The Saint Paul Almanac is pleased to announce the ninth in its 2013–2014 season of acclaimed Lowertown Reading Jams, which celebrate the rich literary history of Minnesota’s capital city and the widely popular genre of spoken word.

weaver-eye-panelThe “Things we have given up, for what and why?” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul. All ages, no cover, donations welcome. Food and beverages for sale.

“Things we have given up, for what and why?”

Featuring performances by
Ben Weaver • Heid Erdrich • Kara Olson • Brad Zellar • with emcee Robert Karimi

In the face of progress we have given up many things. Those we have given up unconsciously are the most disturbing. So busy moving forward, we fail to see what we have dropped along the way. We have left the rivers, forests, and soil to fall into neglect. We have traded the night sky and stars—for what? Why? We have given up walking, knowing the names, stories, histories, and uses of places, animals, and plants. Other things, not all necessarily related to nature, have also been left behind.

What are they? Why did we give them up?

We are not looking to re-create an ideal that we should go back to. We are wondering how we go forward, potentially as the minority wishing to inform the majority, fighting to preserve the remaining little islands of conscious beauty, wild, and spirit. Reaching into them, coaxing out their essences, blowing on them to keep their fires alive, restoring the life-giving stories that are about more than manipulation and extraction. This is some of what we see while walking back down the road, picking up the pieces that have been dropped along the way.

About the Performers


is a songwriter, poet, bicycle advocate, and dad. He has released seven CDs of his original music and published two poetry chapbooks. MOJO magazine called him a “Hillbilly Leonard Cohen,” and he has had the honor of performing his music around the world. He lives in Minneapolis, where he exchanges his breath with the trees.

kara-olsonKARA OLSON
is a recent graduate of the Warren Wilson College MFA program. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the Jerome Foundation/Anderson Center, and her poems have appeared in So to Speak and La Fovea. She lives in Minneapolis, where she works as a legal advocate in the Immigration Law Project at Mid-MN Legal Aid.

For most of her life, HEID ERDRICH has been pursuing her education, from St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, through Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and finally in designing her own doctoral program. She credits her husband and kids for helping her learn in other ways. Her extended family is large and full of writers, artists, educators, and medical professionals.
heid-erdrich-cropHer cultural identity is Ojibwe and she is an enrolled member of her tribe. Heid’s mother’s family is from the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota. Her father’s family came to Minnesota from Germany. She grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and now lives in Minnesota. She says, “I am a frequent visiting writer at educational and cultural institutions, which means I get to travel a lot, which I love.” She often works with galleries to present exhibits focused on Native American artists. She is author of four poetry collections as well as her new book, Original Local: Indigenous Foods Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest. She is involved with many efforts to foster emerging writers and unheard voices, including her work as director of Wiigwaas Press, an Ojibwe language publisher.

BRAD ZELLARbrad-zellar has worked as a writer and editor for daily and weekly newspapers, as well as for both regional and national magazines. A former senior editor at City Pages, The Rake, and Utne Reader, Zellar is also the author of Suburban World: The Norling Photos, Conductors of the Moving World, and House of Coates. For the last two years he has been collaborating with Alec Soth on The LBM Dispatch, an irregularly published newspaper that chronicles American community life in the 21st century. He is a collector of fine books, including a trove of baseball books that are a source for stories he shares with the wider metropolitan audience.

karimistandardAt root a storyteller and community engagement specialist, ROBERT FARID KARIMI mixes humor, rasquache aesthetics, and performance to communicate poems and stories that feed audiences an interactive cross-cultural collision of joy, pop culture, and personal history in theatres, grocery stores, backyards, and off-Broadway. His writings have appeared on NPR and in newspapers, literary journals, and anthologies, most recently Asian American Literary Review. A national poetry slam champion, he has been featured throughout the country at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Café, Def Poetry Jam, The Chicago Theater, and The Loft. His visual work and public engagement artwork is exhibited at museums and community artspaces worldwide. Throughout the last twenty-two years, he has designed and led arts education opportunities for all ages; taught university performance workshops; mentored the next generation of arts leaders; and shaped the voice of mixed culture arts and literature around the world. Creative Capital, the NEA, the MAP Fund, Zellerbach Foundation, and MSAB have invested in his recent projects, all of which include a community of multidisciplinary artists. He works at ThePeoplesCook as an arts educator, public engagement deviser, playwright, director, and community arts consultant. He has lived and worked in Minnesota since 2006 and is originally from the San Francisco Bay area. For more, go to or


The “Things we have given up, for what and why?” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul.

Posted in: News