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What a week for books! Among other events, we’re welcoming U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy K. Smith, Nigerian-born novelist Chibundu Onuzo, and five high-profile writers in the Literature Lovers’ Night Out series. Plus, a program featuring Andrea Jenkins, Minnesota transgender activist and Minneapolis City Council member.
TRACY K. SMITH
The 22nd U.S. poet laureate will discuss her latest collection, “Wade in the Water.” One of the most popular and approachable poets writing today, Smith dissects the nature of citizenship in a time when the American past and present collide in her book, published by Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press.
She will read at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, in Pohland Hall, Hennepin County Library-Minneapolis Central, 300 Nicollet Mall, concluding this season’s Friends of the Hennepin County Library Talk of the Stacks series. Doors open at 6:15 and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. (It’s expected to be beyond standing room only, so get there early.)
Graywolf’s background material about the book explains that Smith considers in this collection “what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence, boldly tying America’s contemporary moment to our nation’s fraught history. Private utterances become part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of the Declaration of Independence, correspondence between slave owners, evidence of corporate pollution, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees.”
Smith is the author of three previous poetry collections, including “Life on Mars,” winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and a memoir, “Ordinary Light,” a finalist for the National Book Award. She is a member of the creative writing faculty at Princeton University.
“Wade in the Water” was greeted with enthusiasm by critics. Library Journal said, “Smith, like William Butler Yeats, once again demonstrates how an engaged, activist poetry need not forgo lyricism, compassion, and complexity to be effective.” And NPR.org said, “In these poems, with both gentleness and severity, Smith generously accepts what is an unusually public burden for an American poet, bringing national strife home, and finding the global in the local.”
This poem from Tracy Smith’s “Wade in the Water” captures the essence of being unhappy in old age and, although she doesn’t say so, probably poor. It is growing old and spiteful that is everyone’s nightmare.
She is like a squat old machine,
Off-kilter but still chugging along
The uphill stretch of sidewalk
on Harrison Street, handbag slung
Crosswise and, I’m guessing, heavy,
And oh, the set of her face, her brow’s
Profound tracks, her mouth clinched,
Lips pressed flat. Watching her
Bend forward to tussle with gravity,
Watching the berth she allows each
Foot (as if one is not on civil
Terms with the other), watching
Her shoulders braced as if lashed
By step after step after step, and
Her eyes’ determination not to
Shift, or blink, or rise, I think:
I am you, one day out of five,
Tired, empty, hating what I carry
But afraid to lay it down, stingy,
Angry, doing violence to others
By the sheer freight of my gloom,
Halfway home, wanting to stop, to quit
But keeping going mostly out of spite.
— From “Wade in the Water.” Copyright 2018 by Tracy K. Smith. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, graywolfpress.org.
LITERATURE LOVERS’ NIGHT OUT
Five authors of big spring books will appear at Literature Lovers’ Night Out programs: 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 322 Second St., Excelsior, presented by Excelsior Bay Books, and 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at The Grand Banquet Hall, 301 Second St., Stillwater, presented by Valley Bookseller. Tickets are $11 and available at both stores.
Here’s a peek at the readers.
Marie Benedict, “Carnegie’s Maid”: Historical novel about a farmer’s daughter who emigrates from Ireland in 1863 and assumes the identity of a passenger who died during the voyage, getting her a job as ladies maid to the imperious mother of Andrew and Tom Carnegie.
Katherine Heiny, “Standard Deviation”: Comic and thoughtful story about a couple married 12 years whose personalities are very different.
Jenny Mitchman, “Wicked River”: Newlyweds Natalie and Doug are separated from civilization by 6 million acres of Adirondack forest, and as they experience the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches who wants something more terrifying than death.
Amy E. Reichert, “The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go”: Two sisters try to sort out their mother’s affairs after she has a stroke, learning things about her mysterious past.
Leah Stewart, “What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw”: Hollywood actor Charlie doesn’t know how to deal with fame so he flees to an island to re-evaluate his breakup with his actress girlfriend Josie and finds danger in the jungle. Josie can’t forget him and has to be more brave than she’s ever been.
Nigerian-born author and award-winning singer brings her debut novel, “Welcome to Lagos,” to the Loft Literary Center in the Open Book building, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 16. She will be in conversation with Minnesotan Lesley Nneka Arimah, who won a 2018 Minnesota Book Award for her story collection “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.”
“Welcome to Lagos” is about army officer Chike Ameobi who leaves his post after he is ordered to kill civilians. He travels toward Lagos with his junior officer and into a political scandal involving Nigeria’s education minister. Chike becomes a leader of a new platoon, a band of runaways who share his desire for a different kind of life.
Publishers Weekly applauded Onuzo for anatomizing “a tumultuous city and its inhabitants, from street hustlers to well-connected government ministers.” Kirrkus Reviews called it “… a Robin Hood tale and a cross section of Nigerian society. … A well-turned tribute to the freedom and frustrations of a diverse city.”
Minnesota writer, performance artist and transgender activist presents “An Evening with Andrea Jenkins” at 7 p.m. Monday, May 14, at Quatrefoil Library, 1220 E. Lake St., Mpls. The program is free and open to the public.
Jenkins made history in November when she was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, the first African-American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the U.S. During her Quatrefoil program she will talk about life, politics and poetry and sign copies of her 2015 poetry collection “The T Is Not Silent.”
Jenkins moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota in 1979 and worked for Hennepin County for 10 years, then was curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.
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Source : https://www.twincities.com/2018/05/13/a-busy-week-for-books-twin-cities-welcome-u-s-poet-laureate-tracy-k-smith/