His book, “Black Aperture,” also won the Walt Whitman Award.
“My Facebook is going crazy,” he said Wednesday, shortly after the finalists were announced on MSNBC. He had found out earlier that he was a finalist but had been sworn to secrecy. “I did wake up to watch it, though,” he said. “It’s not often that I get on television, especially as a poet. Television is the last place you find poetry, usually.”
Two other finalists have Minnesota connections; young-adult author Gene Luen Yang teaches in the low-residence MFA program at Hamline University in St. Paul, and poet Mary Szybist’s collection, “Incarnadine,” was published by Graywolf Press.
“ ‘Incarnadine’ is a marvel of a book, about the many ways we encounter the world and the world encounters us,” said Graywolf Executive Editor Jeff Shotts.
The poems of “Black Aperture,” which Rasmussen worked on for about 10 years, are about the death by suicide of his brother, which happened when Rasmussen was 16. “I think an event like that takes a long time to process, or to gain any amount of distance where you can write about it in an effective way,” he said.
Rasmussen, 38, is from International Falls; he lives in Robbinsdale and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College.
Minnesota has made a good showing in the National Book Awards in recent years, with Louise Erdrich and Will Alexander, both of Minneapolis, winning last year. T.J. Stiles, who grew up in Foley and graduated from Carleton College, won in 2009 for “The First Tycoon,” his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which also won the Pulitzer Prize. J.F. Powers was the first Minnesotan to win, in 1963, for his novel “Morte d’Urban.”
The winner will be announced Nov. 20.
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302 Twitter @StribBooks