Dana Yost, former editor of the Marshall Independent, has written his second book, The Right Place (available from Ellis Press), which is a combination of essays and poems. Four excerpts of Dana's book are posted on Minnesota 20/20, along with video interviews of him.
Here's what Dana writes about the book, which is focused on life in southwest Minnesota:
"There are heroes and there are casualties in this book, and sometimes it may not be easy to tell them apart. At other times, both labels may fit the same person. Some of the essays and poems in the book may be uplifting or inspiring. Others may not. I write about accomplishments, artists, friends, nature, and faith, but I also write about death, illness, and economic failure.
"Why can't I pick one or the other -- happy or downbeat? The reason is simple enough; life itself isn't about one or the other...A wholly engaged life is going to bring us all sorts of emotions, experiences, and lessons. What we make of them, and what they make of us, is what our lives end up being about."
Dana will be featured at SMSU's Visiting Writers Series on Wed., April 6, 7 p.m., CH 201. His books will be available at the reading. I hope you can join us. Get there early if you want a seat. When Dana reads, it's usually standing room only.
I discovered a new blog yesterday that I want to share: landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com. The writer, Emily Brisse, also a Minnesotan, had been led to this blog by a Bill Holm poem, "Blizzard." I've always been fascinated by connections, how one person leads us to another, how that can happen even after the person is gone but their writing remains. Check out Emily's blog--beautiful words, photos, music and energy.
Tonight The King's Speech opened at the Marshall 6 Theatre. We were in line for the first show. This past week we'd seen Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter interviewed on Piers Morgan's show, and we've been looking forward to seeing this movie ever since it came out. We were not disappointed. Brilliant, as the British say. We loved it--the acting, the music, the cinematography--all beautiful. Four thumbs up. We'll be recalling lines, talking about scenes, and weaving Bertie, Lionel, Myrtle, Churchill, and the Queen Mum into our conversations for some time now.
Tonight in honor of Black History Month, the Office of Cultural Diversity at SMSU hosted "For the Love of Poetry"--wonderful readings by students and faculty of African-American poets such as James Weldon Johnson ("The Creation"), Nikki Giovanni ("Make-Up"), Langston Hughes ("A Dream Deferred"), and Lucille Clifton ("Memory").
I especially enjoyed watching three of my current creative writing students do a great job performing their chosen poems: "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou, "Motives and Thoughts" by Lauryn Hill, and "Strange Fruit," written by teacher Abel Meeropol and sung most famously by Billie Holiday.
Between readings, we watched an excellent YouTube video of Cicely Tyson performing Sojourner Truth's speech "Ain't I a Woman?"
Who are your favorite African-American writers? What are your favorite books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry by African-American writers?
Here's this week's column for American Life in Poetry. When I read Joyce's beautiful poem, it called to mind my own aunts and many family gatherings over the years.
American Life in Poetry: Column 309
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I love poems that celebrate families, and here’s a fine one by Joyce Sutphen of Minnesota, a poet who has written dozens of poems I’d like to publish in this column if there only were weeks enough for all of them.
I like it when they get together
and talk in voices that sound
like apple trees and grape vines,
and some of them wear hats
and go to Arizona in the winter,
and they all like to play cards.
They will always be the ones
who say “It is time to go now,”
even as we linger at the door,
or stand by the waiting cars, they
remember someone—an uncle we
never knew—and sigh, all
of them together, like wind
in the oak trees behind the farm
where they grew up—a place
the hen house and the soft
clucking that filled the sunlit yard.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Joyce Sutphen from her most recent book of poetry, First Words, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Joyce Sutphen and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Today in my ENG 151: Academic Writing at SMSU we had a lively class discussion about social networks. The upshot? My naturally curly hair got a bit curlier.
We've all read the news articles about this phenomena, but this was closer to home. The stories poured out: teenagers fired for Facebooking on company time; high school students suspended for raunchy postings and photos; athletes bounced off the team for crossing the line online; high school teachers reprimanded for fraternizing with students on Facebook.
What's your take on social networks? Today in the New York Times, there's an article, "'Friends' Without a Personal Touch" that critiques a new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle. The author is "concerned here not with the political uses of the Internet--as manifested in the current democratic uprisings in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East--but with its psychological side effects." One of the larger points of the book: "The notion that technology offers the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy and communication without emotional risk, while actually making people feel lonelier and more overwhelmed."
Turkle writes, "Once we remove ourselves from the flow of physical, messy, untidy life. . . we become less willing to get out there and take a chance. A song that became popular on YouTube in 2010, 'Do You Want to Date My Avatar?' ends with the lyrics 'And if you think I'm not the one, log off, log off, and we'll be done.'"
Today in an email to a colleague, I wrote that I hoped she was enjoying cocooning indoors as we weathered yet another winter storm. She replied, "I like the positive spin on cabin fever--cocooning! I'll remember that."
How do you view the winter months? Do you fight and curse them? Embrace them through winter sports? Throw a Blizzard Party? Escape to warmer climates for at least a brief respite? Make a virtual escape through movies, books, your writing, your art? What's your survival strategy?
Christine Stewart-Nunez will read from her new book of poems, Keeping Them Alive, (WordTech Editions, 2010), on Thursday, March 3, at 7 p.m., in CH 201, Southwest Minnesota State University, as part of our Visiting Writers Series.
Her first book of poems, Postcard on Parchment (winner of the 2007 ABZ Poetry Contest, ABZ Press, 2008), explores her travels in Turkey. Her chapbook, The Love of Unreal Things (ABZ Press, 2005), focuses on Catherine of Siena, an Italian mystic and saint. Writer Jesse Lee Kercheval called the poems "stunning, brave and original, taking one of religion and history's most loved yet. . . least understood figures, bringing her to life on the page, giving her voice and making her human."
Christine's second chapbook, Unbounded and Branded, (Finishing Line Press, 2006) focuses on supermodel Kate Moss as a fashion icon.
Here's one of my favorite poems of Christine's, which was published in newspapers nationwide in Ted Kooser's weekly column.
American Life in Poetry: Column 249
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
One of the wonderful things about small children is the way in which they cause us to explain the world. “What’s that?” they ask, and we have to come up with an answer. Here Christine Stewart-Nunez, who lives and teaches in South Dakota, tries to teach her son a new word only to hear it come back transformed.
Through the bedroom window
a February sunrise, fog suspended
between pines. Intricate crystals--
hoarfrost lace on a cherry tree.
My son calls out, awake. We sway,
blanket-wrapped, his head nuzzling
my neck. Hoarfrost, tree—I point,
shaping each word. Favorable
conditions: a toddler’s brain, hard
data-mining, a system’s approach.
Hoar, he hears. His hand reaches
to the wallpaper lion. Phenomena
converge: warmth, humidity,
temperature’s sudden plunge;
a child’s brain, objects, sound.
Eyes widening, he opens his mouth
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Christine Stewart-Nunez, whose most recent book of poems is Postcard on Parchment, ABZ Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from the Briar Cliff Review, 2009, by permission of Christine Stewart-Nunez and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Today I'm featuring another poem from the archives of American Life in Poetry, created by Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004-2006.
I first grew to love Joyce Sutphen's poetry when we read her book Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000) in grad school in Richard Robbins's poetry workshop at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. On the plane returning from the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2005, Joyce sat across the aisle from me. I introduced myself, we chatted, and I told her I'd written an explication of one of her poems for class. Later, I emailed it to her, and she was delighted to read my take on her poem. In 2004, she won the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry for Naming the Stars.
American Life in Poetry: Column 293
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
It’s a rare occasion when I find dozens of poems by just one poet that I’d like to share with you, but Joyce Sutphen, who lives in Minnesota, is someone who writes that well, with that kind of appeal. Here is just one example. How many of us have marveled at how well our parents have succeeded at a long marriage?
It is mid-October. The trees are in
their autumnal glory (red, yellow-green,
orange) outside the classroom where student
stake the mid-term, sniffling softly as if
identifying lines from Blake or Keats
was such sweet sorrow, summoned up in words
they never saw before. I am thinking
of my parents, of the six decades they’ve
been together, of the thirty thousand
meals they’ve eaten in the kitchen, of the
more than twenty thousand nights they’ve slept
under the same roof. I am wondering
who could have fashioned the test that would have
predicted this success? Who could have known?
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Joyce Sutphen, whose most recent book of poetry is First Words, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Joyce Sutphen. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
I love to play with words. To capture moments on the page. To explore the physical and spiritual geography of what I call "fly-over country." I write from imagination, observation and my own experience of wandering in fly-over country--the literal, physical spaces of my life on the Minnesota prairie and the inner territory of the soul.