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Poets, professors and publishers mingle, read and listen at AWP

MinnPost collared a few conference registrants in town for the weekend to talk about the joy of words and books and all things AWP.

The writers are coming! The writers are coming! Actually, they’re here – 12,000 poets, scribes, small-press publishers, and other various wordsmiths landed in Minneapolis Wednesday for the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference, which runs through the weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center

MinnPost collared some registrants to talk about the joy of words and books and all things AWP:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Chris Bolin, Collegeville; Michael Morse, Brooklyn, New York; Matt Rasmussen, Minneapolis.

Bolin: I teach creative writing at the College of St. Benedict’s/St. John’s University.

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I’ll be signing my book, it’s called “Ascension Theory,” out on University of Iowa Press. I’m thrilled that Claudia Rankine is giving a talk here; St. Ben’s helped out in publishing her book through Graywolf Press. It’s called “Citizen,” and it’s a stunning book and a chance to hear her speak again is definitely on my radar.

Morse: I’m a poet and I’m looking forward to seeing friends and panels. I like Birds, LLC, great press; the guys who run it are kind of nuts, but they publish great stuff. My book is out from Canarium Books, small poetry publisher; they do great stuff and they throw an occasional weirdo like me in there, so that’s kind of nice. 

Rasmussen: I’m an editor at Birds, LLC. We publish two books a year; we did three this year. I’m on one panel, which is on Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology” at 100 years. It’s all epitaphs, and they all speak from the dead, so they all get one page of free verse. It’s a really cool, still contemporary book that a lot of people haven’t heard about.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Meredith Turits, Brooklyn. I’m the senior culture editor at, the largest women’s website in the country. We’re about a year and a half old, I’m one of the founding editors, and I run the book section. A lot of our content is geared towards feminism, and there’s a panel on writing about the female body and one on women and sex that I’m excited about attending.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Richard Jarrette, central California. I’m looking forward to reading at Icehouse Thursday night. I’m a poet, and my second book is being launched here by Green Writers Press. I’ve just finished seven years of composition and I’m going into the book fair right now to see it for the first time. I’m excited to pick it up. It’s called “A Hundred Million Years Of Nectar Dances.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Matt Hart, Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m with Forklift, Ohio, a journal of poetry, cooking and light industrial safety. It’s been around for 21 years, and I think this is our ninth or tenth AWP. I always love seeing what people are doing, small presses especially, and we’re hosting an event Thursday at the Triple Rock Social Club that I’m excited about. We’ve got 10 amazing readers, and that will be great.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Lisa Yankton, Minneapolis. I’m with the St. Paul Almanac and I’m volunteering at the registration booth and looking forward to meeting Native American writers. I want to know more about the craft of writing, because I’m a poet. I’m a Dakota, and there are very few Dakota writers that write about our people and our culture and history, and it would be better if it was coming from the mouth of our own people.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

John Shoptaw, Berkeley, California. I grew up in the boot heel of Missouri, I teach at UC Berkeley, and I’m here to walk over the Mississippi and see some readings and meet some people who are publishing poets I admire. I particularly want to explore your local Graywolf Press.

One panel I want to check out is “From Poverty to Poetry.” I grew up in poverty and I’m curious about other people’s journey into poetry, and the journey into literacy, to begin with. I grew up in a very different world, doing farm work and in the lumber mill, and it’s hard to believe I even lived that. I’m signing my book at the conference; it’s called “Times Beach.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Merrill Cole and Rick Ponce, Macomb, Illinois. “I’m a professor at Western Illinois University, I teach literature and creative writing,” said Cole. “I’ve avoided coming to this conference for over 20 years, but my colleagues pushed me to come here. I’ll be reading some of my original poetry.” “I’m his spouse, so I’m just here as a tagalong, but I get inspired just going to the readings, so I’m excited about everything here,” said Ponce.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Lorinda Toledo, Los Angeles. I’m getting my master’s in fiction at Antioch University. I’m graduating in June, then I’m starting the Ph.D. program at Nevada-Las Vegas. I’m assistant editor for Antioch’s literary journal Lunch Ticket, so I’ll be working the booth here and just getting people to know about us and get people to submit to us. I’m working on a novel, and I hope the panels will be inspiring and give me new ideas on how to work on it.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

John Murillo, Brooklyn. I’m a poet, with a book out, but this weekend I’m just hanging out, drinking, and looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t seen in a while. I come every year, and it’s always a good time.