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Posts Tagged ‘Fitzgerald Theater’

MN State Fair -- Fairchild & Fairborne

MN State Fair — Fairborne & Fairchild, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2010, all photos © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off this week and it’s time for our annual State Fair post on red Ravine. We’ve covered a lot of history over the years, including the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

This year we honor the work of two writers who have written about the Minnesota State Fair. In 1928, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic short story “A Night at the Fair.” And this year, Debra Frasier, author of On the Day You Were Born and the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s current Author-in-Residence, has written and illustrated A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.



Debra Frasier — A Fabulous Fair Alphabet


What started as a collection of photographs taken by Minneapolis author Debra Frasier on daily visits to the Minnesota State Fair, has turned into a work of book art. A Fabulous Fair Alphabet is Frasier’s tribute to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” and the impetus for the State Fair Alphabet Project, a labor of love for hundreds of Minnesotans who are passionate about early learning. The book has also gained national acclaim, with the New York Times noting,  “Frasier brings to life a jaunty Ferris wheel, a sunburst-yellow pitcher of lemonade and a swirling roller coaster.”

The book is interactive and there is a wonderful article about Frasier’s process in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She intentionally left the front-piece page blank in hopes that families will use the page to personalize their copies of the book as a keepsake, a place to store their own Fair memories, images, and words:

Going to the State Fair together is a ritual for many families. Grandparents have passed along their favorite Fair traditions to their grandchildren. The book is a place for all generations to record their experiences together. Imagine if we had a list of favorite words from our relatives’ 1901 trip to the Fair, or 1945, or 2010 for fairgoers of 2060!

-Debra Frasier

Debra Frasier will be giving book signings from Noon to 2 p.m. daily at the J.V. Bailey House (across from the Space Needle) and I plan to visit her there. You can also visit the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. There are teaching materials based on the book, coloring sheets, instructions on making animals-on-a-stick or a cereal box stage, a bibliography of fair-themed books, display letters, a script that deepens the story and a look at how Frasier created the book at her official website.



F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night at the Fair


IMG00661-20100723-1957.jpgF. Scott Fitzgerald is a Twin Cities icon who continues to live on through art and author happenings at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Most Minnesotans know that he penned the short story, “A Night at the Fair,” but after a comment from one of our readers, I started to wonder how many had actually read the story (myself included).

It begins like this:

The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show. As a compromise between the serious and the trivial, a grand exhibition of fireworks, culminating in a representation of the Battle of Gettysburg, took place in the Grand Concourse every night.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald,  A Night at the Fair

If your imagination is captured, you can read all 15 pages at Project Gutenberg. One of my favorite parts is when Scott writes about Ye Old Mill. Fitzgerald - Commodore HotelThe same Ye Old Mill at the Fair today. Located at the southwest corner of Carnes Avenue and Underwood Street, and touted as the “original tunnel of love,” Ye Old Mill is the oldest ride on the fairgrounds and is owned by the same family who first operated it in 1913.

The ride runs on a 40-horse power engine that turns the mill wheel and keeps water running through the 1300-foot channel. When you read Fitzgerald’s descriptions, you can imagine Basil and Riply chugging along on the Fair rides and Midway of the 1920’s. Memories preserved through story.



F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour — St. Paul, Minnesota


I’m a writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for over 20 years. Until this summer, I had never seen the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, walked on the steps of St. Paul Academy where he went to school (with a Fitzgerald IMG00657-20100723-1952.jpgstatue created by Aaron Dysart), or taken a photograph of the sign at the Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda lived when their baby girl, Scottie, was born. Those old hotel walls have breathed in tales we can only imagine, real life stories of their drinking and partying at the Commodore bar.

For my birthday this year, our Poetry & Meditation Group walked the 13 stops of a self-guided Fitzgerald tour, from 481 Laurel, where Scott was born, to Mrs. Backus’ Boarding School at 586 Holly, the building where Scott enrolled in dance class. However, the heart of the tour is a four-block radius surrounding the intersection of Kent Street and Summit Avenue, “one of the grandest rows of Victorian Boulevard architecture anywhere in America.” From there, Summit IMG00643-20100723-1938.jpg stretches nearly five miles to the Mississippi River in the country’s longest span of residential, Victorian architecture.

Slip on a comfortable pair of shoes, and walk in the footsteps of the writers who came before us. Francis Scott Fitzgerald (named after Francis Scott Key) has a birthday coming up on September 24th; take the tour to celebrate his birth, brushing oaks along streets his parents walked in 1896. At the time he lived in St. Paul, F. Scott visited with writers like Sinclair Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart. Here’s a link to every stop on the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.



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Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the lineup for 2010. If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair. The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 6th. From the 20,000 gallons of milk served by the the American Dairy Association, to the 338,000 dozen mini-donuts consumed, and the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper used at the Minnesota State Fair, there is nothing else to do but ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  9. Camel on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  19. Chocolate Tornado on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Dessert Pizza on-a-stick
  24. Dixie Wings on-a-stick
  25. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  27. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  28. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  29. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  42. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  43. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  44. Pickles on-a-stick
  45. Pizza on-a-stick
  46. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  47. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  48. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  49. Sausage on-a-stick
  50. Sausage and cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers on-a-stick
  51. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  52. Shrimp on-a-stick
  53. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  54. S’mores on-a-stick
  55. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  56. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  57. Spudsters on-a-stick
  58. Steak on-a-stick
  59. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  60. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  61. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  62. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  63. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  64. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  65. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  66. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  67. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  68. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  69. Walleye on-a-stick
  70. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  71. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 71*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2010
(including *2 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)

    Caramel Apple Puppies (a Fudge Puppy with baked apple and covered with caramel)
    @Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building
    Cheese Pizza Served With Corn Dogs (a cheese pizza topped with corn dogs sliced the long way)
    @Pizza Shoppe, located inside the Food Building
    Chicken Fried Bacon (thick cut bacon, battered, breaded and fried, and served in a boat covered with gravy)
    @Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue
    Chocolate Tornado (spiral-cut Tornado Potato dipped in chocolate)
    @Sonny’s Spiral Spud, located inside the Food Building
    Cincinnati Chili (spaghetti noodles smothered with chili and topped with shredded cheddar, beans, and diced onions)
    @Sabino’s, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Danny Boy Burger (burger made with corned beef and covered with kraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing)
    @O’Gara’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street
    Deep-Fried Avocado (avocado pieces batter-dipped, deep-fried, and served with Ranch dressing)
    @Tejas, located in The Garden
    Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes On-A-Stick
    @Potato Man and Sweetie, located on Liggett Street, south of Carnes Avenue
    Deep-Fried Bologna On-A-Stick
    @Netterfield’s Food Court, located on Cooper Street, north of Dan Patch Avenue
    • Deep-Fried Breakfast Wrap (scrambled eggs and bacon in a soft shell wrap, deep-fried and smothered in cheese)
    @Axel’s, located outside on the southeast corner of the Food Building
    •Deep-Fried Shortcake (shortcake batter deep-fried and covered with strawberries and ice cream)
    @Granny’s Cheesecake and More, located on Dan Patch Avenue at Underwood Street
    Fresh Fruit Salsa and Chips (salsa made on-site with fresh fruit and covered with tortilla chips)
    @Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park on the east side of the Grandstand Ramp
    Fried Pig Ears (thinly sliced pigs ears dusted in seasoned flour, fried until crispy, and served with lime chipotle glaze)
    @Famous Dave’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street
    Ghost Wings (chicken wings covered in a habanero pepper sauce)
    @Wings and Things, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Grilled Marshmallow Chocolate and Banana Sandwich
    @Moe and Joe’s, located on Judson Avenue by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
    Korean Moon BBQ (Korean “street vendor” style tacos with beef short ribs, spicy/sweet pork or chicken)
    @Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street
    Sausage and cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers
    @Sausage Sister & Me, located inside the Food Building
    Sloppy Joe served over spiral-cut potato chips
    @Sunny’s Spiral Spuds, located inside the Food Building
    Turtle Puppies (Fudge Puppy covered in caramel and nuts)
    @Fudge Puppies, located against the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 29th, 2010

-related to posts: MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, F. Scott Fitzgerald: On Money & Mess, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Wet cement,
Opportunity.
It only takes a second
To change this spot
forever.








Another poem from the streets of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. I wrote the first piece about the project a few months ago (Sidewalk Poetry — Public Art At Its Best) after attending the opening in Frogtown last October. The project is a collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul. It was spearheaded by Marcus Young, Artist In Residence of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The untitled poem in the photograph Wet Cement was written by Zoë Jameson. I ran into Zoë and her family at the opening; they were celebrating on the sidewalk near her poem. She kneeled on the cement next to “Opportunity,” and smiled up at her mother who proudly shot photographs of her daughter, the poet.

To view Zoë’s poem in person, here’s a link to the map of the place in Saint Paul where the poem is located. I can’t think of a better way to stay warm this Winter. Or if you’re a teacher, you can print the map out for your class in preparation for a Spring field trip during National Poetry Month this April.

Oh, and one of our readers spotted a poem near the Fitzgerald Theater. She left these words about the project in a comment on red Ravine:


It was absolutely freezing when I ran two blocks from my parking spot to the Fitz; I couldn’t wait to get into the warm lobby. But I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw one of these poems in the sidewalk. A few steps later, there was another one. When the weather is more cooperative, I’d love to spend a lazy day walking and reading.

It’s really quite lovely to have poetry in our lives this way…coming up from beneath our feet.

Poetry rising from the Earth. If you are heading into downtown St. Paul to see a show, keep your heart open, eyes to the ground, breath connected to the bottom of your feet.



Zoë Jameson has always enjoyed literature because it helps her get inside other people’s heads. When she isn’t reading, she enjoys running, traveling, playing the viola, and spending time with friends. She attends Central High School and has lived in Saint Paul with her parents and her dog, Perk, for over a decade.

— bio from the book Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

-related to posts: Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways

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Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24th, 1896 on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wrote a post last year celebrating his birthday. When I reread it last week, I made a note to drop a comment there, a Happy Birthday wish. Then I watched Bill Moyers Journal last weekend, and the short comment took a longer turn.


Moyers began the Journal by quoting a few lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, about his protagonists, the Buchanans:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.


The characters were fresh for me. I saw The Great Gatsby at the Guthrie Theater a few summers ago. Moyers continued:


It’s happening all over again, except this time Tom and Daisy are the titans and speculators on Wall Street who took the money and ran. Their bubble burst, as it did in the roaring twenties, leaving the mess for you and me, our children and our grandchildren, to clean up. The big bad government — so despised in Wall Street boardrooms and beltway think tanks — has stepped in, hoping to save capitalism from the capitalists…



Here we are — cleaning up the mess. I was reminded of our recent Writing Topic, Where Do You Go In Times Of Crisis?. We are a two-tiered culture, steeped in debt: a wealthy culture that privatizes gains and socializes losses; a poorer culture of working class, middle, and lower income people, forced to take more and more personal financial risks to stay afloat.

Bill Moyers Journal digs into some of the deeper social issues behind the current financial crisis. And how everyday people — people like us — are going to pay a heavy price. I’m not good with numbers. I don’t understand the details of financial wizardry. But his words made sense to me, and inspired critical thinking about the future of finance in this country.


Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Who wins and who loses? New York Times financial columnists, Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris shed some light on that question. And Moyers interviewed former Nixon White House strategist, and political and economic critic, Kevin Phillips on the “7 sharks in the tank with the economy.” Phillips, author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, said financialization has made us dependant on an industry that’s lost half its marbles, and strapped us with debt unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

The experts also talked about how the state of our money union does not play politics. Reaganomics may have started the economic downslide. But Democratic and Republican administrations have both contributed to the problem. According to Phillips, “the flush of the Democrats (the labor movement) carries a lunchbox; the new soul of the Democratic Party wears a pinstripe suit.” And neither of the current candidates is addressing the reality of the situation. Campaign promises are not going to bail us out this time.


Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The show has the perfect climax — a personal essay on the decision to tear down Yankee Stadium. How the new stadium will be subsidized by the public with tax-free bonds. How the greed and disregard for local community trickles down to neighborhoods, cities, and towns across this country:

And so this Sunday evening we will bid farewell to dear old Yankee Stadium, and await the new colossus to rise from its ruins. It will cast its majestic shadow across one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, whose residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of town respiratory disease is already so high they call it “asthma alley.”


I thought of the new Twins stadium in Minnesota, the same stadium that we the people voted over and over again not to build. Its skeleton now rises like a Phoenix from a giant parking lot behind the Target Center, and towers over a small downtown shelter that feeds and houses the homeless.

I can’t help but wonder — is anyone going to step up and take responsibility for all this debt? How have American lifestyles and personal debt contributed to the problem? Where are our priorities? When will we get back to supporting what is important and vital to a culture – community centers, education for children, the Arts, having enough food on the table, and enough money to live through old age.

Have you been able to save for the future? How is your retirement growing? It might not surprise you to know — not all of us are struggling. (Are we really entertaining a bailout?) I was stunned by this list from Moyers:


  • Lehman Brothers – in the last 5 years of his tenure, CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld, Jr. earned $354 million
  • Merrill Lynch – the current chair who has been on job for 9 months, John A. Thain, pocketed a $15 million dollar signing bonus. His predecessor, the retired E. Stanley O’Neal, pocketed $161 million after the company reported an 8 billion loss in single quarter.
  • Bear Stearns – former CEO James Cayne sold his stake for more than $60 million after the Bear Stearns stock collapse
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – former heads, Daniel H. Mudd & Richard F. Syron, received 24 million combined in severance packages on top of their salaries


Retreating back into their money. I think there are more than 7 sharks in the tank with the economy, and someone has surely lost their marbles. The question is — who’s counting?




           Face, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    West, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

               Face, West,  The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota,
               October 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey.
               All rights reserved.



So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

-last sentence of The Great Gatsby, inscribed on the tombstone of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre at their grave in Rockville, Maryland


VIDEO LINKS:

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL Headlines of Gloom or Doom? Wall Street Woes Around the Globe – September 19th 2008

KEVIN PHILLIPS – discussion with author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, and former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic (great sense of humor)

WINNERS AND LOSERS – segment with New York Times business and financial columnists Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris as they discuss who wins and who loses in the financial turmoil

YANKEE STADIUM: A BILL MOYERS ESSAY – great essay on the demise of Yankee Stadium and how it relates to the current economic situation



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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Writers Hands VI, Josephine Dickinson, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writers Hands VI, Josephine Dickinson, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Josephine Dickinson read her poetry at the Fitzgerald Theater last April, sharing the stage with her mentor, Galway Kinnell. She met Galway at a poetry reading at Morden Tower in Northumberland. She was drawn to his smile. They exchanged poems.

The first thing I saw was this lighted person. And then the smile. It’s an extraordinary smile; I don’t know of a smile that goes any wider. I think it’s related to the light. The smile and this light were combined.

Kinnell was so taken with her work, he introduced her to his editor at Houghton Mifflin. And that’s how they came to be on stage together in St. Paul, Minnesota in early Spring 2007.

After the reading, I bought Galway’s 11th book, Strong Is Your Hold. My friend Teri, a local writer and regular red Ravine reader, bought Silence Fell, Josephine’s 3rd. We stood in line and waited for the writers to sign their books.

When I wrote Ode to Galway Kinnell (We Are Not The Poem), Teri commented (Comment 6) that it was Josephine who inspired her most; she emailed two poems to me that night:


I remember more about Josephine (from that night) than Galway. How she was deaf, but became a music teacher. How she married that man that was so much older…wasn’t he about 90? How she wore the gloves and hat. How when we went up to have our books signed, she looked at us with deep gratitude. How her pace was so solid and grounded. That she was a sheep farmer. How her poetry made us all hold our breath.

Writers Hands VII - Trio, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The 45 poems in Silence Fell are set on Scarberry Hill, a sheep farm near Alston in northern England. When she moved there over 12 years ago, the Oxford educated poet, deaf from meningitis and childhood illnesses contracted at age 6, was in her 40’s. She fell in love with Douglas Dickinson, a local farmer with grown grandchildren, widowed and in his 80’s.

Josephine considered Douglas her muse. He still is. He died in 2004 at aged 92; she wrote Silence Fell. The book is divided into calendar months, starting with March, the beginning of a shepherd’s year. She still calls Scarberry Hill home and regularly visits the pool on the South Tyne which received Douglas Dickinson’s ashes.



December (Christmas Box)


We go feed the lambs. The wether
we were fattening for slaughter
is not there. I go look for him.
He lies apart. I stroke his head.
He stumbles to his feet. I drive
him to where the other lambs stand
and eat. He won’t look at the food,
stood with his back to them. He has
a look of profound disgust in
his eyes. We bathe the ewe’s feet. I
splash my eye. It stings. Snow swims in
shoals. We bury the lamb, go home.
We baptize him with a trickle
of water I coaxed from the stream
in a bucket. Stretched out and cold.
On the Horse Pasture, eyes open.
In the top far corner, on a
marshy piece of ground. Between the
stream and a marshy piece of ground.
With a crock of gold at each ear.
A rainbow hat to make a crock
of gold at each ear. A magic
dress for shepherding in the snow.
Gloves, striped green and blue. A velvet
and gold satin scarf. A magic
box of swords, a survival tool.
He lies apart. I stroke his head.


-from Silence Fell, poems by Josephine Dickinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007



Where Were You When I Came In from the Evening Milking?


Where were you when I came in from the evening
milking?
Your chair sat empty by the fire, its cushion hollow,
And each room in the house was empty also.
Where were you?

You were not in any of the house’s rooms.
I looked carefully in each one.
And the window view each looked out upon was empty.
Where were you?

The mossy garden path stepped empty round
the corners of the house.
Thyme, ramsons, rosemary leapt in the breeze.
Where were you?

I thought I glimpsed you once in your cap, slowly
shuffling on,
face down, intent on the cobbles.
You did not see me — the light shone through and you
were gone.
Where were you?

I stood outside the house and looked in where a star
shone
from the west straight into the mirror.
I thought for a second you were standing there.
It was not you, it was the setting sun.


-from Silence Fell, poems by Josephine Dickinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January, 9th, 2008

Read more about Josephine Dickinson in The Cumberland News article, Deafness gives poet the power of flight, 1/9/6 Josephine Dickinson

Listen to the whole Talking Volumes presentation at: MPR – Talking Volumes with Keri Miller: Two Poets Share the Stage – Galway Kinnell & Josephine Dickinson at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 12th, 2007.

Some research is from the Talking Volumes interview and excerpt, Kindred Spirits, by Sarah T. Williams (handed out the night of the reading). The full article ran in the Minneapolis StarTribune arts+entertainment section, April 2007.

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Curtains At The Fitzgerald, during MPR's Talking Volumes with Keri Miller, and Guests Galway Kinnell and Josephine Dickinson, April 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   

Curtains At The Fitzgerald, night of Galway Kinnell, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I pulled a Galway Kinnell book off the shelf last night while Liz was completing her take home final. We sat on the couch in dim midnight light, pecking at slippery keys. (One IBM. One Dell.) Breaking rhythm, I stopped to strum the pages of Strong Is Your Hold. The papery smell cut the air, and fused to April’s last memory:  Galway Kinnell, the color red, the Fitzgerald.

I had paged through Bones while doing research a few nights before. Galway jumped right off Natalie’s page. In the chapter, We Are Not the Poem, she writes about keeping your work fresh, and talks about seeing Galway in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when she barely knew who he was. He read his poetry; his poetry sang.

Fast forward 6 years later, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He raced through every line. They were dead for him.

Natalie goes on to write about losing the danger in your words. About risk taking. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a poet. She is talking about writing:


It is important to remember we are not the poem. … The power is always in the act of writing. Come back to that again and again and again. Don’t get caught in the admiration for your poems. … Write good poems and let go of them. Publish them, read them, go on writing.

I remember Galway Kinnell when his wonderful Book Of Nightmares first came out. It was a Thursday afternoon in Ann Arbor. I’d never heard of him, much less could I pronounce his name. He sang those poems; they were new and exciting for him and a great accomplishment. Six years later I heard him read again at St. John’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’d read that book so much in those six years that he was sick of it. He ran through the poems, put down the book, and said, “Where’s the party?” There was nothing dangerous for him in them anymore. The air was no longer electric.

It is very painful to become frozen with your poems….We constantly need new insights, visions. We don’t exist in any solid form. There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black and white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.

   -Natalie Goldberg, We Are Not The Poem, from Writing Down The Bones

Even the best writers sour, and spin their wheels. Don’t get attached to the work. Keep your writing fresh. Blogging is good for non-attachment. A fast-paced medium, it is here, it is gone. You don’t have time to get attached. You keep current. You keep practicing.

Back at the Fitz with my writing friend, velvet curtains to the front, circular stairs behind, I remember when Galway read. Strong Is Your Hold seemed new and fresh for him. Insomniac and Sex vibrated across the room. And in his poem for Jane Kenyon, How Could She Not, you could hear the pain in his voice. Passion and grief.


Hands Of Galway Kinnell, Chap. 5, Vol. 2, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Hands of Galway Kinnell, Chap. 5, Vol. 2, on stage with Josephine Dickinson (l), and MPR’s Keri Miller (r), at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The first time I heard Ode and Elegy was at a silent writing retreat in Taos, Fall 2006. Natalie read it out loud to us, each word blazing through the silence, “Wake up!” The second time was in the Log Cabin at Mabel Dodge in the December retreat. The careful attention to detail caught me clutching my throat. The poet sees in a certain way, hide-and seek between heart and mind.


Hide-and-Seek 1933

Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.

  –from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, by Galway Kinnell, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

I have come to love poetry for its beauty and starkness. Few words. Everything pared down to the bones. Chewy. Bare. Raw. I try not to hold on too tightly. We are not the poem. Don’t judge. Let pit-stained words soak through the pores. Let go.

Or clutch if you want to. But if you have to hold that tight, bolt from every cell like the hawk. Leave no jay feather unturned. No tamarack untapped.



Writers Hands, Chap. V, Vol. 1, Galway Kinnell, at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

Writer’s Hands, Chap. 5, Vol. 1,
Galway Kinnell, at the Fitzgerald,
St. Paul, Minnesota, April, 2007,
photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.




Ode and Elegy

A thud. Shrieks. Frantic
wingbeats like a round
of soft applause.
The hawk jumps on top
of the jay knocked to the grass,
presses his wings to the ground,
digs his claws into the jay’s
back, strikes the neck
over and over, scattering
blue feathers. Then,
as easily as a green wave
in heavy seas lifts a small boat
and throws it upside down,
still afloat but keel up, so
the hawk flips the jay,
then tears at his throat.

A blue wing wrests itself free, flaps
like a flag saying i will fight you!
The hawk stuffs the wing
back down into place and
clamps it there with one foot.
Now jay and hawk stare
at each other beak to beak,
as close as Jesus and Judas at their kiss.
The hawk strikes, the jay struggles
to strike back, but his neck breaks, his eyes
shrink into beads of taxidermists’ glass.
The cere above the hawk’s beak
flushes hard yellow from exertion.

As a grape harvester trampling out
the last juices of grape, so the hawk
treads the jay’s body up and down
and down and up. He places
a foot on the throat and a foot
on the belly, flaps his wings
repositions his feet, flaps again.

He pushes off, clutching transversely
the body of the jay, which is like a coffin
made in the shape and color of the dead.

Much as in la decollage a l’americaine
of the Lafayette Escadrille, when
the pilots would gain speed only yards
above the tarmac, then haul back
on the joystick, putting their planes
into nearly vertical ascent, just so
the sharp-shinned hawk, carrying
his blue load glinting in the sunlight
low to the ground, now suddenly
climbs steeply and soars over the tops
of the Norway spruce and the tamarack.

   –from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, by Galway Kinnell, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Listen to the whole Talking Volumes presentation at: MPR – Talking Volumes with Keri Miller: Two Poets Share the Stage – Galway Kinnell & Josephine Dickinson at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 12th, 2007

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 Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writer’s Hands IV, hands of Bel Canto author, Ann Patchett, signing a copy of her latest book, Run, Fitzgerald Theater, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Part I.

Fitzgerald Theater (Inside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, St. Paul. Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On a rainy October night, inside the haunted Fitzgerald Theater, Ann Patchett held the audience rapt. She has created a huge life for herself. A writer’s life. Awed by her confidence and poise, I was surprised to find she is also funny, and witty. Bel Canto was the novel that put her over the top. And earned her the alias, “Opera Girl.” But it was the memoir, Truth & Beauty, that drew me in.

The Write Kind Of Jazz, live jazz quartet, night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty; A Friendship, on MPR's Talking Volumes, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved My friend, Teri, read the book for one of Natalie Goldberg’s workshops. Then attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop last summer (where much of the book takes place). She suggested I read it. Along with Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.

Suddenly, it was October, and Teri, Liz, and I grabbed dinner at Mickey’s Diner before walking across Exchange Street into the bustling, sold-out crowd at the Fitzgerald.

We found split seats tucked way in the left corner, right under the balcony. Opening with an airline joke about her lost luggage, Ann Patchett sat across from Kerri Miller wearing black Jazzin' With Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller, Ann Patchett & Kerri Miller enjoying the live jazz quartet at the Fitzerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. jeans, black boots, and a burnt orange scarf. Casual. It didn’t matter. Her comments on grief and loss stilled the room. It was her grieving process for Lucy that became Truth & Beauty. There was no tour when the book came out. She seemed happy to talk about the healing.



Part II.

At times, Ann had the audience in stitches. Other moments, there were tears. Later she would joke with us, pose for a few photos, and sign our books. She seemed glad to be there.

I listened with hungry ears. Teri and I nudged each other anytime we heard some snippet of wisdom, another link in the chain of making our way as writers. Liz took notes in the seat behind us (thanks, Liz!). And every once in a while we would explode into laughter at one of Ann’s jokes.

I soaked it all up. What did I learn?


  • She doesn’t have to write every day. She has no rituals or rules.
  • She doesn’t write between books. She rests.
  • After writing her books, she lets them go. She doesn’t read them again. She doesn’t even remember Bel Canto. She’s moved on.
  • The idea that’s cookin’ may not be the book at all.
  • Writing a novel is about faking it with authority.
  • Two words: pen pal. She has close pen pals.
  • A new definition of pornography was forged when Clemson University (in South Carolina) strenuously objected to Truth & Beauty being on the freshman class syllabus, claiming it was filled with “pornography.” There was a protest; Ann needed a bodyguard to make her speech.
  • Profound, close relationships between two women scare a lot of people.
  • Run, Bambi, Run!
  • The center cannot hold; the falcon cannot hear the falconer.
  • When you write a new book and go on tour, people really want you to talk about the last book because that’s the one they last read. (In this case, the last two books.)
  • She met her best friend and writer, Elizabeth McCracken, during the living of Truth & Beauty. She trusts her with her life.
  • She writes 98 percent for herself, 2 percent for Elizabeth, and no one else.
  • You can’t put love on the scales.
  • In her mid 30’s, she had no knowledge of opera, had never been to an opera, had never listened to an opera. But after Bel Canto, when something goes on in the world of opera, The New York Times calls “Opera Girl.”
  • Research brings her a lot of joy. She hates magic. Why? Magic is the most misogynist art form in the world
  • No experience matches the moment she finished her first published novel, The Patron Saint Of Liars.
  • She was two blocks away from the World Trade Center when it went down. She was holding someone’s hand. 


Part III.

               The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

The Fitzgerald Theater (Outside), night of Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, on MPR’s Talking Volumes, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What I want to say is that Ann was inspiring. She didn’t pull any punches. She was at the same time vulnerable and strong. Very strong. She knows how to take the criticism of her readers, and the country. She mentors others, gives back. But also seems like she guards her time with her life.

The day after we saw her at the Fitz, she flew to Dallas. Or somewhere in the heart of Texas. The tour went on. I smiled when I thought about her missing luggage. I wondered if Run would do well. But I could tell it wouldn’t matter all that much. She’s already moved on. She’s looking in the eyes of a stranger, waiting for the next book. She’s doing what she’s wanted to do since she was 5 years old. She never wavered for a moment. She’s a writer.


In the moment of our death, we are closest to our life. And the person who is with us at that moment is the person that we desperately need. Because they’re the only person who really understands what we’ve been through.

  – Ann Patchett, Fitzgerald Theater, October 16th, 2007


Part IV.

Post Script:  Don’t take my word for any of this. To hear Ann speak about ichthyology, magic, Bel Canto, bodyguards, Opera Girl (and to find out whose hand she was holding), listen to her talk in its entirety at the link below (you might even recognize a familiar voice during the audience Q&A):

Live appearance: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Patchett discussed “Run” with Kerri Miller and the Talking Volumes audience at the Fitzgerald Theater.


Related links you might enjoy:

Seattle Arts and Lectures: Elizabeth McCracken & Ann Patchett
Novelists, 5th Avenue Theatre, January 10, 2000

StarTribune Article on Ann Patchett
Setting Her Own Pace, October 2007
(you may have to register and log in to read)


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC: WHAT HAVE YOU LOST & F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birthday Celebration

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What Have You Lost, Rainpainting Series, outside the Fitzgerald Theater, downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, night of Ann Patchett, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


If you want to know someone, truly know someone, ask them about the things they have lost. No matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter. The things we have lost stay with us.

These are the words of Ann Patchett, author of The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. She wrote the memoir Truth & Beauty to grieve the loss of her friend, Lucy Grealy. The book was her grieving process.

What are the things you have lost? Have you ever lost face, your faith, time. When did you lose your virginity? What about your innocence. Did you lose your childhood, your dreams, someone close to your heart? Did you lose your keys the day you hiked the ocean cliffs of an Oregon beach and were left stranded in the dark.

Make a list of the things you have lost. Choose 1 or 2 items off of your list and do a 15 minute writing practice on each. Let yourself grieve. Take the time. What do you have to lose?


Grief is a debt you owe. After you pay, you can get to the joy.

-Ann Patchett on Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007

-posted on red Ravine Sunday, October 28th, 2007

-related to post, The Parking Is Free

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