Monday, January 16, 2017

New Publication: An Essay on Susan Glaspell (Ploughshares)

The current (Winter 2016-2017) issue of Ploughshares includes my essay "'We Live Close Together and We Live far Apart: A Look2 Essay on Susan Glaspell." Susan Glaspell was born in Davenport, Iowa, in 1876. With her husband, she founded the Provincetown Players, the pioneering experimental theater that launched the career of Eugene O'Neill. Her own plays for the Provincetown Players, including the classic Trifles, established her as one of the leading playwright of her day, and one of the founders of modern American theater. In 1931, she became only the second woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. She's less well-known as a novelist. Fidelity (1915) and Brook Evans (1928), reissued by Persephone Books in London, are the only two of her nine novels currently in print. Ploughshares' "Look2" series features essay about neglected authors like Glaspell who deserve a second look. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Literary Events in Northfield: January 13-28

Friday, January 13: Arts for Martin.
The annual celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Arcadia Charter School. This year's event features art and poetry by Northfield sculptor Mac Gimse. More information here. 7pm. Arcadia Charter School, 1719 Cannon Rd., Northfield.

Sunday, January 15: Writers Resist: Hope is Greater Than Fear.

Thirteen local writers will participate in a “Writers Resist” event on Sunday, Jan. 15, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The “Northfield Writers Resist: Hope is Greater Than Fear” event is scheduled from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Cannon Valley Friends Meetinghouse, 512 Washington St.
Participating writers are Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy, Beth Breiland, Bella Callery, Florence Dacey, Adriana Estill, Doug Green, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Rich Larson, Harmony Neal, Orick Peterson, Joy Riggs, Kaethe Schwehn, and Vicki Scott. The readings will address issues of social justice, freedom of expression, and the preservation of democratic ideals. The event is free and open to the public. A coffee and cookie reception will follow. 
More information about the national organization is available at http://www.writersresist.org/

Monday, January 16: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration: "Building Bridges of Understanding." 

Northfield Human Rights Commission invites the community to join in a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of the work he did, and the work he continues to inspire us to do in this country.  This year’s celebration will take place on Monday, January 16, 7:00-8:15 pm, at Emmaus Church, 712 Linden Street North.  This event is free and open to everyone in the community.
The program will include poetry by Delina Haileab and Rob Hardy (Northfield Poet Laureate), music by St. Olaf Gospel Choir, thoughts from Lisa Moore, St. Olaf Professor of Social Work, and an open microphone time for the community.
This annual event is also the time when Northfield recognizes work that is being done in the community in the area of human rights.  In 2017 the award is being presented to Father Dennis Dempsey of the Church of St. Dominic.  Fr. Denny is being honored for the caring and support he has provided to our growing Latino community.  In addition we celebrate the numerous individuals and organizations that are involved with supporting the Latino community in so many ways.  Further, with this award we are recognizing the important contributions and vitality the Latinos have added to life in Northfield. 

Thursday, January 19: Project Ghostlight (Northfield Arts Guild Theater)

On Thursday, January 19, 5:30 to 6:15pm, the Northfield Arts Guild Theater will be joining artists and community members across the country in the tradition of leaving a "ghostlight" on in a darkened theater. When theaters go dark at the end of the night, the ghostlight offers visibility and safety for all who might enter. Please JOIN US for a brief program of poetry and monologues as both students and adults reflect on the Arts Guild's mission to inspire our community by developing, supporting, and providing quality inclusive artistic opportunities. Goodies will be served. All are welcome.

Thursday, January 19: Writers Night: A Sense of Place.
The Northfield Poet Laureate is pleased to present “Writers Night: A Sense of Place,” a carefully selected program of poetry and prose by local writers in the new atrium of the Northfield Public Library at 7pm on Thursday, January 19.
Ten writers from Northfield, Faribault, and Webster will read selections on the theme of “a sense of place.” The selections were submitted during the month of December. In early January, a panel of judges made selections from thirty separate poems and short prose pieces in a blind screening process.
Writers included on the program are Sherry Anderson, Becky Boling, Florence Dacey, Bret Farley, Larry Gavin, Doug Green, Margit Johnson, Christine Kallman, Hannah Pahs, Joy Riggs, Julie Ryan, and Leslie Schultz.
Writers Nights were first held in the Northfield Arts Guild beginning in 2003. This revival of Writers Night is sponsored by the Northfield Public Library, with funding from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund made possible by the voters of Minnesota.
Saturday, January 28: Sidewalk Poetry Kick-Off.

Starting at 2pm at the Northfield Public Library, last year's sidewalk poetry winners will read their poems in an event to launch the 2017 Northfield Sidewalk Poetry Competition.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Poem for the First Northfield City Council Meeting of 2017

I thought it would be appropriate to start the year here in the Northfield City Council chambers with a poem in memory of one of the first women elected to public office in Rice County, Molly Woerhlin, who passed away on December 23. Molly was a woman of tough, practical kindness, who left a legacy that enriches all of us in Northfield. As I remember her, and reflect on what she did with her life, I think about how much good we can do with the one life we are given, and how much more good we can do when we join that life with the lives of others.

Northfield, Minnesota
January 3, 2017


Molly’s Daisies
  
Another year is gone,
taking with it so many cherished lives,
so many dreams that seemed so possible at the start.
It was common in the last days of the year to count our losses,
to share the tally of the year’s cruel subtractions,
as if the only solidarity we could find was in our grief.
Each December day was filled with a little more darkness.
But sometimes we have to make our own light.
Not long after the longest night of the year, I found myself
remembering that unmowed strip of lawn
in front of Molly’s house on Maple Street,
where every summer the daisies bloomed,
and all those common flowers massed together seemed
like a table laid for some kind of sacrament.
I remembered how, in the solitary summers of childhood,
I used to pluck the white petals—she loves me not,
she loves me—as if those petals tallied losses that were the condition of love.
But thinking of Molly and her daisies, I know that love
is what happens when we add our one blossom to the blossoming all around us.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016: The Year in Northfield Poetry

Sidewalk Poetry. In 2016, nine new poems were added to Northfield sidewalks as part of the Northfield Sidewalk Poetry project. Reconstruction of Woodley Street between Division and Prairie Streets provided nearly a mile and a half of new sidewalk for poetry. 41 poems were installed along Woodley Street. The 2016 winning poets were Barbara Belobaba, Becky Boling, Julia Braulick, Steve McCown, Orick Peterson, Anne Running Sovick, Lori Stoltz, and Richard Waters.

Poetry Out Loud. In March, Arcadia Charter School student Anna Kochever was one of the top six finalists in the 2016 Poetry Out Loud state championship, held at The Loft in Minneapolis. Poetry Out Loud is an annual poetry recitation competition for high school students, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. More than a dozen Arcadia students participated in the local competition. 

Poem in Your Pocket Day. On April 21, during National Poetry Month, Northfield again celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day. Boxes full of poems were available at local businesses, some of whom offered discounts for customers who shared a poem. In 2017, Poem in Your Pocket Day will be on Thursday, April 20.

TORCH Poetry Slam. The second annual TORCH Poetry Slam took place in December. This year’s winners were Chris Lazaro (third place), Delina Haileab (second place), and Alondra Perez Gonzalez (first place).

Poetry Nights at ContentContent Bookstore hosted nine Poetry Nights in 2016 (January-June, October-December). Poets featured were Susan Jaret McKinstry, Greg Hewett, Kaethe Schwehn, Leslie Schultz, Freya Manfred, Ken McCullough, and the winners of Arcadia’s Poetry Out Loud Competition and the 2015 TORCH Poetry Slam. The June 2016 Poetry Night was a bilingual reading of poems of Pablo Neruda.

New Books. Two Northfield poets published books of poetry in 2016: 
  • Leslie Schultz, Still Life with Poppies: Elegies (Aldrich Press)
  • Kaethe Schwehn, Tanka & Me: Poems (Brain Mill Press/Mineral Point Poetry Series)
Contest Winners. Two Northfield poets won contests in 2016:
Northfield Poet Laureate. In September, the Northfield Public Library selected Rob Hardy to serve a three-year term as Northfield’s first Poet Laureate. In November, the Northfield Public Library received a $9,600 grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) to support the Poet Laureate program. Rob read poems in September at the annual Joseph Lee Heywood graveside service, the dedication of Wheeler Park, and the community celebration of the U.N. International Day of Peace. In November, he read a poem at the opening of a City Council meeting. He also worked with students in several classes at Northfield High School, hosted nine Poetry Nights at Content, and created and administered the Northfield Poet Laureate Facebook page.


The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) has provided a grant for this project thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund made possible by the voters of Minnesota.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reading Recommendation: Lia Purpura, "All the Fierce Tethers" (New England Review 37.1)

I recommend this crystalline essay in the latest issue of the New England Review by my Oberlin classmate Lia Purpura:


Lia’s ability to find surprising connections, to blend intellect and imagination, and to draw her art into an engagement with the world, strike me as qualities Oberlin would have nurtured in her. She observes locally and thinks globally. She appreciates the magnificence of the minute. In her first book of poetry, The Brighter the Veil, there are poems about mosquitos, pennies, buttons. In my favorite, “Buttons,” she writes: “At night/each goes back/through its own darkness./Star after star is led out.” When I first read the poem in 1996, I was in the midst of stay-at-home fatherhood, preoccupied with small, domestic things that in Lia’s poems became large and luminous. In her essay, Lia writes that when she observes people “it’s exactly the boundedness of their lives, the precise sizing down that moves me.” I think of those lightly personified buttons. That was twenty years ago. What tiny marvels was she contemplating at Oberlin thirty years ago? I found several of Lia’s poems in a sepia-spined copy of The Plum Creek Review, Oberlin’s student literary journal, from Spring 1985. Already, at 20 or 21, she was writing poems that make you hold your breath and release it with an ah at the end. In one poem, “Finding Out a House,” she pauses to imagine “somewhere in the attic/a seed between floorboards.” There it is, the tiny detail that so many others would miss.

I didn’t really know Lia at Oberlin. She was an English major, which placed her at a level of sophistication far beyond my reach, then or now. (It amazes me that I have friends who are actual English professors.) She was also a creative writing major, and creative writing was the course in which I received my lowest grade at Oberlin. Diane Vreuls actually used the word “trash” about some of my writing. She was right. I was a good writer who needed to find the right things to write about. Lia was a fantastic writer whose eye and ear already seemed perfectly attuned. It astonishes me that, thirty years later, Lia and I have both appeared in the New England Review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

International Day of Peace 2016: "Building Blocks"

Here's the poem I wrote and read for the student-organized International Day of Peace gathering in Bridge Square on Wednesday, September 21. It's dedicated to the young people of our community, who have so much to teach us about making a more peaceful world.

Building Blocks

“Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education.”
--Maria Montessori


Last night I woke to thunder.
Safe under my roof, I lay awake
listening as it rolled eastward,
followed by the peacefulness of rain.
In the morning, children bloomed
in bright colors on the bus corners,
teachers in still classrooms waited
for the calm to shatter into life.
There in the bustle and the noise
were the beginnings of peace.
Elsewhere, bombs fall and scatter
fear, like shrapnel edging
closer to our hearts. If all we carry
from the rubble is our hate,
then this is what we build. We close
the borders of ourselves. But last night
I heard a young Assyrian woman,
whose father’s village had been bombed,
whose people had suffered
from centuries of genocide and war,
talk about Montessori school,
where she learned that we
must be the building blocks of peace.
Montessori had such a simple idea:
teach our children to make peace,
and let them show us how it’s done.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Acting Cashier

Today, one hundred an forty years to the day after the bank raid, people of Northfield gathered to honor Joseph Lee Heywood, the acting cashier of the bank on the day the James-Younger Gang rode into town, who was murdered for refusing to open the safe and hand over the money deposited there. The speakers at today's graveside service in Northfield Cemetery were Pastor Duane Everson, Mayor Dana Graham, David Mucha (vice-president of the Northfield Historical Society), Fred Rogers (treasurer, Carleton College), and Rob Hardy (Northfield Poet Laureate). I concluded the program with a reading of this poem I wrote for the occasion.

The Acting Cashier

One hundred forty years ago, he was deposited in this ground
like a bond that bears its interest once a year.
As if a time-lock had opened, the street in front of the bank
fills with the citizens of 1876. At scheduled times,
unreconstructed outlaws spur their horses into town,
shots are fired, and Joseph Lee Heywood lives
his last moments for the crowd. At night, carnival lights
illuminate the town. But before the crowds have gathered,
here in this quieter place, we remember an ordinary man—
a man who worked and prayed with other ordinary people,
who in his ordinariness might never have been known
if a single moment hadn’t cast him as a hero. We cannot all
be heroes, but we can all be so remarkably ordinary—
so humble, so generous in giving of ourselves, so steadfast
in our refusal to stand aside for what we know is wrong.
Who was this man who lies in the vaulted earth beneath our feet?
We can only know him by knowing each other.
The faithfulness of his life cannot be reenacted,
it can only be lived. This is the dividend he pays:
his life, divided among all of us, to be lived together.