John Coleburn

recorded in Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN

with Sarah Fox


Dream Man by Russell Edson

A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts by Wallace Stevens


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John Coleburn

I’m John Coleburn, I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sarah Fox

And I’m Sarah Fox, I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, actually, and today is my birthday, and it’s also the anniversary of the day I moved to Minneapolis. I’ve lived here for 15 years, today. And I’m very glad that I moved here, it’s a really wonderful place to live if you’re a poet, because there are many organizations and people and grants that support poetry. But also, it’s a wonderful community here. I have great friends and all my friends are poets, almost. So it’s a really good place to live.


Since I moved here in 1987 from a small town, the first people that I fell in with were poets who read their poems in bars, and valued poetry and living a certain way that gave them time to write poems. And being introduced to that in the city charted the course for my life.

The Knox Writers’ House

Do you think there’s a Midwestern voice or aesthetic?


Well, we might disagree on this. I kind of think there is, but, you know, saying that, there are a million exceptions. I think there’s a tendency in Midwestern poetry to use a voice that’s a little more interior. I think that a lot of east coast poets tend to write poems like they’re talking out loud, maybe because of the density of the way people interact there. And on the west coast, it’s very visual, to me. A lot of the poems there are very visual. They’re more like paintings, in a way. I’m generalizing, but somehow, when I think of Midwestern poetry, I think of something that’s happening in a very interior space in the mind.


I don’t think I disagree with you, I think I more or less agree. But I think there’s something about being landlocked in the Midwest and having all of this open space that maybe people do tend to retreat into their mind. And I think there’s something about being an other, as a poet or artist in the Midwest. You’re not on either one of the coasts where all the schools are forming and happening, you’re kind of in this no man’s land. But I don’t know that you could point to a specific voice that is Midwestern. I think it would be hard to pin it down.


It is. I can say about my yard, I live one mile from the Mississippi River, and rivers are in my poems. There’s a pair of crows that nest in the trees every year, and crows are in my poems. But I don’t know that my voice is necessarily a Midwestern voice, and I would imagine that in this day, schools of poetry are in some way more influenced by connections through the internet than they are by connections through gathering in a place.


Yeah, I agree with that. And I think maybe something about Midwestern poetry that we haven’t talked about is it’s image rich. That’s its tradition, right? James Wright and Robert Bly and those guys in the Deep Image, but there’s a lot of image-richness, and a kind of a pastoral flavor to some Midwestern poetry.


If somebody were to call you regional poets, would you be offended, or would you embrace that?


I would totally embrace that.


I would embrace that too.

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