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2014 Year in Review: Top Literary Moments

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[Editor's note: The year is coming to an end fast. To celebrate 2014, we'll be revisiting the memorable things that happened with a different topic each week. Stayed tuned for more.]

It's been another year of literary goodness in the Twin Cities. In a town known for its nonprofit publishers, indie bookstores, edgy publications, and welcoming community, coming up with a list of the best literary events isn't hard work (except for the fact that there are so many to choose from).

Let's take a look at some of the most-gabbed-about literary events of 2014. Revolver at the Ritz: 12 Experiments

Last January, Revolver teamed up with the Ritz, Coffee House Press, and the Playwrights' Center for a writers' mash-up featuring 12 "experiments." Dylan Hicks got the audience to help him write a song. Nicky Tiso and John Colburn were set to wrestle, but when Colburn injured himself the day before, Revolver editor Luke Finsaas stepped up in his place. R. Vincent Moniz Jr. came out onstage as a butterfly. Sarah Stonich and Mary Kihn pitched classics to local editors Katie Dublinsky (Graywolf Press), and Chris Fischbach and Anitra Budd of Coffee House Press. The catch? In a rule reminiscent of the game Taboo, they couldn't use specific words that could give the book away.

With moments of  humor as well as poignancy, the experiment was a wild success.

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Andy Sturdevant at Northeast Public Library

Andy Sturdevant's book of essays, Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow, has garnered quite a bit of buzz locally since its release in October of 2013. And with its launch came fresh events in celebration. Sturdevant was also among the first to take on Coffee House Press's Authors in Residence series, exploring the Northeast Public Library. An event in May found the library's meeting room packed to capacity, as folks gathered round to hear Sturdevant talk about his experience with the program, which included discoveries in the library's collection of Edison High School yearbooks, and issues of the Northeaster.

Ed Bok Lee at American Swedish Institute

Talk about unexpected. MN Book and PEN Award-winning poet Ed Bok Lee, known for his rhythmic and culturally contextual poetry, took a residency at the American Swedish Institute. There, he spent a month creating "meta-translations" from the archives of the Wallenberg LIbrary. During his time there, he sifted through journals and writings from Swedish immigrants, which were written in Swedish, without knowing how to read or write in the language himself. As he worked, he considered the experiences of his own parents, who emigrated from Korea. The results of his efforts were then shown in the Benson Gallery at the Institute. Generations, cultures, and spoken languages collided, and were illuminated using the universal language of poetry.  

[page] New Sh!t Show: Minneapolis Inaugural Show

Not quite knowing what to expect, I was blown away by the inaugural New Sh!t Show at Powderhorn's Fox Egg Gallery. The setting was intimate and rowdy, and offered a diversity of performers. Plus, all of the material was BRAND NEW, and had never been heard before. Synapses were firing, wine was being sipped, and energy was flying high. The first show, organized by Lewis Mundt, kicked off with story weaver Amy Salloway, musician and storyteller Taylor Tower (with Andrew Foreman), musician/poet Taylor Seaberg, and poet-theater performer Timothy Otte. There were also a few open-mic slots, which added to the communal atmosphere. The happening felt fresh and celebratory.

Great Twin Cities Poetry Read at Augsburg

This annual reading pulls together the best local poets to read all in one day. This year, organizer Matt Mauch (a poet himself, and one of the people behind Maeve's Sessions) enlisted local literary organizations to help him pick poets to be featured. The result was rapid-fire readings from the creme de la creme of the scene, including Matt Rasmussen (winner of MN Book Award in poetry), Dessa (Doomtree), Dobby Gibson, and Sun Yun Shin.

Dorthe Nors and Naja Marie Aidt at Danish American Center

This fall brought a rare book stop from two well-known Danish authors, Dorthe Nors and Naja Marie Aidt. Both have had books translated into English this year, and both releases are a collection of 15 short stories that pack a punch of dark reality. The translation of Karate Chop by Nors was published by the local Graywolf Press, while Aidt's Baboon was published by Two Lines Press. The books are each unique, but share similarities in their contemporary style, which magnifies an alarmingly raw side of reality.

Motionpoems at the Depot

Motionpoems is growing fast, and last October's event proved just how big this project has become. Motionpoems pairs poems with videographers to make shorts that spark imaginations and conversations. It's spearheaded by local poet Todd Boss. For this particular event, Motionpoems projected films onto the facade of the Depot, looping them continuously with audio from lawn-area speakers. The happening was made possible largely by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Aside from Rain Taxi's annual Book Festival, Motionpoems probably drew one of the largest literary crowds this year (coinciding with the Saint Paul Art Crawl most likely helped).

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With the full and vibrant 2014 almost behind us, here's to another year of exciting literary happenings.