This is going to be a long week. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference is in the Twin Cities. Many Almanac writers will be there, and we will be there with Storymobile where we might ask you, “What’s your story?” I tried packing in a few naps to help me keep up with the young folks, but after you see what gets mentioned here, and realize that there is much much more, you might realize the naps are futile. Getting out to join the happenings will not be futile.
Words, Words, Words
It is National Poetry Month, and we have AWP so this issue is going to be literature heavy. It will be somewhat terse in its treatment because there are so many events, and more words would require more space and a bigger tangle of words, words, words. This week’s flood of authors will have to provide the words.
SubText Books has an amazing lineup of authors coming for their AWP reading series. It is fitting that this series is run by former Hungry Mind owner David Unowsky, who was a major force in showing the East coast–heavy literary world that the Midwest was more than flyover land and that the strong literary community in the Twin Cities made it worth sending their authors.
Here, we now have spaces where big-name authors from big publishers stop as well as a strong community of independent press writers and publishers, and the bookstore has seen some of those writers whose first visits drew modest crowds and later used that launch to fill auditoriums in later days. These authors include Edwidge Danticat and Sherman Alexie, who once filled the corner of the store but now fill large halls. Some authors start out big, like Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, and we are still waiting for the Secret Service to bring back the staplers.
Regardless, the writers are in town. It is a great opportunity for small presses, emerging writers, and anyone who likes writing, books, stories, and voices.
Here’s a rundown:
Wednesday, April 8
Food for Thought: Anneliese Zijderveld, author of Steeped: Recipes Infused With Tea, and J. L. Fields, author of Vegan Pressure Cooking: Delicious Beans, Grains, and One-Pot Meals in Minutes. Steeped is “smart, inventive, and most of all, inspiring” and will make you forget the Lipton tea bag. And you don’t need a goose or need live in the Ozarks to make use of a pressure cooker. Make it fast and see what creations come from Kale, Lentil, and Squash Chili and Sweet Potato Enchiladas. 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Poets from Accents Publishing: Barbara Goldberg, author of Kingdom of Speculation; Brandel France de Bravo, author of Mother, Loose—winner of the 2014 Accents Publishing Chapbook Contest; Lynnell Edwards, author of Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop; Lori A. May, author of Square Feet; Sarah Freligh, author of A Brief Natural History of an American Girl —winner of the 2012 Accents Publishing Chapbook Contest; Bianca Spriggs, author of How Swallow Tails Become Dragons; and J. Kates, author of Metes and Bounds—winner of the 2010 Accents Publishing Chapbook Contest. 8-9 p.m.
Thursday, April 9
Finishing Line Poets: C. Kubasta, Charles Rammelkamp, Julie Brooks Barbour, Gary Leising, and Sharon Coleman read from their exciting new books. 5:30 p.m.
Prairie Gold: Award-winning Midwestern authors Dean Bakopoulos, Debra Marquart, and Iowa State Poet Laureate, Mary Swander. Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland demonstrates how the Midwest “provides the ideal landscape for literature exploring the intricate evolution of American ideology and culture from the earliest frontiersmen and settlers to present day citizens.” Join two of the sixty-eight writers at this event. 6:30 p.m.
Friday, April 10
A Happy Hour Reading with Bellevue Literary Press authors Melissa Pritchard, A Solemn Pleasure, an essay on the value, virtues, and necessity of the writing life; and Michael Coffey, The Business of Naming Things, an exquisite collection of eight stories painting human perspectives with brutal honesty that ring true. 5 p.m.
Fordham Poets Out Loud: Amy Catanzano, Terence Chiusano, Sara Michas-Martin, Michelle Naka-Pierce, Peter Streckfus, Robert Thomas, and Daneen Wardop. 6:30 p.m.
Leslie Brody, author of Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford (Counterpoint Press) and Red Star Sister (Hungry Mind Press); and Gary Amdahl, Visigoth (Milkweed Editions) and The Intimidator Still Lives in Our Hearts (Artistically Declined Press). These two writers will be in town for another Hungry Mind reunion. I had the privilege of working with Leslie when we did publicity for the bookstore. Gary is a poet of substance, a man of letters. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 11
Dina Elenbogen’s Drawn From Water, a story of an American Jewish woman’s critiques of the ambivalent welcome Israel has extended to its Ethiopian families. 2:30 p.m.
A reading brought to you by contributors to Deadly Chaps Press, which describes itself as an internationally developed community of artists and writers that develop “literature consisting of innovative magazines, chapbooks, artist books, and novels through the nurturing of long-term publishing relationships and a supportive forum for daring work.” 4 p.m. Geeks in Real Life: Steve Brezenoff, G.I.R.L.; and Eric Smith, The Geek’s Guide to Dating. These two writers of young adult literature will share the “world of geek.” 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 12
Two Diane’s, Jarvenpa and Raptosh, read poetry: Diane Jarvenpa, Divining the Landscape (New Rivers Press); and Diane Raptosh, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press). Jarvenpa is the author of several books and has received the Midwest Independent Publishers Association book award in poetry. Raptosh serves as the Idaho Writer-in-Residence (2013-2016) and was a Boise Poet Laureate (2013). 1 p.m.
Holy Cow Press presents Afghan Women’s Poetry as translated by Farzana Marie, which includes poetry by eight contemporary Afghan women in the collection Load Poems Like Guns. This is an amazing project undertaken by Marie and the monumental writing of the writers whose work appears in this collection in English translation side by side with the original Persian Dari text. 3 p.m.
Of course, SubText isn’t the only place in town setting a welcome mat for authors and lovers of literature. I can give you a sample.
On Wednesday, April 8, Bedlam Theatre is the site for an event to celebrate the upcoming Minnesota Book Awards and calls out the spirit of AWP. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library host Music Meets Minnesota Lit. Ipsifendus Collective composes and performs music written for film. The members are also parts of other local groups including Dreamland Faces, Bookhouse, Painted Saints, and Poor Nobodys. This week, they have created sounds that accompany the landscape and scenes from the works of four of last year’s Book Award winners. The inspiration came from: Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert, 2014 winner for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction; Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, 2014 winner for Young People’s Literature; Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen, 2014 winner for Poetry; and The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories by Ethan Rutherford, 2014 winner for Novel & Short Story. Readings by the authors will precede the music. Bedlam Theatre is at 213 East 4th Street across from Union Depot. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is free for everyone!
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a 2012 Lambda Literary Award winner. Also on Wednesday, April 8, she will read from her work at the event
queer disabled femme of color poetics/politics of love: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha poetry reading and performance. Her literary works include Lambda-winning Love Cake and Consensual Genocide. She writes on femme identity, transformative justice, healing justice, and queer lives of color. Her new book is Bodymap. She will read and perform at the Mairs Concert Hall on the campus of Macalester College. Macalester is at 1600 Grand Avenue. A note to those attending: This is an accessible event, and it is requested that attendees try to come fragrance-free to accommodate accessibility needs of members of the community. The reading starts at 7 p.m.
Bedlam isn’t the only place to match tunes with our words. On Thursday, April 9, head to the Dubliner Pub for poetry, dance, and music with the special AWP gathering
NO THOUSANDS: An Indie Press Event: Reading and Dancing w/ FENCE, Black Ocean, Action Books, DJ Brian Engel and more…. Celebrate independent presses and fun and music when Black Ocean, Action, and Fence along with the Center for Visionary Disobedience combine forces for something a little better than good. The event features readings by: Feng Sun Chen, Whitney Holmes, Simeon Berry, Valerie Mejer, Lucas de Lima, Steve Healey, Elisabeth Workman, Sarah Fox, Brian Engel, and Johannes Göransson. A DJ dance party will follow with records. The Dubliner is at 2162 University Avenue, at Vandalia Street. The poetry flies at 7 p.m. The party will last forever.
Also on Thursday, April 9, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and Joanna Rakoff discuss their respective memoirs at Common Good Books. Hear two interesting stories. The first from Mutsuki Mockett weaves the grief of the loss of her father with the loss from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster that devastated her Japanese neighbors on a larger scale. Second, Rakoff had the almost surreal task of dealing with all the mail sent to J. D. Salinger’s publisher. She was supposed to function like a kind of dead-letter office, but she grew restless with that protocol and took liberties that challenge mail ethics and intrigue any literary fan. The reading is at 7 p.m., and Common Good is at 38 South Snelling Avenue.
On Saturday, April 11, Roxane Gay discusses Bad Feminist at Common Good Books. It seems like Roxane Gay’s voice has found more parallel emerging voices, many of which are speaking, writing, and performing here in the Twin Cities. Gay is the out-of-town rock star and will be at Common Good with her thought-provoking gaze on the social landscape at 7 p.m.
There is a lot more happening this week. More art. For fun. More of the things that make art necessary. Music. Theater. Community. As always, you can check the Almanac arts and culture calendar to keep up with what’s happening in Saint Paul and with what is on the hearts and minds of this dynamic, busy city.
We will spend most of our week with our neighbor, Minneapolis, greeting the literary convergence with Storymobile. If you see us, say hello and leave a story. Otherwise, we hope to see you at one of the events that make the Twin Cities the ideal place to hold a conference of the literary class. And that’s you and your neighbors.