Featuring Ardie Medina ♦ Eric McKendry ♦ IBé Kaba ♦ Venus de Mars ♦ Morgan Grayce Willow ♦ Michael Kiesow Moore and a special collaborative, participatory poetry-making experience!

Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Wednesday, June 24, 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.

Also, follow the action on Twitter with @AlmanacLive and #LRJ.

As we strive to make a better world, be it in our personal journeys or to make a more equitable society, art-making plays a crucial—even transformative—role. This reading will ask, How does art transform our lives? Can writing a poem or making a painting act as an agent of social change? Does the process of making art transform what we are given?

MichaelM-sqMichael Kiesow Moore was exposed to Walt Whitman at a young age. That may have changed his life, and he is now the author of the recently published poetry collection, What to Pray For (Nodin Press). Michael was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and grew up in Florida and Maryland. A Minnesota transplant, he loves the vibrant literary and artistic communities here. He received his MFA in creative writing at Hamline University, and his work has appeared in several books and journals, including Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience, Water~Stone Review, Talking Stick, Evergreen Chronicles, The James White Review and A Loving Testimony: Remembering Loved Ones Lost to AIDS. His awards have included a Minnesota State Arts Board fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series award, and a Pushcart nomination in poetry. He co-curates the Birchbark Books reading series and lives in downtown Saint Paul.

Morgan-Grayce-Willow-sqMorgan Grayce Willow grew up on a family farm in Mitchell County, Iowa, originally settled by her great-grandfather in the 1890s. Her third collection of poems, Dodge & Scramble, emerged from this vanishing culture and features its central icon, the barn. Her other collections include Between and Silk: Meditations on T’ai-Chi Ch’uan, as well as chapbooks The Maps are Words and Arpeggio of Appetite. Essayist as well as poet, Morgan is the author of the title piece in Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers (Borealis Books), as well as the Judith Kitchen Prize honorable mention “Signs of the Time” in Water~Stone Review. A former sign language interpreter, Morgan published Crossing That Bridge, a guide for making literary events accessible to deaf audiences.

Ardie-sqArdie Medina is an Anishinaabe poet and playwright from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. She became involved in the Twin Cities writing community soon after moving to the area in 1993. Ardie participated in the Fringe Festival for three summers and has been involved in several productions of the Twin Cities Women’s Choir and SASE: The Write Place. Her poems have been published in various anthologies by Loonfeather Press, Yellow Medicine Review, and a self-published anthology, Gatherings, with fellow poets from the Loft Literary Center’s Foreword Apprenticeship program. Ardie serves as co-curator of the Birchbark Books reading series and is the facilitator of the TGI-Frybread Native American writing group. Ardie lives in northeast Minneapolis with her husband, Mike, and their King Charles Cavalier, Amos.

Eric-McKendry-sqEric McKendry has always been drawn to poetry, in the same way he is drawn outdoors and into nature. His writing is strongly influenced by the power and beauty of the natural world. Some of the poets he admires are Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rolf Jacobsen and Hafez. The Minneapolis spoken word scene has also been a source of inspiration in his writing, and he enjoys performing his work at open mics throughout the city. Eric is a percussionist and a former circus performer who was part of Mission Manduhai, a small circus troupe that traveled to Mongolia to perform and raise awareness about domestic abuse and violence toward women. He is from Crystal, Minnesota, and grew up on Crane Island on Lake Minnetonka. Carpentry supports his writing habit.

Ibe-sqIBé Kaba is an award-winning spoken word poet who enjoys writing prose as much as he likes writing poetry. All because he likes putting words to those things he finds hard to say. He is the recipient of a 2010 Midwestern Voices award, a 2009 Urban Griots cultural award, a 2005 Jerome/SASE Verve grant, and a 2004 Minnesota Academy Award nomination for best spoken word. He is also a community editor for the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. IBé was born in Kankan, Guinea, and grew up between Koindu, Sierra Leone; Evanston, Illinois; and St. Cloud, Minnesota. He is not the only resident of the Middle of the Atlantic, but sometimes “it feels like it,” he says.

Venus-sqVenus de Mars is a multidisciplinary artist and musician, best known as a singer-songwriter transgender rock star and leader of the band All the Pretty Horses. A chance tax audit transformed h/ir into a champion of artists’ tax rights, after which the Venus de Mars Fund with Springboard for the Arts was established. De Mars is the recipient of multiple grants and awards, among them a Minnesota State Arts Board grant, a Bush Fellowship and a Minnesota Music Award. S/he is currently working on a memoir, and h/ir newest album is Flesh and Wire.

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