by guest contributor Emily Wick
On Saturday, April 21, the third annual Great Twin Cities Poetry Read took place at Hamline University. About thirty poets, of vastly different writing and reading styles, sat in a line at the front of the room, facing the large audience and filing up one by one to read one poem each in quick succession. The event was sponsored by Coffee House Press, Paper Darts, Pocket Lab, Hamline University Creative Writing Programs, Water~Stone Review, Maeve’s Cafe, and Lowbrow Press.
Thanks to an energetic emcee, Matt Mauch, the pace of the night was ridiculously upbeat. Mauch introduced the poets with randomly chosen Shakespearean descriptions drawn from the “ceremonial beaver-skin hat”—for instance, the “motley-brained” Deborah Keenan and “bear-baiter” Carol Connolly (“How are you spelling that?” she wanted to know). These seasoned poets were accompanied by the likes of Dylan Hicks, Feng Sun Chen, and John Jodzio. Seeing Carol Connolly pat thse young writers encouragingly on the back when they finished reading was an endearing sight.
Hearing and seeing so many poets one after the other was a little dizzying. A few highlights were Lynette Reini-Grandell’s humorous but stirring poem about Tennessee Williams choking to death on the cap of a pill bottle, John Colburn’s lyrical and lengthy tribute to his personal history, (“In class, we were asked to write about monsters one day, and ancestors the next, and I realized I was writing about the same thing”), and Jeffrey Skemp’s sensual growl of a reading voice. Lee Ann Roripaugh read a poem called “Animony” about the way her mother’s mispronunciation of words gave them new meanings. Some poets explained a little about their piece before they read it, offering disclaimers (“I only like one poem of mine at a time,” Adrienne Mathiowetz said, “and this is that poem”), while others dove right in, like the theatrical Lightsey Darst.
At the end of the night, a deserving poet was randomly chosen to win a ceremonial thrift-store blazer (like the jacket won at the Masters Golf Tournament) with $500 in the breast pocket. Another won the opportunity to have one of their poem published as a broadside. The event, held in a meeting room at Hamline, could have used a more casual setting. The attitude of the host and tone of much of the work called for having a good beer. We’ll have to hope for a cash bar at next year’s Great Twin Cities Poetry Read.
Emily Wick writes for the blog Second Sun. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and likes to read, write, and explore.
Have a different take on this event? Chime in on the comments below! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!