Monday, December 8, 2014

Michigander Monday: Charmi Keranen

I'm pleased to welcome Charmi Keranen to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Charmi, please tell us a little about yourself.

Charmi:  I came to Michigan by way of the spoils of marriage, rather than by birth right.  (Who said marriage was dead?!)  My husband’s family was part of the great wave of Finnish immigrants who settled in the Keweenaw Peninsula during the mining boom.  I was raised a Hoosier, but just a mile or so from the Michigan border in an area often referred to as Michiana.  I didn’t know it, but I was already on my way to becoming a Michigan/Indiana hybrid.  The Michigan I knew growing up was the southwest corner, full of fruit hills and vineyards and towering sand dunes, hot enough to scorch a little girl’s feet come the end of summer.  Imagine my surprise the first time I saw my husband’s Michigan, the Keweenaw, when I was 19 years old.   Every last bit of geography was foreign, from the unforgettable blue of Lake Superior (which is never warm enough) to the miles and miles of pine forest.  And abandoned cemeteries!  And black bears!   It’s a grand understatement to say I was bowled over.  My hybrid fate was becoming sealed.

Fast forward a decade or so.  My wonderful in-laws have passed away and my husband and I have suddenly inherited a second home in the Keweenaw.  I have now stretched my Michiana identity all the way to butt up against Canada!  And so it remains.

Today I work as scopist for court reporters, which means that I make court transcripts readable!  I am an editor of sorts, reading everything from murder to malpractice cases.  My job inspires much of my writing.  Because I am self-employed and work from home, I have time to play around a bit.  Aside from writing (of course) I am a home brewer with a big garden (including hops) and for the past two years have been keeping bees.  At parties, people used to ask me about my work and my kids, now it’s all about the beer and the bees!  (Fingers crossed that the bees survive this winter.  Last year wasn’t so hot.  In fact, it was Polar Vortex cold.  The beer, it does just fine with the cold.)

I still talk about my kids, though.  My husband and I have two grown children.  Our son, Tom, is both a musician and a brewer.  What can be better than music and beer, huh?  Our daughter Jocelyn is serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania.  “Hey Mom, that bird noise outside my window, turns out it was a hyena.”  Gah!  I will be visiting her this winter and gaining an entirely new perspective on life, I’m sure.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Charmi:  In 2012 my first poetry chapbook, The Afterlife is a Dry County, was published by Big Wonderful Press.  You can pick it up directly from the publisher, but it is also available from Amazon and on Kindle (instant gratification!)  It’s a fun little book with my hybrid nature on full display.  I am also very excited to be included in the anthology Here, coming out in the spring of 2015, from Michigan State University Press.  Many thanks to Ron Riekki for choosing my work to be included.  I am thrilled!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Charmi:  Yes!  This summer I finished a found poetry manuscript called So ber.  The poems in So ber are not so much erasures as they are gleanings taken from the novel So Big by Kalamazoo native Edna Ferber, winner of the 1925 Pulitzer Prize.  I began So ber back in 2013 when I took part in a project called the Pulitzer Remix, put together by the editor of the Found Poetry Review.  At that time I wrote 30 poems for National Poetry Month.  Over the summer of 2014 I expanded the manuscript to 55 poems.  So ber is in search of a publisher.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Charmi:  Oh, yes.  Harbinger Books in Calumet, Michigan.  It has so much character and you’ll find everything from wonderful poetry to great Michigan history tomes.  I stumbled upon them one rainy day and came out with more books than one should try to juggle in a downpour.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Charmi:  The Keweenaw AND the fruit hills.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Charmi:  Nothing beats the Gay parade on the 4th of July in the little town of Gay, population 60.  It’s the bomb.  Except maybe picking blueberries on the Lake Superior shoreline outside of Gay in August.  That’s also the bomb.  Sometimes a black bear will join you.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Charmi:  Oh, gosh.  Read David Dodd Lee’s poetry and Bonnie Jo Campbell’s fiction.  They’re not just top notch Michigan writers, they are top notch American writers.  You will read their work and say, What?!  What?!  You won’t be the same.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Charmi:  Michigan is so diverse.  I’ve talked about the places I know, but those places are just a tiny part of Michigan.  There is so much more.  I mean, I haven’t even started talking about the great beer!

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Charmi:  A billion pages ago I said I was a hybrid.  I guess that’s what I remain.  I am a Michianite.  Truly.  Check my DNA.

Debbie:  Charmi, we'll put you in the Michianite column!  Thank you for joining us today for Michianite Monday!

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