Monday, January 26, 2015

Michigander Monday: Beverly Matherne

I'm pleased to welcome Beverly Matherne to Michigander Monday!  Beverly is one of the five finalists for U.P. Poet Laureate.  Let's get to know a little bit more about her and her writing.

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

Beverly:  I was born along the Mississippi River, just west of New Orleans, to a French speaking family. To maintain my Francophone identity, I've studied French over 40 years, earlier as a young student at l'Institut Catholique in Paris and later in the MA program in French at University of California, at Berkeley. Because I do all I can to foster a lasting French presence in Louisiana, I publish my books in facing pages of French and English, and I've received positive feedback for my efforts, in a review of my blues poetry in the international edition of Le Figaro, for example, and in a completed dissertation from University of Paris III that investigates my bilingual writing process alongside that of seven other authors, including Samuel Beckett.

As tenured professor in the Department of English at Northern Michigan University, I've taught dramatic literature and playwriting. I've also taught technical writing from introductory to graduate levels because of a seven-year stint in the computer industry in California before I arrived at NMU. Even though I had published eight articles on the drama and produced 28 articles and collaterals on relational database technology, I was also publishing a lot of poetry and receiving invitations to read nationally and internationally. I was soon allowed to put aside other areas of concentration to focus sharply on poetry. In addition to teaching poetry in our creative writing programs, I served as director of the MFA Program (four years), director of the Visiting Writers Series (seven years) and poetry editor of Passages North literary magazine (four years). Because of my Francophone background, I also taught first-year French language courses at NMU for six years.

I've done over 240 readings and poetry performances across the U.S., Canada and France, and in Spain, Germany, Belgium and Wales. Venues include Cornell University, Tulane University, Shakespeare and Company in Paris and the United Nations in New York. I was also the guest of poet Grace Cavalieri on her radio show, “The Poet and the Poem,” broadcast live from Washington, D.C.

My work appears in many French publications and in Great River Review, Interdisciplinary Humanities, Metamorphoses, Paterson Literary Review, and Verse, to name a few.

I have a Ph.D. in Drama from Saint Louis University and M.A. and B.A. degrees in English from University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

In June of 2014, I retired from NMU and now enjoy writing fulltime.

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

Beverly:  My sixth book of poetry, Bayou des Acadiens / Blind River, stories and prose poems endorsed by John Smolens and Jack Driscoll, is due out any day, from Éditions Perce-Neige. My fifth book, Cadillac: Sa Jeunesse En France / Cadillac: His Early Days in France, a collection of linked prose poems endorsed by Jim Harrison and Dyane Léger, is from Éditions Tintamarre. My fourth, La Grande Pointe / Grand Point, and my third, Le Blues Braillant / The Blues Cryin', free verse and blues poetry respectively, are both from Cross-Cultural Communications. My second and first, chapbooks in free verse, are Les Images Cadienne / Cajun Images, from Ridgeway Press, and Je Me Souviens de Louisiane / I Remember Louisiana, from March Street Press. Folks endorsing earlier titles include Jim Daniels, Jane Hirshfield, and Judith Minty.

I've received seven first-place prizes, including the Hackney Literary Award for Poetry, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. In 2010, I received the Outstanding Writer Award from the Marquette Arts and Culture Association.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Beverly:  In 1999, I was invited to write an epic poem about the arrival of the Acadians, today’s Cajuns, in Louisiana, for Congrès Mondial Acadien / the Acadian World Congress. I’m expanding that prose poem, consisting of six dramatic monologues, into a full-length book. I also continue to translate Stanley Kunitz’s poems, ten of which already appear in a special portfolio edition, The Artist / L'Artiste, with lithographs, from Cross-Cultural Communications. I’m now planning a book-length translation of Kunitz’s poems.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Beverly:  I’m in Sonoma County, California, until the first of April. In May, I’ll read for the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning at NMU, and in August, I’ll be one of three poets reading at a Chopin recital by pianist Nancy Railey. This summer, I’ll be touring with the new book in Louisiana. I post upcoming readings on my website:, where you can also see samples of my poetry and hear me perform one of my blues poems with fiddle and slide guitar accompaniment.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Beverly:  Snowbound Books is my favorite bookstore. They carry excellent new and used books and support local authors. I order my poetry and fiction books there. I enjoy working with owner Dana Schultz on Marquette’s One Book One Community Committee, for which I serve as co-chair.

As for libraries, my favorite is Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library. I love its Neo-classical revival style: Doric columns at the entrance, stunning copula. I love the small-town feel of the library and the helpful librarians. They support local writers, and I've read there many times over the years.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Beverly:  Ishpeming, a small town of 6,000 folks, about 15 miles west of Marquette, is my favorite city. I love its magnificent City Hall, its red sandstone, huge arched entrance, and square tower with pyramidal roof. Once the center of iron ore production, the city boasts of several recently restored buildings, including that of Globe Printing, famous for fine printing and publishing and for The Roosevelt Nightclub, where the cast of Anatomy of a Murder used to convene after hours. You can still see autographs of Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick and others on the wall.

The city’s Victorian homes so caught my attention that I purchased one, a Queen Anne, in 2004. I've been restoring it ever since, doing much of the work myself; I maintain its retaining wall, for example, having learned how to tuck point from a local mason. My longish prose poem “The Poet’s Vision,” in Here, Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is set in this, my home, known as the Butler House.

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

Beverly:  I love attending the UP 200 Sled Dog Races, the take-off, in Marquette. Coming from the Deep South, I had never seen anything like it, huskies and malamutes in booties, wild for the run, the below zero weather—burr! I also attend Marquette Symphony concerts regularly, having served on its board for four years.

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

Beverly:  I love the Finnish-American writer and TV personality, Carl Pellonpaa (Finland Calling). I've never seen the man without a smile, a sparkle in the eye, and a good joke to tell.

Michigan writers who also make me smile include Martin Achatz, Charles Baxter, Jim Daniels, Jack Driscoll, John Gubbins, Kate Myers Hanson, Jim Harrison, Jonathan Johnson, Judith Minty, and John Smolens.

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

Beverly:  As someone who grew up along the Mississippi River and among bayous, all muddy waters, I would like others to know that Lake Superior is so clear you can easily see rocks on its floor, from lookouts as high as 40 feet. Winter is another matter: snow is frequent, this season’s first Polar Plunge having buried my Subaru in a six-foot drift. Mornings after storms though—trees laden with snow, sometimes ice, the white expanse—transport you to holy silence.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Beverly:  I say Michigander. When I was 19-21, I had a boyfriend named Bill from Ann Arbor, who always said Michigander, so I do, too. I've never heard of Michiganian and I've lived here for 24 years. By the way, I've fallen in love with this place.

Debbie:  Beverly, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New book especially for babies and very young toddlers!

New in bookstores and libraries this week is my and Dan Hanna's Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish.

It's a mini-adventure for Mr. Fish, appropriate for the youngest of book lovers -- babies and very young toddlers.

In board book format, it's just 12 pages long with a few words per page.  The story always helps Mr. Fish fall asleep at bedtime and naptime!

We hope you enjoy it.

It's the second of Mr. Fish's mini-adventures.  His full-length adventures will be continuing as well!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Michigander Monday: Janeen Rastall

I'm pleased to welcome Janeen Rastall to Michigander Monday! Janeen is one of ten poets who were recently nominated for the U.P. Poet Laureate position.

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

Janeen:  I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan across from Lake Superior with my husband, Richard Rastall. I am a big geek, a retired computer analyst. I write poems that I hope are accessible and honest.

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

Janeen:  My chapbook, In the Yellowed House, was published by dancing girl press in 2014. My poetry has appeared in several publications including: The Midwest Quarterly, the museum of americana, Midwestern Gothic and The Michigan Poet. I was nominated by Wayne State University Press (2013) and Border Crossing (2014) for a Pushcart Prize.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Janeen:  My manuscript From The Night Museum received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Two of Cups Press Chapbook Competition. I have two other manuscripts in various stages of revision.

In 2014, I wrote, produced and acted in a 2 person play with my husband. We hope to do an encore production this year.

I am very excited to be a part of Here, Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, an anthology by Michigan State University Press in May, 2015.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Janeen:  On April 16th, I will be reading at Bayliss Library in Sault Ste Marie and May 13th at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. I post my readings at my website:

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Janeen:  Book World and Snowbound Books are very supportive of Michigan authors. I love Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in Munising and Barnes and Noble in Lansing.

We are blessed with fabulous libraries in the U.P.: Peter White Library in Marquette, Bayliss Library in Sault Ste Marie, Tahquamenon Area Library in Newberry and Escanaba Public Library are fantastic libraries with many exciting programs.

I have a special place in my heart for the Capital Area District Libraries. I worked as an Assistant at the Haslett Public Library. Their outreach with programs, bookmobiles and books by mail bring their branches out into neighborhoods.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Janeen:  I am madly in love with the U.P. Its rugged beauty is breathtaking. In the winter, I can cross country ski or snowshoe from my back door on great trails and the rest of the year I can bike all the way to Marquette. There are many places to kayak. Waterfalls and lighthouses are waiting to be explored. Marquette has a wonderful arts community with music and art festivals all summer, a Halloween festival with dragon costumes and parades. Yoopers are friendly and warm-hearted. I guess that is how we survive our long winters.

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

Janeen:  The Children’s Book Festival at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie is a great event for families as well as authors. Student dress as book characters and have fun booths for children. I went to some great workshops by children’s authors on writing and publishing techniques there.

I love the Poetry Society of Michigan meetings with readings by Jack Ridl, John Rybicki and Milton Bates and the opportunity to meet poets from across the state.

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

Janeen:  Some of my favorite Michigan authors are Julie Brooks Barbour, Sally Brunk, Jen Howard, Amorak Huey, April Lindala, Mary McMyne, Jack Ridl and Keith Taylor.

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

Janeen:  Michigan is the home of the great saltless sea, Superior. Lake Superior is so clear and constantly changing. Some days surfers can ride the waves, other days it is calm with eagles fishing across its face (while I was typing, a bald eagle was sitting in a tree right across the street). Bears and wolves roam in the forest. You can wander the beaches and rarely see another person.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Janeen:  Oh, I am a gander, a Michigander ;)

Debbie:  Janeen, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Michigander Monday: Eric Gadzinski

I'm pleased to welcome Eric Gadzinski to Michigander Monday!  Eric is one of the nominees for the U.P. Poet Laureate position (for more info, click here).  I'll be talking with many of the nominees over the coming weeks.

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

Eric:  I was born in Vermont and until 40 lived in various places along the Northeast corridor (Boston-Philadelphia), with two notable exceptions in Mexico and North Carolina.  This year will be 20 in the UP, specifically the Sault and thereabouts.  Ph.D in leterchur from Temple University.  Was taking a cross country trip and stopped to get gas at the international bridge, looked up, and said "I'll be damned, there's a university here."  The rest is history.  

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

Eric:  I've published in ones, twos and threes in a lot of print and electronic journals.  My book, Tattoo, is published by Finishing Line Press.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Eric:  I have another book, Road's End, in circulation, and am slowly preparing two more (or one, we'll see).  I am also in the process of translating two Ojibway language poems by the early 19th C. author Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (from the Sault), in a manner that attempts to better capture the sound and sense than the hackneyed rhyming pentameter translations her husband made at the time. Way on the back burner is a paper about literary imposters, specifically two cases where poets have claimed to be (and write as) Vietnam veterans when they were not.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Eric:  Today I plan to appear at the Goodwill store to look for a sweater or book (I've had some good luck there recently with books).  Later I'll be appearing at Super Value to get something for supper.  Starting January 12 I will be appearing at various locations on the Lake Superior State University campus holding forth on various subjects in literature and composition.  You mean poetry readings?  None scheduled at the moment, although I think LSSU's English dept. might have something planned for April, poetry month, that may require something out loud from me.  Summer before last I participated in the UP Writers series.  I really liked reading for people in some of the small crossroad towns and woods villages up here.  People actually showed up for advertised poetry readings, which I thought was pretty remarkable.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?  And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Eric:  Snowbound Books in Marquette is a nifty shop.  Peter White library, also Marquette, has been kind to me.  There used to be a fascinating used bookstore in Munising, since closed.  As I mentioned, I recently have had some pretty good luck at Goodwill in the Sault and you can't beat the prices.  We have a large used bookstore, UP North Books, in the Sault, that carries mostly romances and mysteries.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Eric:  Over thisaway, on the Bay Mills reservation, there's a place called Mission Hill with a local cemetery that also offers a spectacular overlook across the woods and Monacle Lake to the mouth of Lake Superior.  My wife and I used to go there before we were married, and go there still.

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

Eric:  I get a kick out of going to any small place up here that has a Polish festival.  First one I went to here was one held in Strongs at the Crosscut Bar.  Soul food, polkas, beer.  People come for a good time whether or not their name ends in ski.

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

Eric:  Jillena Rose, of Sault Sainte Marie, is a laureate finalist who is native to the UP and writes exquisitely.  George Denger, LSSU professor of communication, outdoorsman, boxing afficionado, and hall of fame winner of an NCAA forensics pentathalon, is one of the most remarkable people I've met.  Carolyn Dale, assistant superintendent of the J.K.L. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnaable School in the Sault, is fast becoming nationally recognized for both Native American education and educational administration in general.

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

Eric:  Once you're a hundred miles north of Detroit you're pretty much on your own.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Eric:  Going to have to abstain on this.  My wife is a member of the Sault Tribe, Anishnaabe, the people, the first people.  The rest of us are Chmooks, which comes from the word for long knives (swords), and sounds a lot like the Yiddish "schmuck", but means white guys, honkys, crackers, them.  Don't care what kind of ander/anian you are, unless your bones go back thousands of years, we're all just tourists.

Debbie:  Eric, sounds like we need a new column for the tally!  Thank you so much for joining us today.