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Minnesota writers populate new French-minded literary journal

A journal that aims to create a literary bridge between France and the United States seems like an unlikely place to find a camp of Minnesota writers, but here they are: Ray Gonzalez, Lightsey Darst, Molly Sutton Kiefer, Eireann Lorsung, Susan Meyers, and John Minczeski, together in the handsome new literary magazine, Cerise Press.

The magazine, which is subtitled “A Journal of Literature, Arts & Culture,” professes an emphasis on French and Francophone works, but it doesn’t seem to hold hard and fast to this mission, since these local contributors aren’t writing about remotely Francophone matters. The journal is in English, and includes a nice selection of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and translations of world literature, as well as fine art and photography.

Darst’s essay discusses the limitations of language in describing dance. Minczeski’s poems focus on the universal and mundane: being trapped in traffic, memories trapped in old photos. Ray Gonzales contributes a prose poem about running into the ghost of poet James Wright on the corner of Lake and Cedar: “James Wright was back in Minneapolis, waiting for the bus to St. Paul.” What could be more Minnesotan (or less French) than that?

One explanation for the heavy local representation is that one of the stateside editors, Karen Rigby, is a U of M alumna. Although she now lives in Arizona (the other two editors live in Paris and Nebraska), she put out the call to Minnesota writers, and they responded in force. (Nationally known poets Tess Gallagher and Patricia Fargnoli are here, too, and an interview with former poet laureate Ted Kooser — a nice coup for a brand-new, web-based publication.)

And of course, Minnesota does have a very strong French connection, with more than a quarter of a million Minnesotans claiming French ancestry, often leading back to pre-statehood voyageur days. Just look around at all the French city, street and lake names.

Another way to look at things? Matters of life and art are universal, unrestrained by map or heritage, only temporarily fettered by politics. Perhaps this smart new journal is another way of saying, hey, we’re friends with the French again! Bien joué.

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