In my day to day life, I find these gems everywhere. The compulsion to collect them is unavoidable. I want to say that novelists covet reality, but I don’t think that’s it. I don’t crave reality so much as images of reality. Clipped from their context and vulnerable to the mischief of juxtaposition, images have more license—more value—than reality. You read about something, you hear about it, and you absolutely want it. You must have it. Often, this is how stories and novels begin, with the author’s glimpse of something she can’t unsee. In a famous example, Nabokov describes the “initial shiver of inspiration” behind Lolita, “somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.” Now that I think about it, Nabokov’s choice of words—his “shiver of inspiration”—point in another, more intuitive direction. Perhaps what you want, as a fiction writer, is not so much the image as what’s behind it. Of all the bricks stacked together in a wall, there’s something about that one, right there, that calls to you, that promises a treasure behind it.
Dear Loft Community,
From Day One, you’ve built and grown the Loft into the literary powerhouse it is today. As I’m sure you’ve seen, last week the Trump Administration proposed the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. While this cut would have a minimal impact on the federal budget, it would have a devastating impact on artists and arts organizations across the country, including the Loft and the community of readers and writers we serve (you!).
The stakes of this proposal are high, so I’ll get right to the point: will you help us protect the NEA and the vital funding it grants to the Loft?
In an It’s Lit first, we’re doubling up and speaking with TWO artists in this week’s post. I first met Erin Sharkey several years ago through the Creative Writing Program at Hamline University, where we were both pursuing graduate degrees, and a couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting her artistic partner, Junauda Petrus. Together, the two form Free Black Dirt, a Minneapolis-based artist collective bridging the cultural and the magical.
Committed to creating original theatre and performance, hosting innovative events, organizing local artists, and promoting and supporting the emerging artists’ community in the Twin Cities, Free Black Dirt seeks to spark and engage in critical conversations. “Our primary focus is to create really high-quality, unique narratives around blackness, and particularly what it is to be black in Minneapolis,” Sharkey explained. She continued, “I think literature is at the heart of how we connect with our mission and with community. I think it’s about telling new stories, about celebrating stories, about being bold and irreverent to the rules about what stories are valuable.”
I'm interested in what can happen when characters are allowed to use their imaginations. We learn so much about them. Their fantasies can also resonate as ghosted images throughout the rest of the book.
In Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, a writer in British Columbia finds the washed-up diary of a high school girl in Japan and becomes entranced by her story. Eventually the two lives even influence each other.
As if producing a performance series, running a gallery space, and hosting Blingo weren’t enough to keep one man busy, the prolific Lewis Mundt also lends his talents to the local publishing scene by way of his press, Beard Poetry. “It’s primarily a poetry press, but we also do large format art books. We’ve done fiction. We’ve done anthologies.”
Beard Poetry began in 2010 as an umbrella name for the chapbooks Mundt was producing of his own work. “At that point I was doing radio in college as DJ Beard, which tells you most of what you need to know about my college life.” He soon started helping friends design their own chapbooks, and they in turn let Mundt put “Beard Poetry” on the back cover. Before too long, a press was born. Today, Beard Poetry considers itself “a small Minnesota press dedicated to producing affordable, high-quality publications for readers and writers.”
I first became aware of Melissa Febos while listening to her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross in 2010. The next day I picked up her memoir, Whip Smart, and was blown away. Febos is an extremely gifted writer with deep empathy and a boundless drive for personal truth. The writing in Whip Smart is razor-sharp, corporeal, and self-scrutinizing. I studied her prose, how deftly she crafted the narrative.
Grab a drink and crack open your notebook, it’s happy hour at the Loft! Our new Happy Hour Classes take place on Friday afternoons with a concurrent happy hour at the cafe downstairs from 3-6 p.m. Students can purchase a half-price beverage and bring it to the classroom. Start your Friday nights off right by mixing, mingling, and learning at the Loft!
During my first year of teaching, I was so ready to be that teacher from an inspirational movie who changes students’ lives drastically with one lesson (disclaimer to all my non-teacher friends: this doesn’t happen in real life). Enter: slam poetry. While the twelve-year olds in every corner of my class wiggled out of their seats, physically unable to contain their excitement, there was still one less-than-enthused desk-drooler. Little did she know that I was ready to change her mind… and her life.
I was three weeks into teaching Writing for Absolute Beginners at the Loft in late September 2001. The front room with it’s long rectangular windows, faced Washington Avenue. I couldn’t see the Mississippi River or the Stone Arch Bridge, but had a good view of the Liquor Depot across the street, parking lots, tree tops, and sky. Inside the room, tables sat in a rectangle donut with seventeen students in chairs around the edges. I remember they, as students in these classes often were, were people in transition; mothers, students, retirees, people starting new careers, or new to Minnesota. We had written together and shared some of that writing. Students were beginning to know me and to know each other, but this was the day the classroom became a community.
Contrary to what you may have heard on the streets, the New Sh!t Show Minneapolis is NOT just a poetry show. “No,” producer and host Lewis Mundt quickly clarified, “it’s weird. It’s a weird thing.” Started in San Francisco by poets Sam Sax and Nic Alea, the New Sh!t Show is now a chain of performance series across the United States in which performers and audience members are treated to something they've never seen before: the new shit.