When you saw that Garrison Keillor and Common Good Books had decided to offer a $1,000 prize for the winner of this year's love poem contest--and $250 for each of the four runners-up--you probably thought, Heck. I'll never win. It'll probably go to someone really good, like Walt Whitman, or somebody.
Fear not! Prithee! 'Zounds! And other vaguely poetic sounding exclamations! Because the bookstore is hoping to level the playing field a little--bring you up, so to speak, to Whitman's level. And so, on its website, it is offering free advice on how to write a love poem. This advice is from the tops in the field. No, not Walt Whitman (someone needs to break the news to you that Mr. Whitman is dead), but from others just as good (and very much alive).
And so we have advice from Jeff Shotts, executive editor of Graywolf Press and editor of some of the finest poets being published today. Also, advice from Washington State's poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken, Tony Hoagland (whose newest book came out in March) (and was edited by Jeff Shotts), and many others. More advice will pop up between now and the competition deadline of April 15, so check back.
The advice is sound and simple and much of it applies to good writing in general: Be direct and intimate, be fully honest, be unexpected. But of course, since they are poets, they said this so much better. Here's a sampling:
"While writing a love poem, you must ignore everyone but the beloved." (Shotts.)
"I learned that love poems could be more than just 'let me count the ways' and contain the dark as well as the light.." (Flenniken.)
"The love poet is advised to twist the data convincingly towards the eccentric as well as the esoteric. Show the beloved emptying a mousetrap. Describe the expression on the mouse’s face." (Hoagland)
So. Ready? Submit your poem (with a signed release, available on the Common Good Books site) by April 15. Winners will be judged by Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen--fine St Paul poets, all.
And even if you don't win the $1,000, when this is all over you will have written a love poem. And that's no small thing.
Last year, with its debut literary festival, the group known as Cracked Walnut promised a reading a day for a full month. This year they're doing almost as well: The second literary series debuts on Wednesday, April 2, and will run through May 7 with readings if not every single day, at least several times a week.
Cracked Walnut is the brainchild of Hamline University MFA candidate Satish P. Jayaraj, who found himself surrounded by writers (no surprise, in an MFA program) and was looking for a way to establish a venue for reading.
This year's 25 readings will take place in coffee shops, galleries, libraries, museums, a hospital, and other offbeat places--mainly in the Twin Cities, but also in Duluth and Rochester--and will include more than 100 writers. Each reading carries a different theme.
The lineup includes poets Tim Nolan, Ethna McKiernan, Adrienne Miller, Ryan Vine, Margaret Hasse and Matt Mauch. (Full disclosure: I am reading, too.) The list is still being firmed up and you can check back at www.crackedwalnut.com for updates.
Here's the whole list, current as of today:
Wednesday April 2nd 7:00 pm (Mirror Mirror on the Wall)
Underground music Café ‘Coffee Grounds’ (1579 Hamline Ave N, St Paul, MN 55108)
featuring: Laurie Hertzel, Kelly Hansen Maher, Maya Washington, Nick Metcalf,
Chilli Lor, Hawona Sullivan Janzen
Thursday April 3rd 7:00 pm (Richfield CW Festival Reading)
Richfield Community Center (7000 Nicollet Ave S Minneapolis, Minnesota 55423)
featuring: Vanessa Ramos, Anika Fajardo, Philip Simondet, Ted King,
Lorissa Gottschalk, Maggie Ryan Sandford,
Friday April 4th 20th 7:00 pm (Hooked)
The Coffee Shop Ne (2852a Johnson St. NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418)
featuring: Creating community in average spaces through the magic of spoken literature, Evan Kingston, Laura Theobald
Patrick Werle, Mary Harold, Sharkhooks
Saturday April 5th 7:00pm (What Does Your Fox Say)
Blackdog Coffee and Wine Bar (308 Prince Street, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101)
featuring: Wendy Skinner, Mona Susan Power, Ardie Medina,
Brian Baumgart, Marjorie Hakala, George J Farrah
Sunday April 6th 11:00 am (Fitting In)
Black Sheep Coffee Cafe (705 Southview Boulevard, South Saint Paul, Minnesota 55075)
featuring: Pam Schmid, Andrea Jenkins, Lisa Ann Pierce, Kimberly Eridon
Chris Vaughan, Jennifer Bowen Hicks, Andrew Cleary
Wednesday April 9th10:20am (Amplatz Children’s Hospital CW Festival Reading)
U of M Amplatz Children’s Hospital (2450 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454)
featuring: Rebecca Ramsden, Bruce Peck, Satish Jayaraj, Anne Sawyer-Aitch
Thursday April 10th 7:00 pm (It’s a Wonderful Life)
J. Arthur’s Coffee (2441 Rice Street, Roseville, Minnesota 55113)
featuring: Paula Cisewski, Sarah Turner, Margaret Hasse
River Urke, Jamie Hagg, Kevin Hershey, Mindy Mejia
Friday April 11th 7:00 pm (Legacy and Heritage)
Royal Grounds (4161 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409)
featuring: Sandra Evans, Chay Douangphouxay, Kris Bigalk
Saturday April 12th 7:00 pm (St Thomas Academy CW Festival Reading)
St Thomas Academy (949, Mendota Heights, MN 55120)
featuring: Donna Isaac, Satish Jayaraj, Michael Kiesow Moore, Tom Ferderer
Sunday April 13th 7:00 pm (Rochester CW Festival Reading)
C4 Creative Salon (324 1st St SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55902)
featuring: Daniel Solis, Emily Urness, Steven Vogel, Josh Fischer, Katrina Wollet, Matt Dahl
Monday April 14th 7:00 pm (Be a Lady)
Diamonds Coffee Shoppe (1618 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413)
Featuring: Patricia Francisco, IBé, Matt Mauch, Rebecca Song
David Stein, Krisanne Dattir, Jenny McDougal
Thursday April 17th 7:00 pm (Divinity and Humor)
Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar (Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar)
featuring: Linda White, Kate Lynn Hibbard, Kristin Laurel, Benjamin Kowalsky,
Bryan Mazo, Lennon Sundance
Friday April 18th 7:00 pm (Home and Away)
Cahoots Coffee Bar (1562 Selby Ave Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104)
featuring: Jen March, Michael Dean, Ka Zoua Vang,
Louis Murphy, Darci Schummer
Saturday April 19th 7:00 pm (Duluth CW Festival Reading)
Prøve Gallery (21 N Lake Ave, 21 N Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802)
featuring: Ryan Vine, Satish Jayaraj, Felicia Schneiderhan
Monday April 21st 7:00 pm (Be a Man)
Hamline Midway Library (1558 W Minnehaha Ave, St Paul, MN 55104)
featuring: Andrew Blissenbach, Colin Mcdonald, Kate Shuknecht,
Ariane Sandford, Thomas Rohde, Moheb Soliman
Friday April 25th 7:00 pm (#phobia)
Hillside Chapel (2610 19th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418)
featuring: Leslie Adrienne Miller, Paul Canada,
Karen Youso, Sarah Hayes, Lisa Brimmer
Saturday April 26th 1:00 pm (Urbanization)
Mill City Museum (704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401)
Featuring: Saymoukda Vongsay, Tim Nolan, Carla Hagen,
Tracy Harris, Amy Salloway
Sunday April 27th 4:00pm (War and Strife)
Boneshaker Books (2002 23rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404)
featuring: Ethna Mckiernan, Khary Jackson, Dain Ingebretson,
Wednesday April 30th 7:00 pm (Beware the Elements)
Fireroast Café (3800 37th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406)
Thursday May 1st 7:00 PM (The Final Frontier)
Solar Arts Building ( 711 15th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413)
Paula Cisewski, Alison Morse, Chris Title,
Paige Riehl, Peter Stein, Lynne Kuechle,
Friday May 2nd 7:00 PM (Year of the Horse)
Solomon’s Porch(100 W 46th St, Minneapolis, MN 55419)
Featuring: Victoria Peterson Hilleque, (more to come)
Saturday May 3rd 1:00 PM (Masks of Power)
Books and Tea(325 West 7th Street, St Paul, MN 55102)
Sunday May 4th 7:00 PM (Good and Evil)
Café Bene(53 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105)
featuring: Josh Wodarz (more to come)
Tuesday May 6th 7:00 PM (The Witching Hour)
Claddagh Coffee (459 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102)
Wednesday May 7th 6:00 PM (Transmutation)
Peace Coffee shop Wonderland Park(3262 Minnehaha Ave. Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406)
Comedian Amy Poehler might seem an odd choice as honorary chairperson of World Book Night -- previous chairs were authors Ann Patchett, James Patterson, and Anna Quindlen -- but World Book Night's executive director says it's "a happy, happy event."
"This news is the icing, cherry and candles on the year three WBN cake," Carl Lennertz said in a prepared statement. "We've already announced a seven-author New York Public Library launch event, our highest percentage of free books going to teachers and students in underfunded schools, and a record number of participating librarians and booksellers, and Amy Poehler joining our cause is a happy, happy event. On behalf of our 25,000 volunteer givers and 500,000 book recipients this coming April 23, we say thank you."
Poehler is best known as a cast member of "Saturday Night Live" and as a star of the long-running comedy series "Parks and Recreation." But she says (in that same statement!) that she has always been a reader. "I grew up loving books," she said. "In today's digital world, it's more important than ever to know how it feels to have a good book in your hands. I'm thrilled to be part of World Book Night. People who read are people who dream, and we connect through the stories we live and tell and read."
World Book Night is an annual spring ritual, now in its third year, during which 25,000 volunteers across the United States hand out free books at random. This year's list of books includes several Minnesota authors, including Garrison Keillor and Peter Geye. Other authors--Eleanor Brown (a graduate of Macalester College) and Cheryl Strayed (a graduate of the University of Minnesota)--have Minnesota ties.
World Book Night began four years ago in Ireland and Great Britain and spread to Germany and the United States the following year. To apply as a volunteer giver of books next year (this year's givers are already set), sign up for the World Book Night newsletter.
And to check out what it's like to be a giver, here's last year's report.
The Loft Literary Center has announced this year's winners of the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers. Four Minnesota poets/spoken word artists, and one children's author have been chosen out of 135 applicants.
The poetry winners are:
Sierra DeMulder, a two-time National Poetry Slam champion and the author of "The Bones Below" and "New Shoes on a Dead Horse"; she lives in Minneapolis.
Danez Smith, author of "hands on ya knees." His book, "[insert] Boy," will be published this year. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, PANK, The Cortland Review, and elsewhere.
Sun Yung Shin, author of "Rough, and Savage," "Skirt Full of Black," and other books. She edits the online journal "This Spectral Evidence" and lives in Minneapolis.
And Carolyn Williams-Noren of Minneapolis, who is working on her first book.
The winner in children's literature is Molly Beth Griffin, author of "Loon Baby" and "Silhouette of a Sparrow."
Griffin received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University and now teaches at the Loft.
Honorable mention went to Rita Moe, Kristin Naca and Tracy Youngblood in poetry, and Michael Hall, David LaRochelle and Janet Lawson in children's literature.
Judges for the competition were poet Nikky Finney, whose fourth book, "Head Off & Split," won the 2011 National Book Award, and Jordan Brown, an editor who has worked with Anne Ursu, Chris Rylander, Steve Brezenoff, and many others.
This is the 32nd year for the McKnight fellowships, which are supported by the McKnight Foundation. Previous winners include Robert Bly, James Moore, Patricia Hampl, Lorna Landvik, Anne Ursu and so many others.
The last two big awards leading up to next month’s Minnesota Book Awards gala event have been announced. The Hognander History Award, which is given every other year to the author of a significant book about Minnesota history, and the Kay Sexton Award, which is given annually to a person who has made a significant contribution to the world of books, reading and literature in the state, were announced Friday.
The Hognander award will go to Gwen Westerman and Bruce White for their book, “Mni Sota Makoce, The Land of the Dakota.” The book was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2012 and won a Minnesota Book Award last year.
Westerman is professor of English and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bruce White is author of “We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People.”
This year’s Kay Sexton Award winner is Mark Vinz, retired professor of English at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, co-director of the Tom McGrath Visiting Writing Series, and founding editor of the literary journal Dacotah Territory.
Vinz was also director of the college’s MFA program, editor of Dakota Arts Quarterly, and the co-founder of Plains Distribution Service, an organization that worked to get good books into small Midwestern communities.
Vinz is also a poet and fiction writer, winner of three Minnesota Book Awards, six PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and was named a poet laureate of North Dakota.
His next collection will be published by Red Dragonfly Press.
Westerman, White and Vinz will be honored on April 5 at the 26th annual Minnesota Book Awards gala at the St. Paul Union Depot.
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