Vande Zande’s ‘American Poet’ Gives Notable Nod to Poet Roethke

perf5.500x8.500.inddDenver Hoptner walks at night. The recent University of Michigan grad, jobless and without prospects, has returned home to live with his father while he regroups and considers his future.

Instead of opening doors, Denver’s fresh MFA in Poetry has left him open only to his father’s scrutiny, and worse, at a devastating loss for the words he longs to put down. Seeking solace, Denver routinely takes to the bleak Saginaw streets searching for a sign.

In Jeff Vande Zande’s  tight, coming-of-age novel American Poet (Bottom Dog Press $18.00), Denver’s sign comes in the form of late poet Theodore Roethke’s boyhood home. The prize-winning poet’s house, found smoke-damaged and in disrepair, gives Denver angry encouragement and fuels his commitment to both his craft and the preservation of a bygone poet’s brilliance.

“It was one of the few things that I didn’t hate about the town,” Denver says. “When I was in high school and thinking that maybe I wanted to write, I used to walk out to the Roethke House at least once a month, just to look at it. He was a pretty big poet in his day. Pultizer Prize for one thing, and it meant something that a guy like that could come from a place like Saginaw. He was a guide. A lodestar.”

Poet Theodore Roethke drew his words from the well of his Saginaw surroundings. Through Denver’s eyes, author Vande Zande also offers bright discovery in the gray and grit of this roughed-up city. Ultimately, it’s in Denver’s struggle to reconcile his future ideal with his present reality that his true poetry begins to emerge.

Jeff Vande Zande teaches English at Delta College and writes poetry, fiction, and screenplays. He was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Stuart and Venice Gross Award for Excellence in Writing by a Michigan Author for American Poet; his novel that was also selected as a 2013 Michigan Notable Book.

– This review can be found in the January, 2013 issue of Hour Detroit. For Hour subscription information, link here.

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– Post by Megan Shaffer

Balthazar Korab Fans Invited to BPL Event With Author Comazzi

Korab Photo 2Baldwin Public Library is pleased to announce that John Comazzi – author of Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography – will pay a special visit to Baldwin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, for a book talk and question-and-answer period.  Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event courtesy of Book Beat.

Mr. Comazzi is visiting the Baldwin Public Library as part of the Library of Michigan’s 2013 Michigan Notable Authors Tour. The authors whose engaging works were chosen as Michigan Notable Books selections will visit nearly 50 libraries throughout the state.

“It’s a treat to have Mr. Comazzi in our community, sharing his captivating work in such an open, accessible way.  Given the strong local interest in the work of Balthazar Korab, we are delighted to host Mr. Comazzi on the Michigan Notable Authors Tour,” said Doug Koschik, Library Director.

“This year’s Michigan Notable Books delve into wonderfully diverse topics and offer something of interest for just about everyone,” said State Librarian Nancy R. Robertson.

Mr. Comazzi is an Associate Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.  He received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Virginia and both a M.Arch and M.S. in Architecture History and Theory from the University of Michigan.  He teaches at the University of Minnesota as an Assistant Professor.

The Baldwin Public Library is located at 300 W. Merrill St. in downtown Birmingham.  For details about this author event, call 248-554-4650 or visit the Web at www.baldwinlib.org.

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– Posted by Megan Shaffer, courtesy of Baldwin Public Library

Words of Wisdom Rest in ‘Rules of Civility’

Rules of Civility“Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane – in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath – she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly:  One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.”

Looking for a literary pleasure trip? Try Rules of Civility by author Amor Towles. While you’re there, take a dip in the appendix to hone your social skills with The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.

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Post by Megan Shaffer

‘Annie’s Ghosts’ is Back as the 2013 Great Michigan Read

Annie's Ghosts

The Michigan Humanities Council has announced their much-anticipated biennial title for the 2013-14 Great Michigan Read program. Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by journalist and Detroit native Steve Luxenberg, is the selection for this impressive statewide program.

“It was quite a surprise, and certainly a pleasant one,” shared Luxenberg in a recent email. “It’s an honor for the book to be in the same category as the previous choices, and to be considered worthy and compelling enough for the selection committee to choose it.”

Annie’s Ghosts  is the thorough, moving story of Luxenberg’s mother, and a mysterious relative long hidden away at Eloise, the massive psychiatric hospital that once housed some nine thousand people from the state of Michigan. Luxenberg’s story digs into the dark corners of his family’s past, and exhumes the complicated history of his ancestors in hopes of revealing a family secret.

Michigan Humanities Program Officer Carla Ingrando said the response to Annie’s Ghosts has been tremendous. “Within three days of the announcement, more than 100 organizations have preregistered as Great Michigan Read partners.”

The Great Michigan Read is a statewide reading initiative sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council. Reaching out to schools, libraries, religious organizations and other nonprofits, the program aims to connect readers throughout the state with titles that explore our past, present and future.

How did the program select Luxenberg’s title? “The Great Michigan Read titles are selected through a grassroots process,” explained Ingrando. “During the fall of 2012, six regional selection committees made up of librarians, teachers, and literary enthusiasts nominated titles to a statewide selection committee, which met in January 2013.”

This year, Ingrando said the tragedy of Sandy Hook played a significant role in the 2013-14 title selection. “We met in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and the committee felt like reading and discussing Annie’s Ghosts would provide an opportunity to think deeply about mental disability, mental illness, and mental health care.”

Annie’s Ghosts is a fascinating journey of immigration, identity and Detroit history. Luxenberg’s work has other honors in the Mitten as well; Annie’s Ghosts was selected as a 2010 Michigan Notable Book. For all program and participation information, link here.

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Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Link

– Annie’s Ghosts on NPR: A Journalist Uncovers His Family’s ‘Ghosts’  Full of Detroit’s colorful history, this true mystery was selected as

Live announcement of The Great Michigan Read –http://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=2201249

The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities

‘Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography’

Balthazar Korab Architect of PhotographyAs part of the Michigan Notable Book committee, I am so very pleased that John Comazzi’s latest work made the 2013 list. Michigan’s preeminent architectural photographer Balthazar Korab died this week at the age of 86, yet his work will carry on in Comazzi’s stunning illustrated biography, Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Korab was born in Budapest, Hungary, and lived there until 1949, when he fled the country and its Communist government for Paris. Korab eventually moved to the United States and was hired as a designer for Finnish architect Eero Saarinen at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Commazzi’s book “… tells the story of Balthazar Korab, one of the mid-twentieth century’s most celebrated architecture photographers,” posts Archinect. “It’s the first book dedicated solely to Korab’s life and career, with a portfolio of more than two hundred images from Korab’s professionally commissioned architecture photography… .”

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

2013 Michigan Notable Books Announced!

Michigan Notable Book SealThe much anticipated 2013 Michigan Notable Books list has been announced and the titles are fantastic!

The Library of Michigan annually decides on 20 of the most notable books that “are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience” as well as featuring “high-quality titles with wide public appeal.” (via)

This year’s select list features fiction, nonfiction, picture and children’s books alike and were penned by a Michigan resident or written about a subject related to the Great Lakes region.

Michigan now holds some of the country’s hottest authors in its mittened hand. After authors are notified of their awards, they make themselves available to Michigan readers through library tours, appearances and literary engagements.

“In the spring, selected authors will visit 50 libraries across the state from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit,” states the Free Press. A keynote event known as the Night for Notables takes place in late April and honors all the selections.

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-Post by Megan Shaffer