David Shove wrote many poems throughout his life, but few made it to the printed page.
Instead, the best place to hear them was on the second floor of 3820 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis, above Hymie’s Vintage Records and Blue Moon Coffee Cafe. Starting in 2012, it was here that Shove ran his beloved monthly reading events, bringing in hundreds of poets, authors and more to share their stories.
Shove, the curator of the Midstream Reading Series, died of a heart attack on Dec. 31, shortly after moving into a senior living community. He was 81.
His death came as a shock to his friends in the local literary scene, some of whom had just seen him at the last Midstream event in December. He had organized another showcase for Jan. 10, which is expected to go on as scheduled in his memory.
Shove was more than just a poet, friends and family said. “He was an amazing man, and always so focused on community and reaching out to people,” his sister Jan McGee said.
Born in Minneapolis in 1937, Shove grew up in the Prospect Park neighborhood and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He taught philosophy at the college level before becoming a computer programmer.
Like others in his family, he was devoted to writing, music and civics. He was active in the Green Party and other progressive groups; McGee said he was a supporter of the $15 minimum wage, universal health care and the environment.
While organizing during the 1994 Congressional election cycle, Shove befriended Papa John Kolstad, a folk musician and the owner of the Hymie’s building. They would do a lot together, Kolstad remembered, including listening to poetry readings around the city.
“I commented to him that most of the places were so noisy,” Kolstad said. “In poetry of course, it’s not just the words but the subtlety of the words.”
Shove asked whether he could assemble a reading on the second floor of Kolstad’s building. He decided to name it the “Midstream.”
The readings started out small, with only a handful of people listening in the attic-like space. Later on, scores would come to hear poets perform.
“It turned into what a lot of the readers said was the best place to read poetry and … listen to poetry in the Twin Cities area,” Kolstad said.
The hourlong readings were consistent: Shove would invite two men and two women to read on the recommendation of past guests. Usually, he would ask the people in the audience to stand up and introduce themselves.
He would also recite his own poetry at the beginning of the show: short, refreshing bits to loosen up the audience. Mike Finley, a local author and friend, said it showed the “two different personalities” of Shove.
“He was known for being kind of a fiery guy when he was doing politics, about which he cared very much,” Finley said. “But when he did his poetry reading, he was very soft-spoken and pleasant. It was like two Dave Shoves.”
In the last few years, Shove was in a senior poetry workshop led by St. Paul poet Margaret Hasse. She remembered his warmhearted and witty personality, and his fondness for puns and playful language.
“His type of poems, they’re not something that the mainstream poetic publishing realm tends to appreciate these days,” Hasse said. “But we did.”
In addition to McGee, Shove is survived by his daughters Anne Farseth, of Bloomington, and Ellen Mayberry, of Ames, Iowa; sister Mary Schieffer, of White Bear Lake; and other family members.