Sidewalks: Where Poetic Champions Compose

April–National Poetry Month–is just around the corner and Saint Paul wants your poetry.

For the past few years, the city has been open to poetry submissions with the intent of impressing them into wet cement whenever they repair a stretch of sidewalk. The idea was conceived by Marcus Young, Saint Paul’s Artist-in-Residence since 2006, and whose projects lean toward the collective. Projects that many can participate in and projects everyone can enjoy the results of. Here are a few poems from previous years already set in the sidewalks near my house:

If you have a poem or two in you, if you’re feeling generous, and if you want your words set in cement for posterity, check out Saint Paul Sidewalk Poetry Contest. You must be a Saint Paul resident to submit your work. This year’s deadline is April 13, 2012.  I hope to see your words at my feet.

Minnesota Book Awards Readers’ Choice Event

Last Friday The Loft was packed with people listening to 16 of the 32 Minnesota Book Award finalists as they presented their work.

Writers had five minutes to either read from their books or in some other way, tell about the work. While most read from their introductions or first chapters, some explained how they arrived at their titles, while others gave the so-called elevator pitch–short and succinct. For example, Kevin Fenton, the author of Merit Badges, describes his book as Virginia Woolf’s The Waves meets That 70’s Show.

Brett Laidlaw, author of the cookbook, Recipes from a Northern Forager explained how his book evolved from a blog he keeps. And no, he did not stand up there and proceed to read recipes, though he did promise us that his book had pictures of bacon in it.

Other notables were Su Smallen, whose poem from Buddha, Proof, about Buddha and a Barbie doll was nothing less than delightful, Nancy Loewen’s, The Last Day of Kindergarten had everyone up on their feet, and my brother-in-crime, Richard A. Thompson read a chilling grave-digging scene from, Big Wheat. Lori Sturdevant and George Pillsbury seemed to impress everyone with their enthusiasm for Minnesota history in their collaboration, The Pillsburys of Minnesota.

George Pillsbury and Lori Sturdevant

In fact, all the authors were genuinely enthusiastic about their work. The diversity of writers and their writing is impressive. An accurate title also goes a long way as in Bronson Lemer’s, The Last Deployment: How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq. It also helps I think to have cool writer names like Bronson Lemer, Kurtis Scaletta, author of The Tanglewood Terror, and Ed Bok Lee, author of the poetry collection, Whorled.

For a complete list of finalists, please see

Be part of selecting the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award by voting online for your favorite finalist book by March 31st:

On April 14, the 24th annual Minnesota Book Awards gala will take place in Saint Paul. Winners of the eight book category awards and the Readers’ Choice Award will be announced, and presentations will be made to the winners of the Book Artist Award, the Kay Sexton Award, and the Hognander Minnesota History Award.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

For my brother, Mike, on his birthday:

When I say I wish you were here I do not mean it in the non-sincere sense that often exists with correspondence on the internet. I wish means not only do I hope that you will come back to Minnesota, I wish means we are in this world together and let us wish together for the success of the risk we take at being alive.

Happy Birthday, Mike.