It is fairly usual for a slender debut book of poetry to pass almost immediately into graceful and quiet obscurity. It is not usual for a poet’s first book to be reviewed all over the country, make several “best of-the-year” lists and become a finalist for a major literary award.
But Matt Rasmussen’s “Black Aperture” — a haunting collection of 31 brief poems he wrote over 10 years about the death, by suicide, of his older brother — did all of those things. In 2012 it won the Walt Whitman Award, which guaranteed publication, and this year it was named one of five finalists for the National Book Award.
Rasmussen is about as Minnesotan as you can get: born in International Falls, graduated from Gustavus Adolphus, now living in Robbinsdale. He told the Star Tribune last fall that he was grateful for the state’s support — grants from the Bush Foundation and the State Arts Board allowed him to enter the two competitions that rocketed his book to prominence.
The day after the National Book Awards celebration, Rasmussen posted on Facebook that he felt he had let the state down by not bringing the prize home. A warm response of 300 supportive comments and likes made clear that the state did not agree.