Artists of the Year

Therefore it might sound inappropriate to observe that Sweet Land—earnest, playful, exceedingly tender, rich in detail and emotion—has earned more than half a million dollars in fewer than 10 weeks of release in cities around the country. But the box-office gross is the sweet epilogue of a story that is in every way about the benefits of defying convention in the name of love. To indie dreamers in Minnesota and well beyond, Sweet Land has borne fruit, and that fruit gives hope. And we need it.

Rob Nelson is film editor at City Pages.

Omar Ansari

BY KEVIN MURPHY

For years I've endured hoo-hah about "craft-brewing" and how it would do for beer what California had done for wine. In part the hoo-hah has come true: A decent beer now costs more than it ought to; there are enough of them out there in sufficient varieties to make your head hurt before the first sip; and a whole new era of snobbery's begun. I've belched my way through any number of stanky concoctions of various malt backbones and specific gravities, rarely to find anything consistently drinkable.

Then hops entered my life, with bitterness so pure it removed my own. Hops in the form of Surly Brewing's Furious Ale, cooked up in Brooklyn Center. Brewing prodigy Omar Ansari has in one step vaulted above the august legion of local small brewers by making an ale worthy of a wine glass and capable of altering the senses far beyond any national macro-brewed urinal filler.

I'll forgo the beer-science babble and beseech you to taste it yourself. Smell it first; stick your nose in the glass like a wine slut. Throw down a cool swallow. The soft palate puckers as the hop fumes wheedle your sinuses with a nearly overwhelming variety of fragrances and flavors. I won't describe them here; it'd be like ruining the plot.

But is it art? What's on the page, the stage, or the screen; in the frame or form; in the body, rhythm, or melody is at its best a sense of its creator's heart, channeled through the craft of his chosen medium and presented for us to encounter with our senses as we will, ideally enriching us for the effort. In the case of Furious Ale, what's in the glass is every drop the work of an artist.

Kevin Murphy is a writer and television producer living in Burnsville.

Carol

Connolly

BY T.D. MISCHKE

Waiting most afternoons for a good time to visit the aged Moriaritys who lived on the corner. One day finding Jim asleep in his wingback chair. I couldn't wake him. Fetching Mrs. Moriarity.

Hearing her wail,

"Jim. You promised me that I could die first."

Learning what it is to bring sadness home.

—from Carol Connolly's "Poem for September 9, 2006"

I live in a haunted town. Haunted by dead politicians, dead traditions, dead buildings, dead writers. If you want to bring a town like this to life, you call in the poets. They outdo the finest faith healer.

St. Paul should have had a poet laureate in every decade of its existence. The poets were all there, waiting to be called. In saloons, late afternoons, speaking just a little softer and a little straighter than the rabble. But no one bothered to choose one, to hold one up. Not until this year.

I haven't spotted Carol Connolly in any St. Paul tavern, but I know my town when I see it, and I see it in her poetry. Where does St Paul's first poet laureate hold court if not in our watering holes?

How about at the mayor's 2006 budget address. The political arena, after all, is one of the seven great arenas in this city of "seven green hills," as Connolly refers to it in her poem delivered at that address—the hills where the "new music of 120 languages now hums." The seven great arenas: the political, educational, religious, business, residential, athletic. And that arena of dark wood and brass, where drinkers and poets still reside late afternoons. I find them all in Connolly's poetry, along with that bittersweet humility that most St. Paulites share, sitting in the shadow of our big sister to the west:

I am a full-time fraud,

passing as a poet.

It's filthy work. But

someone has to do it.

Stilted syllables

line my walls,

confusion

crowds my room

with maggoty mounds

of mediocre metaphors

ridicule lurks

in my hallway

ambitious people

take all the best lines,

and I have a headache.

I woke up with it. But

everyone wakes up

with something.

T.D. Mischke is the host of The Mischke Broadcast, weekdays on KSTP-AM 1500.

P. O. S.

BY PETER S. SCHOLTES

The night before I rolled into New Orleans in late February, P.O.S. played a show in front of a small crowd at the Howlin' Wolf. Mardi Gras was underway by then, despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (the first clue I spotted that the rebuilding was not going well: a still-smashed-to-shit McDonald's sign). But the parades weren't spilling over into a concert by an emergent indie-rapper from Minnesota, and my friend who was there said the place felt empty. Walking out onstage, P.O.S. announced he would do the show from the floor, and soon everyone gathered around him as he flowed a few feet from their faces.

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