Tag Archives: Graywolf Press

Tracy K. Smith – The Poet Laureate’s Minnesota Links

I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go.  Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.

These are the words of Tracy K. Smith, named last week as the Poet Laureate of the United States. (https://www.graywolfpress.org/news/tracy-k-smith-named-new-poet-laureate-united-states)   The words resonate especially with those of us had the chance to participate in the recent Rural Arts Summit described in an earlier post.  (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/rural-arts-and-culture-summit-2017/)

Smith’s poetry and her selection as Poet Laureate are of special interest to Minnesota readers who are long familiar with the local publisher of her work — Graywolf Press (https://www.facebook.com/GraywolfPress/)   Graywolf has published numerous books of Smith’s poetry including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner Life on Mars.  Best of all, Graywolf will publish Smith’s Wade in the Water in April 2018.

Needless to say, much has been written about the new Poet Laureate in the past week – many focus her long relationship with Graywolf:

Though the Minnesota connection runs throughout the local press this blast from Bemidji tops the list of Minnesota newsmakers!  We look forward to hearing more about last evening’s event!   http://www.bemidjipioneer.com/news/local/4286330-poet-laureate-tracy-k-smith-headline-northwoods-writers-conference.  We  hope that America’s Poet Laureate will return often and travel throughout the region to share “the good news of poetry” with those who live in “parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go.”

April’s Poetry Month – A Time to Rhyme?

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence.

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

Given the times it is no wonder that this JFK quote comes to mind as we rev up – poetically speaking – for National Poetry Month 2016 (https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home). Our last best hope may be the cleansing properties of a well wrought poem….

Poets and poetry lovers are celebrating prematurely with news today that the 2016 Walt Whitman Award recipient has been named. She is Mai Der Vang who is being honored for her first book, Afterland, which is scheduled to be published in April 2017 by Graywolf Press (https://www.graywolfpress.org), one of Minnesota’s distinguished independent publishers.  More than this, the 2015 Walt Whitman Awaard-winning book, Rapture, by Sjohnna McCray, will be also published next month by Graywolf.

For the past twenty years the Academy of American Poets has sponsored National Poetry Month, a massive project that involves poets, educators, librarians, booksellers, publishers and readers in a concerted effort to share the love of poetry, particularly contemporary poetry. The celebration includes an attractive (free and online) poster, a Dear Poet project for young readers, the Poem in Your Pocket initiative, and a month-long calendar of fun activities designed to share the written and spoken words of poets.

Though the calendar of Poetry Month overflows with events, projects and good ideas, one entry caught my eye – Al Franken’s Poetry Contest. Seems our Senator is hosting his fifth annual poetry contest for Minnesota students grades K-12. The theme of this year’s contest is “Celebrating the Veteran in My Life.” For all the details on Senator Franken’s contest, click here: http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/ChildrensMilitaryPoetryContest2014.pdf



Indies Reign at the Twin Cities Book Festival & Beyond

Readers relax and refresh!   Popular reviews, awards and stacks of soul-less bestsellers are no measure of a reading culture.  Turn to the indies – the publishers and the booksellers – who know a good read when they read one and who make sure the words and ideas of creative writers reach the reading public.

This weekend presents an awesome opportunity when Rain Taxi opens the doors to the Twin Cities Book Festival,  their annual reader-magnet bonanza!   It’s Saturday, October 12 (that’s actually tomorrow!) at the Progress Center on the Fairgrounds.

Check their website (http://www.raintaxi.com/bookfest/) for all the details, including a guide to a robust agenda for the children’s pavilion.  Admission and parking are free with options for ticketed events set for Friday evening.

If your faith in the power of independent presses needs more of a boost, check the reviews of a couple of Minnesota’s finest, in Jason Diamond’s piece on “25 Independent Presses That Prove This is the Golden Age of Indie Publishing.”  In an October 1 article published in Shelf Awareness Diamond writes  that “no matter what the latest doomsday prognostication about the future of big publishing happens to be, this is an exciting time to be a fan of literature.”

Among the presses Diamond lauds are Minnesota’s own:  About Graywolf he writes: “We almost feel silly saying this, but this Minnesota nonprofit press gets better with age.  Their last few years have featured a killer streak of releases from Joshua Cohen, Thomas Sayers Ellis, a stunning new translation of Dante’s Inferno, Stephen Elliott, Benjamin Percy, Fiona Maazel, and many other books that should be on your TBR pile.”

Describing Coffee House Press, the pride of Northeast Minneapolis, Diamond writes:  “Growing from a 1970’s poetry magazine into one of the most well respected indie presses is no small feat., but this nonprofit press that’s housed in Minneapolis’ historic Grain Belt Bottling House has published more than its share of award-winning writers (Stephen Dixon, Anne Waldman, Frank Chin) and continues to be one of the presses that all other indies – and even big publishers – look to for inspiration.”

One way to show your support for the work of the indies is to join forces with other avid readers who are supporting  the indie booksellers’ Indies First project set for November 30.  More on that in an earlier post or check one of the several websites that cover the events of the day, e.g. Bookweb (http://www.bookweb.org/news/sherman-alexie-spearheads-indies-first)


Minnesota well-represented on National Book Awards long-lists

The bibliophiles at the National Book Foundation like to hold their cards close to the chest, playing one card a day to the anxious literary world.   Though they have one more card to play (tomorrow, September 19) the first three days have brought some great news to members of the Minnesota community of the book.  Under new rules for 2013 the National Book Award nominations are announced in what is henceforth to be known as a “long list” of nominations in each of four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature

Kate DiCamillo (http://www.katedicamillo.com), beloved author of delightful books for children and young adults, is a Minnesota favorite.  Her readers, their parents, librarians and booksellers are applauding her inclusion on the list of nominees in the Young People’s Literature category.   The nomination is for her most recent book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press)

It’s a superhero story about Ulysses, the who never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who comes to the rescue, and what neither can imagine as Ulysses gains new power and Flora discovers her hidden persona.  The B&W full-page illustrations are by K.G. Campbell.

DiCamillo was a National Book Award finalist in 2001 for The Tiger Rising.   She is a frequent guest on public media and can often be spotted chatting with a gaggle of young readers at a Minnesota school, library, bookstore or playground.

Though focus of the National Book Awards is on the writers, the writers would go unread were it not for their publishers.  The works of two Minnesota publishers, Coffee House and Graywolf, are represented on the Poetry long-list announced earlier this week.

Minnesota publisher Graywolf (https://www.graywolfpress.org/) is the proud publisher of Incarnadine, Mary Sybist’s most recent book of poetry.  Sybist, a Philadelphia native, lives and works in Oregon.  Founded by Scott Walker in 1984 Graywolf is considered one of the region’s and the nation’s leading nonprofit literary publishers “committed to the discovery and energetic publication of contemporary American and international literature.”

Coffee House Press  (http://coffeehousepress.org) is publisher of Andrei Codrescu’s poetry work, So Recently Rent a World, New and selected poems: 1968-2012, also on the Poetry long-list.  Codrescu is a Romanian-born American poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and commentator for National Public Radio. He was Mac Curdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University from 1984 until his retirement in 2009.  Coffee House, founded by Allan Kornblum, began as a magazine and letterpress.  Today Coffee House is one of the premier nonprofit literary publishers in the nation, known locally as the literary gem of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts community.

Tomorrow, September 19, the National Book Foundation announces the long-list in the Fiction category.  Stay tuned.  The “short list” of nominees is out October 15 an the winners will be announced on November 20.

The National Book Foundation will honor novelist E.L Doctorow and Dr. Maya Angelou with their 2013 Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Doctorow will be honored in recognition of his outstanding achievement in fiction writing; Angelou is a globally recognized author and humanitarian.