It's been said, and not just by me, that a person could attend a reading every night in the Twin Cities and still not get to them all. This is a wonderful thing, not a complaint, even though sometimes it's awfully frustrating to have to choose between, say, Cheryl Strayed and Atina Diffley, as we did this week, or between Will Alexander and Patricia Kirkpatrick.
And yet even more reading series are starting to pop up, and that can only be a good thing. We've already told you about Cracked Walnut, and the month-long daily series it is currently hosting. And tonight is the second reading in the Espresso Yrself series, which opened in February with four writers and some musicians over at Angry Catfish, which drew a crowd of about 50 people, and which continues tonight with poets Dobby Gibson and William Waltz, this time at Dunn Brothers in the North Loop.
Gibson's latest book, "It Becomes You," was published in January by Graywolf Press. Waltz is the editor of Conduit Magazine, and his latest book, "Adventures in the Lost Interiors of America," was published this month by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.
So why the new reading series? Why does Espresso Yrself exist, and what does it mean?
Its co-curators are Katrina Wollet and Patrick Stephenson, who both work in advertising. Stephenson was also an intern at Graywolf Press. (The Graywolf connection is always there, somewhere.)
"What separates Espresso Yrself from other reading series is its accessibility," the pair wrote me in an e-mail. "We want everyone to listen, regardess of their connection to writing. By hosting the events in various coffee houses, we promote our events as a fun, low-key opportunity to change your perspective, push your boundaries and get caffeinated."
Tonight's reading begins at 7 p.m. at Dunn Brothers, Washington Avenue and Third Avenue North. (Right across the street from Graywolf! Of course!)
I'm not even going to tell you what other readings are scheduled for the same time. Not even gonna mention the name of Cracked Walnut. Uh uh.
The volunteer-based community radio station KFAI broadcasts from a funky upstairs studio in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Write On! Radio, its literary program, has been broadcasting lively interviews with authors weekly for many years. Their guest list is eclectic, including national names, writers on tour, local authors, self-pubbed poets--always varied, and always interesting.
Hosts Ian Graham Leask, Lynette Reini-Grandell and Steve McEllistrem are all writers in their own right--Leask was long affiliated with Scarletta Press in the Twin Cities; Reini-Grandell, who teaches at Normandale Community College, is a poet (and is this month's featured poet in The River Muse); and McEllistrem has a new sci-fi book, "The Deveraux Dilemma," pubbing this spring.
The show airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m.; KFAI is at 90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 FM in St. Paul, and on the Web at www.kfai.org. Archives are on the Web for two weeks (and somtimes more).
This week's guests are Minneapolis poet Sun Yung Shin, author of "Rough, and Savage," and Iowa writer Joe Blair, author of the memoir, "By the Iowa Sea."
It's an ambitious project and an impressive lineup. The Cracked Walnut reading series, the brainchild of Twin Cities reader/writer/literary aficionado Satish P. Jayaraj, opens at 6:30 p.m. on March 18 at Coffee Shop Northeast (2852-A Johnson St. NE, Mpls) with Sheila O'Connor, Susan Thurston, and others, and then gallops around the Twin Cities, ending on April 12 at Cafe Bene in St. Paul, with John Jodzio, Darci Schummer, and others.
Every day (actually, every evening) writers move to another spot--mostly coffee shops, but occasionally a library or college campus--and stage a new reading.
You cannot avoid them! They will be everywhere--the Hamline-Midway Library, Jerabek's New Bohemian Coffeeshop, J. Arthur's Coffee in Roseville, even a quick jaunt up to Duluth.
You will not want to avoid them! Jayaraj has lined up an impressive bunch of writers, including Charles Baxter, Ethna McKiernan, Katrina Vandenberg, Mike Finley, Thomas Maltman, Kris Bigalk, Erin Hart, and many more--even a guy named Matt Dahl who might very well be my neighbor down the street.
This is a good way to endure this cold and icy spring: a nice hot drink, and someone to read aloud to you. Like a good cup of coffee, it'll be both soothing and invigorating.
The Barnes & Noble Discover Awards were begun in 1990, intended to honor books by writers who are at the start of their careers. Each year the judges choose two books: one nonfiction, and one fiction.
Strayed, who grew up in McGregor, Minn., and now lives in Portland, Ore., received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota. Coplin received her MFA from the U in 2006, where she also won the Gesell Award for Excellence in Creative Writing, and now also lives in Portland. (Do you suppose the books editor of the Portland Oregonian is busily writing a blog item just like this one?)
Strayed will be in the Twin Cities March 19 at the Central Park Amphitheater in Woodbury on March 19 and at the Apple Valley Galaxie Library on March 20 as part of Club Book.
Coplin will be honored at 7 p.m. March 14 as part of the "First Books" reading at the U.
The Readings by Writers Series in St. Paul takes place every month (with the possible exception of August), but it's worth highlighting from time to time. This month, in particular--St. Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly, who curates the series, has compiled a group of Irish, American-Irish, or Irish-loving poets, as well as musicians, for the March event.
This month's readings include music by Mary Scallen on the violin and Jim Miller on the flute, and, following the readings, bagpipe music from Mike Faricy.
The readers--and their Irish chops--will be:
Poet Patricia Barone, whose ancestors come from County Clare and County Limerick. She is the author of "Handmade Paper," published by New Rivers Press, and a recipient of a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction. Barone has studied with the Irish poet Eavan Boland.
Mike Faricy, writer and musician, who lives both in St. Paul and in Dublin. (JEALOUS.) His Dev Haskell crime novels are set in St. Paul.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, poet and former editor of Lake Street Review. I'm not sure of his exact Irish roots, but with a name like Kevin Fitzpatrick, there's no denying them.
Ted King, jazz poet.
Patricia Kirkpatrick, poet, recipient of Milkweed Edtion's first Lindquist & Vennum Poetry Prize, author of "Odessa," which is up for a Minnesota Book Award this year.
Ethna McKiernan, author of "Sky Thick With Fireflies." Her Irish roots go way, way back.
James Silas Rogers, director of the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas, and editor of New Hibernia Review.
Bill Stieger, columnist, fiction writer, jazz musician. Despite the non-Irish last name, Steiger claims Lennons, McCarthys, Eagans, Kanes, Runyons and Flynns in his background.
The event begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 19 (so as not to interfere with your St. Patrick's Day plans). As always the Carol Connolly Reading Series is held at the historic University Club, 420 Summit Ave. Cash bar, beautiful setting, free and open to all.
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