A three-part series featuring contemporary poets, which launches Sept. 28 with a program by Ray Gonzales, explores the way each brings a sense of connection to a specific place and the impact of that landscape on storytelling and identity.
The “Books in the Barn” series in the historic barn at the Anderson Center takes a wide-ranging look at the work of three contemporary poets:
Gonzales, whose poetry reflects his experiences living along the U.S.-Mexico border;
Gwen Westerman (Nov. 8), whose Dakota-inspired poems and visual arts focus on Red Wing and the Upper Mississippi River Valley; and
Brian Laidlaw (Nov. 23), whose poems and songs emerge from Minnesota’s Iron Range.
“The Anderson Center has presented readings before,” Executive Director Stephanie Rogers said. “We have a good reputation as a literary organization.”
The new series of readings and workshops “is a new way of focusing the programming,” she added, describing the events as “thought-provoking poetry and art in a beautiful setting.” The readings are open to the public.
Gonzales, a professor of literature at the University of Minnesota, was born and grew up in El Paso, Texas. His work embraces both his Mexican ancestry and his American upbringing. He cites rock ’n’ roll music and mid-century American poets including Robert Bly as his influences.
He has won numerous honors, including the Latino Heritage Award and a Minnesota Book Award, and recently received the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress. A prose poet, Gonzales has 15 published books of his work, most recently “Beautiful Wall,” published by the University of New Mexico Press.
Gonzalez will read from his extensive catalog of work, share poems by others who inspire his work and talk about his experiences living along the border when he speaks at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, in the Anderson Center’s historic barn.
Westerman, who will be at Tower View on Nov. 8, is the co-author of “Mni-Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.” In addition to being a published poet, she is an award-winning visual artist, an educator and researcher, and an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
She received a Minnesota Book Award for “Mni Sota Makoce,” and her poetry has been included in numerous anthologies. Her award-winning quilts have been added to the permanent collections of museums across the region.
Westerman, a professor at Minnesota State University-Mankato, will meet with students at Tower View Alternative School in the morning. She will talk about her work and her experiences as a first-generation college student, and will lead a mini poetry workshop.
At 7 p.m. there will be a public reception, a program titled “Why I Write About the Land,” and a visual art exhibition in the barn.
Laidlaw, a songwriter and poet, “melds myths ancient and contemporary among the raspberries, wolves and taconite mines of Minnesota’s Iron Range,” officials said. He also melds artistic forms, Rogers said: “each of his published books of poetry has a musical accompaniment.”
He has written “The Stuntman” and “The Mirrormaker,” had his poetry appear in numerous publications, and had a successful career as a songwriter and singer. A graduate of the U of M’s Masters in Fine Arts program in poetry, he has taught songwriting and is pursuing a doctorate in creative writing at the University of Denver.
Laidlaw last performed in Red Wing in “An Enemy of the People,” performed outdoors by Sod House Theater.
Two events are planned on Nov. 23. A free songwriting workshop will be at 4:30 p.m. at Hobgoblin Music, Highway 19; registration is required.
“Verse Versus Verses,” a poetry reading and concert, is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Anderson Center barn. Books and CDs will be available.
Admission to “Books in the Barn” is free to Anderson Center members and people under 18; for others, admission is pay-what-you-can. Registration is requested, as seating in the barn is limited.
Go to raygonzalez.brownpapertickets.com, gwenwesterman.brownpapertickets.com or brianlaidlaw.brownpapertickets.com, or call the center at 651-388-2009 ext. 0.