciting some of the poems rather than reading them.
Thomas R. Smith is the author of six books of poetry and is the editor of "Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer," published by Graywolf Press.
Freya Manfred is the author of "Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle," "The Blue Dress," and many other works of poetry. She is also the author of "Frederick Manfred: A Daughter Remembers."
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