Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Small press book festival

This past Saturday I spent a little while at the Twin Cities Book Festival, an annual one-day event for the past few years organized by Rain Taxi Review of Books. It's a good place to run into people I don't generally see otherwise, and of course a good place to forage for books.

The event in recent years has taken place in the ground-floor cafeteria space of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College at the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis. It's a vast airy room full of sunlight from floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the building. Rows of tables lined up from one end to the other, occupied by the small press exhibitors and their books. Noisy and full of echoes. I got there around 11:00 in the morning, and between stopping and talking with people, sampling books here and there, and stopping to catch my breath, it took me a little over an hour to make my first rounds of the room.

Like with a lot of these kinds of bookshow things, there was a wild range of every kind of printed matter. Tables full of postcards and cartoon illustrations. Children's books. Wooden racks of ancient used books, some semi-rare, some weird and curious. Aliform Publishing featured Spanish language literature, a few of the books translated in bilingual editions, most in the Spanish only. Varangian Trade and Plunder had a small odd selection of old books of Scandanavian literature and history. Sam's Dot Publishing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a table crowded with science fiction, and also featuring On the Other Side of the Eye, electrically charged book of poems by Brian Thao Worra, who was himself there to sign books; his was one of the items I took home with me.

Beaver Pond Press. Big Time Attic. Conduit magazine. Dislocate. Farmer's Hat Productions. Laurel Poetry Collective. Nodin Press. North Star Press. Raven Productions. Red House Records. Scarletta Press. Turtle Lake Publications. Wet Paint. Picking names at random from the listing of exhibitors in the program booklet... Also there were the handful of big-time local publishers, Coffee House Press, Graywolf Press, New Rivers Press (all of which originally came here from somewhere else.) Also Jim Perlman's Holy Cow! Press, which started here in Minneapolis many years ago, and in more recent times has settled in Duluth, Minnesota.

I was disappointed not to see the Minnesota Atheist Association there this year; previous years at the book show they've had a table there, giving away brochures about their organization, and small orange "Get Out of Hell Free" cards. (I carry a couple of the cards around with me, just in case...)

On the table of Musical Comedy Editions, I found Invisible Jazz by John Christopher Shillock, exciting book of poems just recently published; it comes with a CD of Shillock and singer Tabatha Predovich performing some of their collaborative works. (Musical Comedy Editions has no website. Chris Shillock's book is cover priced at $13.00, CD included; it can be ordered from Musical Comedy Editions, 5136 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55405. My book of poems The Idea of Legacy, cover priced at $8.00, can be ordered from the same place.)

At the table of Holy Cow! Press I came away with Ringing in the Wilderness edited by Rhoda Gilman, an anthology of articles, poems and other writing from the North Country Anvil, a great magazine of radical life published in Minnesota during the 1960's and 1970's and a little bit into the early 1980's. (The above link to the book is to a page in, which is where the link in the publisher's website goes.)

At the Red Dragonfly Press table I found, among other things, Heaven without a Passport by Fereydoun Faryad, a contemporary poet of Iran; Faryad translated his poems into modern Greek years back; the Red Dragonfly edition is translated from Greek into English by Scott King (publisher of Red Dragonfly Press, and a fine poem himself). These are brief fleeting poems, often barely an image or two, startling in their concentration. And, also from Red Dragonfly, A Bumpy Ride to the Slaughterhouse, odd eccentric prose poems by Norwegian poet Dag T. Straumsvåug, published in a bilingual edition with English translations by Robert Hedin and Louis Jenkins.

Red Dragonfly Press is the publisher of two of my books of poems, If There Is A Song and What Is Buried Here, both available through their website (see the link in the above paragraph). I also got official word that Red Dragonfly will be publishing another book of my poems, titled (tentatively, at least, unless I come up with something I like better) The First Light Touches Me. It will likely be a little while before the new one is out; Scott does patient careful work with the books he publishes, and I've always been more than happy to wait however long it takes.

Eventually after walking around grazing on books and talking with people, I was wiped out, the room was getting warm from all the collective body heat, and it was a mild sunny blue sky day outside. Before I left I picked up the most recent issue of Spout, probably my favorite locally published poetry magazine these days, and the most recent issue of Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America. I highly recommend both.

* * * * *

In other book news, I just finished reading Drive: The First Quartet, epic collection of poems by Lorna Dee Cervantes published by Wings Press. It just blew me away, left me breathless. I'll write about it more fully here in the blog in the near future.

Hi Lyle,
I met the Red Dragonfly Press guy in Red Wing, and the work is lovely!

I love Lorna Dee's Drive too.

I miss LDC, too here in CO.
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