Field Trip is nearly here! We’re partnering with Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, MN to incorporate art and literature into the park’s sylvan setting. One of the central projects of “Art on Foot,” Poetry in the Park, allows visitors to access poems and stories by phone as they hike through the trails.
With Poetry in the Park, you simply dial up a phone number and listen to a handpicked selection of little literary gems read aloud by some of our favorite Minnesota poets and flash fiction writers. We’ve got all but one of the stops up and ready for you already, featuring poems by our 2010 mnLIT poetry winner Connie Wanek, Tim Nolan, Gary Dop; you’ll also find stories by our 2010 mnLIT flash fiction winner, Hillary Wentworth and 2009 flash fiction winner Brian Beatty; Lightsey Darst’s “cell stop”, the last one featured in this year’s “Poetry in the Park” series, will go live in the park next week.
We’ll have one more Q & A, with Lightsey Darst, up later this week.
You can meet the “Art on Foot” participating artists in person, and hear the “Poetry in the Park” authors read their pieces live on writer-led hiking tours through the trails during the Field Trip festival next Saturday, September 24 from noon – 9 pm.
The writer-and-naturalist-led hiking tours will leave on the hour at 1 pm (Brian Beatty and Connie Wanek), 3 pm (Gary Dop and Hillary Wentworth), and 5 pm (Lightsey Darst and Tim Nolan) throughout the day.
Find details on the upcoming Field Trip festival and participating projects over the coming weeks on mnartists.org/field_trip
Meet the folks of “Art on Foot”: Poet Connie Wanek
What’s your writing routine? Do you work according to a set schedule, or is your writing more catch-as-catch-can?
I write first thing in the morning, with fair regularity. I developed that habit when I worked full time and my kids were small. With luck, the house was quiet for an hour or two at dawn. I’m sure that sounds familiar to a lot of women who try to write.
Do you have any rituals or crutches to ease writing process?
A quart of strong coffee helps. Chocolate, or last night’s dessert, whichever is most handy.
Are you a monogamous, or a promiscuous reader?
Totally promiscuous, and I’m not proud of it.
What books do you return to again and again?
I apologize, but this question is impossible for me: I love so many books. One book that leaps to mind, that always stirs my imagination, is Charles Baxter’s Burning Down the House, which is comprised of essays about writing fiction. It doesn’t matter that I generally write poems: the book is full of ideas and insights for any sort of writer, or reader.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Right now I’m reading Cary Waterman‘s book When I Looked Back You Were Gone, and I’m also reading William Smart’s Eight Modern Essayists and the latest New Yorker. Have you ever looked at some of George Orwell’s essays? There are famous ones, but I hadn’t ever read the one called “Marrakech,” and it was so good I had to read it out loud to my husband. What he says about the Jewish quarter, in 1939, the poverty and overcrowding…and then he says, “Good job Hitler isn’t here. Perhaps he is on his way, however.” It’s a tremendously powerful essay.
Do you have an unfinished poem that still haunts you?
I have fifty (I’m just picking a number, but I feel that’s probably on the low side) unfinished pieces of writing for every one I so-call “finish.” I’ll tell you what haunts me: I want very much to put together a book of my mother’s letters and photos from a year she spent working in Japan right after World War Two. 1946-47. She was an excellent observer, even though she was only 21, and she had endless curiosity, which makes those many letters compelling reading. I have begun this project, but what, oh what, is keeping me from finishing it?
Who’s your first, best reader?
My husband is my first and best reader. Everyone who knows us knows how much I depend upon him. We were wild hippie poets when we were young (weren’t we? Maybe we just like to think so). I have written my whole life, and I can still recite a poem I wrote when I was eleven. It’s not very good, even for a child.
What’s the piece of writing you remember that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go?
The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion–the whole series by Walter Farley. Horses, horses, horses. Black Beauty. And then all the animal stories by Jim Kjelgaard. Loyal, clever dogs. These are wonderful books for young readers! I’m sure there are contemporary equivalents, but those are the books I craved.
What flavor of trashy, god-awful writing do you enjoy?
Trash is in the eye of the beholder, I hope! I read AARP magazine, and I feel a bit silly about that. I’m not even sure I should admit it!
*I skipped the question about my favorite bookstore, because my favorite went out of business last year, and I’m still feeling sad. Northern Lights Books and Gifts–there’ll never be another Anita Zager.
Connie Wanek lives in Duluth, Minnesota. Her latest book, On Speaking Terms published by Copper Canyon Press, was a nominee for the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry. She was named a Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress by US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser.
Poetry in the Park is part of Silverwood Park’s new “Art on Foot” program, created in collaboration with mnartists.org, which allows you to enjoy work from Minnesota artists and authors along the trails. Bring the family back to the park on September 24, and meet all of the “Art on Foot” artists in person during Field Trip, a day-long festival with live music and theater, poet-led hikes with readings along the trails, and much more. The festival is a joint effort of mnartists.org and Silverwood Park. Find additional links, work, and information from the “Art on Foot” artists and writers, and get all the details about the line-up for Field Trip online at www.mnartists.org/field_trip.
Listen to the following poems by Connie Wanek, right now, as you walk Silverwood Park’s trails:
“Blackbirds at Dusk”