"Poets of the Wild U.P." poetry reading poster courtesy Save the Wild U.P.
MARQUETTE -- Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) invites the public to celebrate "Poets of the Wild U.P." with a poetry reading featuring Milton Bates, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Kathleen M. Heideman and Russell Thorburn from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 2, at the Peter White Public Library’s Shiras Room. The event will lend a uniquely environmental emphasis to National Poetry Month. The reading is free and open to the public.
"Our goal in sponsoring this reading is to highlight the special connection between yoopers and the environment, through the work of four local authors who draw inspiration from Lake Superior, U.P. environmental issues, and the natural beauty of Upper Michigan’s wild places," said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s interim director.
The U.P.’s environment figures differently in the work of each poet.
"There’s a strong spirit of place, an identification with wildness and struggle, at the heart of our stories," says Jon Saari, Northern Michigan University emeritus professor of history. Saari -- whose wife, Christine, is a poet and artist -- serves as Save the Wild U.P.’s vice president.
Milton Bates, the winner of Save the Wild U.P.’s "Putting the Wild into Words" 2014 poetry contest, taught English literature for thirty-five years at Williams College and Marquette University. During that time he was also a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright lecturer in China and Spain. He has published half a dozen books on subjects such as the poet Wallace Stevens, the literature and film of the Vietnam War, and the natural and human history of the Bark River Valley in Wisconsin. On retirement he and his wife moved to the Upper Peninsula, which provides material for many of his poems.
Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, Mich, population 2. She is the author of the chapbook In The Yellowed House (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including The Midwest Quarterly, Midwestern Gothic, Border Crossing, The Michigan Poet, and Dunes Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.
Kathleen M. Heideman, SWUP's president, will receive the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s 2015 Outstanding Writer Award. She has completed artist residencies with watersheds, forests, the National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service -- including Isle Royale and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Informed by landscape and environmental concerns, her work has garnered recognition from the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Bush Foundation.
"For me, 'Saving the Wild U.P.' means naming, cherishing, and protecting what makes the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such an incredible place -- our creative culture, our clean water, and our wild lands," Heideman says. "When I consider the beautiful work of our local artists creating pottery, landscape painting, woodworking, etc., their material connection to place is obvious at a glance. Poets are really doing the same thing -- using woods, water and rocks to create our work."
Russell Thorburn served as the U.P. Poet Laureate from 2013-2015. He lives in Marquette with his son and wife. A manuscript consultant for poets, he takes orphan poems that don’t fit together and arranges the pieces in a way that not only makes sense, but makes beauty. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Salt and Blood, an experimental noir, is forthcoming from Marick Press -- who also published his third book of poetry, Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged.
National Poetry Month, founded by Academy of American Poets, is the world’s largest literary celebration, involving millions of readers, teachers, students, librarians and authors and celebrating the critical role of poetry in our lives each April.
The Peter White Public Library is at 217 N Front St. in Marquette.