You can hear me read “The River Speaks to My Mother,” a poem from my new book, Course.
Thanks to Robert Jevne at KAXE for making this happen!
I began writing this book in 2010, which seems such a long time ago. It has been a finalist or semi-finalist for several prizes, including the May Swenson Award. And here it is, looking handsome, thanks to the talented designer Nikkita Cohoon, and to the loving editorial stewardship of Molly Sutton Kiefer.
If you want to purchase a signed copy, let me know!
I’m excited to announce that my new book, Course, is coming from Tinderbox Editions! The book follows the course of a river, the course of a life, and the course of grief. In the next couple months I’ll be taking the book on tour . . . but that’s only part of what’s to come.
Thanks to an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the remarkable composer Linda Kachelmeier is setting some of the poems in the book as art song. This song cycle, “I Give Voice to My Mother,” will be sung at the launch of the book by Maria Jette and Ann DuHamel will play the piano.
At subsequent stops on the tour, Ann will play and my talented daughter, Anika Kildegaard will sing.
Here are the details:
Saturday March 3, 7:00pm, at Studio Z in St. Paul Minnesota
Sunday March 25, 7:00pm, at Headwaters School in Bemidji Minnesota
Monday March 26, 7:00pm, in the HFA Recital Hall at UMM in Morris Minnesota
Sunday April 15, 3:00pm, at Zeitgeist Arts in Duluth Minnesota
Athena Kildegaard is a fiscal year 2018 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Fourteen of us—four mothers and their adult daughters, a sister/aunt, a niece/cousin, and four friends, one of them transgender—boarded bus #5, “Ann Bancroft,”—early Friday on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Our bus captains checked our names off a list and pointed to the underbelly storage bin where we stowed our signs. We were fifty-two altgether, one of us a young black man who the rest of us refered to as “one bad hombre.” One of us was a writer and another a photographer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Several others of us were mother/daughter pairs, some women traveling alone, everyone full of energy. The chatter as we began our eastbound trip was like the white noise of radio signals or a flock of grackles down the block.
One of our group—dubbed the Morris 14 by an organizer of the eight busloads we were part of (sixteen busses, total, traveled to Washington from Minnesota) and by us as the Prairie Rosas—knitted pussy hats, each one a new pink, a new texture, and was two short so she continued knitting as we rolled along the interstate.
It semed the entire continent was swaddled in fog, muffled by fog, all Friday, and that seemed right. On Inauguration Day it was right to be in a bleary fuggy funk. No one on the the bus watched, though we all carried cell phones and could have watched. Instead we listened to Aretha Franklin sing “R.E.S. P.E.C.T.” and sang along and danced in our seats. Our friend Sarah, a professor of French, brought out an 8-ball and we posed questions. Will Melania divorce Donald? Will #45 be impeached? When someone asked, “Will DT be assassinated,” Sarah refused to shake the 8-ball. We had gone too far. Our daughter led us in singing all the verses of “This Land Is My Land,” Woody Guthrie’s great song of protest that usually is sung sans the protest verses. And she taught us a round, “Be Like the Bird” by Minnesota composer Abbie Betinis with words from Victor Hugo, a melody that was difficult, but we had the time to learn it, and somewhere in Ohio, fog keeping everything outside calm, we did indeed sing it many times.
We took turns reporting what we’d learned by consulting our phones: how Melania gave Michele a Tiffany box, empty, we joked, how #45 spoke of carnage, how Michelle stood slightly apart, how ninety-five protestors were arrested, how the LGBTQ page on the White House website had gone dark, how as a first act #45 signed an executive order easing the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
And we discussed, calmly, intently, passionately, the shape resistance could and should take. Some of us, the older ones had resisted in the past. One of us passed around photos taken when we and our daughters marched against the second Iraq War. We walked up and down main street in our little town of five thousand and sometimes people honked and waved and sometimes people flipped us the bird. On the bus we thought about how peaceful that was. And we were afraid because that peace seems distant.
And then we arrived at Garfield Park where our own Senator Amy Klobuchar was there to meet us, to cheer us, to energize us. From the park we marched along streets lined by rowhouses where women in bathrobes stood on their front stoops holding mugs of coffee and cheering us. And we came to our nation’s capital, standing heavy and quiet on one end of the mall and we walked past it noticing streams of marchers doing just as we were doing, moving toward the heart of the matter.
We met up with one of our sons and his girlfriend and her mother and two friends, so we were nineteen, too many to stay together, and we separated after hugging and cheering and soon, near the Native American History Museum we, eight of us now, held up our five posters “Rising” “Up” “for a” “Just” “World” and marched side by side and then, beside the museum we stepped up onto a low wall and held our posters and sang “We are marching for equality” and “We are marching for democracy” and nothing could have been more beautiful than the people who stopped with us and sang with us, perfect strangers in their pink pussy hats holding their own signs, rising up as citizens.
Women’s Rights Lead to Everyone’s Rights
This Is Not an Ovary Action
Caution: Women Crossing the Line
Love Trumps Hate
My Wife Is Pissed
I Will Not Go Quietly back to the 1950s
Super Lying Fragile Racist Whiny Braggadocio
Love Your Neighbor
Protect Mother Earth
This Pussy Growls
There Is No Planet B
You Can Regulate My Twatter If I Can Regulate Your Twitter
Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
My Voice Matters
Dissent Is Patriotic
Young Mike Pence Is My Gay Fantasy
Thou Shalt Not Mess With My Reproductive Rights. Fallopians 1:22
Make America Kind Again
God Damn It, You’ve Got To Be Kind. Kurt Vonnegut
Half a million of us stood and shouted and chanted and shouted when the rolling shout came our way and sang and held our signs and passed around bottles of water and asked one another where we’d come from and why we were there and said to one another what we believed in and stood through the afternoon together, sometimes pressed by one another against one another, sometimes with enough room to step back and see just who we were, all of us there, citizens gathered because we believed in our nation.
We believed in democracy and the right of citizens to stand together. We believed in the right to stand against a government that today we can see—five days after the Women’s March on Washington—is clearly not a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Somewhere on the interstate in the night we stood in line for coffee with a Somali woman from Minneapolis and we almost cried for joy and for anguish that we were together in our nation rising up as a people for the people.
How to Start
from dawn to dusk
from dawn to dusk to now
from the get and the go, from the sea to the sea, shining in rags and riches
from the head to the hand to the heart, seat of the sea and the dawn
from the ridiculous to the sublime, the sea of sublime, the get up and go of the ridiculous
get up, get up, all hands on deck, shape up, ship out
from here to there where the sea bottoms out and the heart tops down
and all hands on high and all heads on go
from the stem to the stern, get up, get up, all hands on deck, shape up, ship out
all shining sea to sea, all shining and sublime, all choked up, clammed up, eased up
get up, all hands and hearts, from the sea to the grave, from the grave to the cradle
get up, get up, from this day forward, from this forward day, step up, stand up
from the here, from the now, from the ground all shining, from the heart all shining
from the sea and the dawn and the now, the now, the now
from the ground shining into the here and the now, shining from the ground up.
for the Rural Arts and Culture Summit, June 2-4 2015