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What We’re Reading: Lit Punch

2011 September 15

All I hear about lately in the Twin Cities literary scene is punch this, punch that, wanna get punched? No, Minneapolis is not getting over its Minnesota nice and finally going to B-E AGGRESSIVE. So what are they all so nutso about? It’s the new Twin Cities Literary Punch Card, which had its kick-off event last night at Club Jäger.  Beers were had, tweeps met face-to-face, and elbows were rubbed with, well, everyone. It was a full house, eager to be punched.

The Punch Card is sponsored by a bunch of literary organizations in town (Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, Graywolf Press, Rain Taxi, and the Loft Literary Center), in partnership with a bunch of local, independent booksellers (Magers & Quinn, Micawbers, Common Good Books, and more). If you go to eligible literary events around town (most of them), you get your card punched. Once you fill it up (12 is the magic number), the punch card magically transforms into a $15 gift card to participating bookstores. It’s a great way to get the community excited and involved. Also a wonderful way to find out about some exciting events happening in the Twin Cities area with stellar writers.

For this week’s What We’re Reading, I’ve flagged a handful of upcoming Punch-eligible events that feature authors I’ve read recently. Click on them to find out more on our Mpls/St. Paul Literary Calendar, or visit Rain Taxi’s calendar.

1. Kathryn Kysar and Jim Moore (Sept 18)

If you haven’t read my What We’re Reading post on Kathryn Kysar‘s poetry collection Pretend The World, you should. It’s a beautiful collection on the reality of motherhood, of being a woman, and of nature.

I haven’t yet read much Jim Moore (do I see a Jim Moore WWR post in my future?), but he’s got loads of awards and published work. Have any of you read him? What is your take on his work?

2. Nancy Paddock (Sept 20)

I stumbled upon Paddock through my apprenticeship at Red Dragonfly Press, where I discovered many great poets.  Paddock has a strong, calm voice, and writes about nature, the process of aging, and much more, always with a playful sense of wonder. This event focuses on her newest work, a memoir called A Song at Twilight: of Alzheimers and Love.

3. Danielle Sosin (Sept 22)

Sosin’s novel The Long-Shining Waters is on my list of favorite books from 2011. The story centers around Lake Superior, and the intense draw, frightening power, and dark mysticism it holds for three women, each living in different time periods near the lake. Sosin doesn’t just write the story—she crafts it. Each of the characters are significantly different, but are connected through this one natural landmark in such a unique and heart-wrenching way.

4. Ed Bok Lee and Bao Phi (Sept 24)

Lee and Phi are two spoken word poets who perform both on the local and national stage of slam poetry, with a big stir. They both explore racism, culture, and history with a fresh, current voice. While launching Lee’s and Phi’s newly released poetry collections (Whorled and Sông I Sing, respectively), this event also spotlights their publisher, Coffee House Press. It’s a slam-dunk evening with a reading, Q&A, conversation with the poets, spoken word artist Shá Cage emceeing, music from DJ Nak, and, of course, free refreshments. Check out the other spotlight events happening this fall, if you’re in town.

Are any other cities doing promotions like this to get literary people out and about? Have you read any of these writers? If so, what are your thoughts on their work?


What We’re Reading: Kathryn Kysar

2011 May 12

Kathryn Kysar’s collection of poems, Pretend the World, published by Minnesota’s Holy Cow! Press, heaves with the natural world, motherhood, war, and rock n’ roll.

The gems in this collection are plenty and shiny. Kysar is one of those writers who effortlessly links the natural world to current events – which is something extremely difficult to do effectively without sounding contrived. In her poem “Last October,” she writes:  “The goose, fat and / heavy at the lake’s edge, / is the weight of war / in a mother’s heart.”  With simple grace, Kysar transitions to heavier and more controversial topics, adding a new level of perception to our surrounding great outdoors.

Another one of Kysar’s strengths is her ability to surprise the reader with unexpected connections and transition, without leaving the reader behind.  A pleasantly surprising poem: “The Effects of Loud Rock and Roll on an Unborn Fetus.”  This poem begins with a baby in a womb getting to know the natural sway and habits of its mother. Then, the tone switches with the baby being exposed to the raw gasps and screams of rock n’ roll, absorbing the music’s pulse through the mother’s body.

The only thing holding this collection back are instances in which Kysar lets herself get wordy. The occasional run-on sentences teeming with adjectives disrupt the natural pace. This could be avoided by manipulating breath and stops through punctuation or form. She does a lot of formal experimentation in Act 3 of the collection that I wish could’ve been sprinkled throughout the dense first two Acts.

Sample Poem:

“Little Witches” by Kathryn Kysar

We burn incense,

eat crackers until

salt stings our tongues,

our thirst unquenchable,

our flames unsated.


We create

animals in our bellies,

kissing pillows, stomachs,

our own religion.

We glide fingers to nipples

pointing like prayers.

Our tongues intertwine.

We form one animal,

one womb.