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, Robert Bly 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. Instead, he 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, with Freya Manfred, Louis Jenkins and Smith. April is poetry month. At the end of "Snowbanks North of the House," Bly recited the final stanza twice — something he often does at readings. Afterward, he said: "If I had known what that poem meant, I wouldn't have had to write it."
Our Kat can sing
A dramatic version of Journey's "Open Arms" earned Twin Cities club vet Kat Perkins a warm embrace from her coach Adam Levine at just the right moment to advance in the playoffs on NBC's "The Voice." The so-called "singing nanny" — who left a job working for an Edina family with five children to be on the show — was the last of three members of Team Adam (out of five left) to survive Monday night's competition. Known to local metal fans from her days fronting Scarlet Haze, the Scranton, N.D., native got the nod in the tense closing moments. She was thus given a chance to make a final kiss-up comment to the Maroon 5 singer: "You believed in me from the get-go. That means the world to me." Perkins, 33, earned praise from all of the show's coaches. Usher told her, "You should be very, very proud of yourself." Shakira added, "You're so good with those big notes." As for Levine, he said, "There has not been a better performance than this one." Her version of the 1981 power ballad is now available on iTunes. She will perform as one of 12 contestants to advance to the live rounds starting next week.
Bringing it all home
Zimmy's, the Hibbing restaurant/bar that has been the hub of the annual Dylan Days every May, closed last month due to the economy. But the 13th annual Dylan Days will have a new centerpiece this year: "Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan," a traveling exhibit curated by the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum. Kramer followed Dylan in 1964 and '65, capturing him in a pivotal time when he made his transition from acoustic folkie to electric rocker. Photos include the recording sessions for "Bringing It All Back Home," the going-electric concert at Forest Hills Stadium and private moments with Dylan. As its first U.S. showing, the exhibit will be on display May 23 through Aug. 23 at Hibbing Community College. Kramer is expected to attend the opening. Nowadays the Hibbing-reared Dylan doesn't even allow photographers to shoot him in concert. I.W. can't imagine a photographer who had access to the Minnesota icon for an entire year.
Killing us semi-softly
When you're Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Dan Wilson, where do you go to celebrate the release of your first solo album in seven years? The Electric Fetus, of course. That's where Wilson made monthly trips to buy albums before moving to Los Angeles nearly four years ago. Between sessions with boldface names like Adele, Taylor Swift and Pink, Wilson managed to complete "Love Without Fear," his second solo effort. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar at the Fetus on Tuesday evening, the sweet-voiced Wilson performed four songs from the new album and one from "Free Life," his 2007 solo debut. He got about 150 people to sing along to the latter tune, "All Kinds." Mid-song, he politely called their singing "super-nice but super-quiet," which made I.W. wonder if that's a euphemism for semisonic.