Coffee House Press Biblio Bash Nothing Less Than a Literary Blast

Yeah, the title of this posting is a mouthful, but that’s what kind of evening it was. The literary carnival and benefit for CHP was held this past Saturday at the Grain Belt Bottling House where readers interacted with authors and books, interpreted poetry, danced, and played games.

People enjoyed music, food, beer, wine, “page turner” cocktails, and role-playing with the encouragement of Bedlam Theatre (long live Purple Rain!). Throughout the bash, all sorts of activities kept the night exciting:

Allan Kornblum demonstrating ye old printing press

Charismatic CHP founder, Allan Kornblum, who was recently given the Kay Sexton award for his life-long contributions to Minnesota’s book community, remarked, “from clay tablets to e-books, there has been a continual effort” regarding the creation of books. It’s all good, but the best of the well-written books, he believes, will still come out in print as will poetry. “There’s an electricity to the printed page” he said, a requirement of poetry that e-books cannot give.

aerialist from Xelias wowing the crowd

Witty author and soulful musician Dylan Hicks, whose recently released CHP novel, Boarded Windows, made a fine appearance, singing songs from his character’s repertoire. Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene is the companion album to his book.

Dylan Hicks singing “Sorrow Has a Basement”

Other attending authors included Lightsey Darst, Sarah Fox, Steve Healey, Ed Bok Lee, Chris Martin, David Mura, Bao Phi, Sun Yung Shin, Yuko Taniguchi, and Wang Ping who were on hand for us compete against in Scrabble and Bananagrams.

As part of the fundraising effort, many items from vacation getaways to expert literary advice were up for auction for people to bid on:

Kassia serving up veggie pita sandwiches

And here we are, dancers and poetry lovers all, non-verbally interpreting one of Chris Martin’s poems from his book, Becoming Weather as it was read line by line:

The point of the evening wasn’t just to raise money, but to engage readers with books, songs, theater, and authors. In a time where it’s all too easy to sit alone while reading–whether from a book, laptop, cell phone, or Kindle–this event was created to allow us to actively participate with the genius of language and with each other. Meeting lovely, wonderful people along the way is one of the extraordinary benefits of supporting Coffee House Press and our literary community.


It’s been a quandary for some time. New York City chose to deal with it by charging you $25. Here in St. Paul and Minneapolis, you’re going to get punched instead.

The quandary is that our local publishers and booksellers would like more people to attend author readings and they’re hoping that an added incentive will do the trick: attend a literary event (they’re free) and receive a punch on your literary card. Actually buy the author’s book, get a second punch. When the card is full, receive a $15 bookstore gift certificate.

The Literary Punch Card Launch was held Wednesday night at Club Jäger in Minneapolis and it’s where I picked up my card. Plus I got my first punch just for showing up.

But you can pick up your free punch card at independent bookstores around town. For more information and for a calendar of author events, see

My sincerest thanks to the folks who sponsor this card: Coffee House Press, Common Good Books, Graywolf, The Loft, Metro Magazine, Magers and Quinn, Micawber’s, Milkweed Editions, Rain Taxi, and the U of MN bookstore.

So the Loft, the publishers, and the booksellers are doing their part for our literary community. What can you and I do to keep this community alive and kicking?

● Bring non-writer friends to reading events. Bring your co-workers, drag Grandma and Grandpa out of the casino, grab a neighbor, anyone! Seriously. Bring them with you. Never underestimate the power of numbers and your presence in an audience.

● Talk about reading, writing, and books daily. We all put up with sports and weather, so talk literature. Marinate in the stuff. Read and eat so much poetry that you got it all over your chin and it’s running down your shirt. Leave chunks of it on the floor for the janitor to find.

● Be a champion for writers. Offer to help your recently published friends hold readings at bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries. Write book reviews. Get on Facebook and let everyone know about a wonderful piece you read online, or a great new book by an emerging writer. Email writers whose work you admire and tell them.

● And of course, buy books and literary magazines. For yourself. For others.

We all have something to offer our literary community. Get involved and you’ll appreciate it when it’s your turn at the microphone.