After polishing off a 3rd or 4th road trip with Jack Kerouac one night and not yet ready for sleep I took it up and began a henceforth love affair with the writings of Jim Harrison that continues to this day. His departure this past March left a literary hole in the hearts of his readers.
In this segment of What We’re Reading we welcome Gabe Konrad who has brought the bounty of a fine book store to our area and possesses a passion for poetry. Below, he renders his thoughts on Harrison contemporaries who like Mr. Harrison have been influenced by their peninsular roots.
By Gabe Konrad
After the initial shock from the death of Jim Harrison—the prolific novelist and poet that we Near Northerners like to claim as our own—we can console ourselves that he left behind so many great books and what is really a family of great poets. Two of the well-established Michigan poets that Harrison fans will enjoy are...
...Judith Minty and Dan Gerber. Gerber will sound familiar, of course. He is from the baby food family, but took a different path in life, pursuing passions as disparate as car racing and poetry. Gerber and Harrison co-edited the literary journal Sumac, which was based in Fremont, from 1969 to ’71, and ran the Sumac Press which specialized in local poets. While Gerber now resides in California, that Michigan feel lives in his words:
Here like the tropics
in the forest, in the lake
or where the forest ends
a desert of dry grass and stones
over dirt roads, the heat
making you one with
and thus not being one
from that which surrounds you*
Gerber has had several novels and collections of poetry published and his latest collection, Sailing through Cassiopeia (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), shows that he is stronger than ever.
Another friend and compatriot of Harrison is Judith Minty. Born in Detroit, Minty’s first book of poetry won the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum, and she has gone on to publish several full-length books of poetry and chapbooks. Her essays, prose and poetry has appeared in over fifty anthologies and journals. Along the way she has been awarded the Villa Montalvo Award for Excellence in Poetry and the Eunice Tiestiens Award from Poetry magazine, among other honors.
Minty has taught at several universities, including the University of California, University of Alaska, Grand Valley State, and a decade-long stint as director of the Creative Writing Program at Humboldt State University.
Well travelled, Minty now resides in Muskegon, though Michigan never left her writing.
No clouds for a week. May,
yet this day belongs to summer.
I have bolted my house
to race north again to woods
that lace the light with new leaves.**
While throughout Minty’s work there is a strong sense of place, leaning heavily on the North Woods of Michigan, the Great Lakes, and California, it is Judith’s depiction of the reality of truth that has moved her well beyond the confines of a “regional poet” to the mantel of “Great Poet.”
*From the poem “In Michigan” in The Revenant collection (Sumac Press, 1971).
**From “Sprint, Part 1” in Yellow Dog Journal (Parallax Press, 1991)
Gabe Konrad is the proprietor of Bay Leaf Books in downtown Newaygo. He enjoys writing bad poetry and kayaking the Muskegon when the tourists go home, and can often be found terrorizing the townsfolk on his Harley.
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