Is “Read Poetry Central Minnesota 2020″ a competition? Good grief—no! Lyricality is working is to honor all poets and all forms of poetry, not to make hierarchies and create ranks. We have no intention in calling one of these five fine books, selected by Paige Riehl as suitable for our program, better or worthy of more honor than the others. 

That’s why, to introduce the “Read Poetry Central Minnesota 2020” program, we are celebrating all five books, and every one of their writers. We are publishing our recommendations (read these books!!) as follows:

Simples by KateLynn Hibbard(Howling Bird Press, 2018) December 27, 2019

Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems by Joyce Sutphen (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) January 3, 2020

 Enough by Kris Bigalk (NYQ Books, 2019) January 10, 2020

Bodega by Su Hwang (Milkweed Editions, 2019) January 17, 2020

Mitochondrial Night by Ed Bok Lee (Coffee House Press, 2019 January 24, 2020

(Note: the order is random and means nothing)

Imagine hosting a party for a diverse group of people. In trying to figure out what to serve, you might come up with five good ideas. Then you would consider those ideas in light of who is coming to the party, what they might enjoy, the mood and theme you want to set, how the kitchen you’re serving from is equipped, and your budget. You might wish you could serve all five meals, but you don’t have the space, the bank account, the time, or the personnel to prepare all that. Your guests don’t have the stomach for gorging on five meals at once. So you narrow it down to something realistic, manageable. 

Between now and the launch of “Read Poetry Central Minnesota 2020,” we are considering our limitations and our guests (the readers we hope to engage), in order to come up with a book and discussion guide suited for this occasion. Our program funding and resource allow us to focus on one book, not five. While we’re narrowing down, we are keenly aware that every one of these five books is a winner—and that’s why we’re telling you about them. 

We introduce each book, with the goal of showing its merit. We hope you will decide to add a few of these finalist books—maybe even all of them—to your reading list. In the end, we will not select the “best” book, but rather, a book to set a mood and theme that will work comfortably for this particular party. 

It’s about focus. We aim to generate meaningful discussion among central Minnesota readers, and to do that, it makes sense that we all discuss one book. We can’t do a good job of discussing anything, if we’re trying to discuss everything. 

Maybe some readers who participate in this program will so enjoy the reading and discussion, they will start their own poetry book group. They might read and discuss all five of these finalist books over the course of a year. Maybe you’ll be the person to implement that idea. Whatever you decide to do, whatever you decide to read, we’d love to hear how Minnesota poets and their books are impacting your lives. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts, ideas, dreams, and requests. We’re listening…

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.