Saturday, November 17, 2012

Winter reading

photo of Duluth, MN from the harbor
This past week, the National Book Award winners were announced. Two Minnesota authors were among the winners. Since the announcement, there has been some local discussion about My Minnesota's literary culture and philanthropic support for the arts in this part of the world sometimes referred to as "flyover country." Part of that discussion has focused on the Loft, which has been mentioned here before, and the long, cold winters, which have only been alluded to previously. Duluth is among My Minnesota's leaders for the length and depth of its winters. That may help account for the number of above average poets found in the area. As far as I know, the Loft doesn't have an outpost in Duluth, although there is At Sarah's Table at Cascade Creek where several writing groups have been known to meet. I can't speak personally about the frequency with which Duluth poets Connie Wanek and Louis Jenkins are seen there but my hopes climb each time I stop by for a meal when I'm in Duluth. Jim Johnson, who writes poems about Finnish settlers, wolves, dovetailed corners and co-ops among other elements of northern Minnesota culture, comes from Cloquet, Duluth's next door neighbor. I discovered these wonderful writer's, and others, in the regional section of the (now closed) Northern Lights Books in Canal Park. I attended a session with Bart Sutter, Duluth's former poet laureate at a Loft event. I wish more local, independent bookstores would develop and maintain regional sections that included poetry and poets. That seems to be one of the few elements missing from My Minnesota. Maybe it has to do with the Midwest/Scandinavian aversion to calling attention to oneself. It certainly isn't because we don't have treasures worth promoting.