Tag Archives: Trish Hampl

The Los Angeles-Minnesota Connection

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Emerging Writers” Grants in Minnesota

In less than four weeks, I will have students asking, “So what did you do during your summer vacation, Professsor Mohr?” and I’ll respond that “vacation” will deserve yet another set of scare quotes. It’s been several decades since I had a summer off. This year, I had originally hoped to visit two former students in Croatia and spend a couple weeks reading and writing at an arts colony they founded a couple years ago near Pula, but the illness of one of Linda’s sisters impinged on those plans, and so we have stayed in Los Angeles County this summer. I ended up teaching a summer course in 20th century American literature in June and early July, during which time I began reviewing the applications of over 200 writers who live in Minnesota. As is well known to writers in California, Minnesota is the land of milk and honey in terms of literary support. Of course, we who labor at any art other than screenwriting in California tell ourselves that Minnesota has to bribe its writers to stay there. Unless an economic infrastructure provided some cultural largesse, why else would one endure those endless winters?

All envious kidding aside, I was very happy to serve on this panel because I have long felt a kinship with the literary community in Minnesota. I first noticed the editorial hospitality of Minnesota towards poets based in Los Angeles in The Lamp in the Spine, a magazine edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl in the 1970s. Their issues included work by Doren Robbins, Holly Prado, and Ameen Alwan. Subsequently, I visited The Loft in 1986 along with Doren Robbins to contribute to an two-day celebration of Tom McGrath’s poetry on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Two hundred applications, each with an average of 20 pages of writing, is quite a pile to go through and comment on, so being on the panel turned out to be a major undertaking, but it was also very gratifying to see how much good work is being done in Minnesota by writers who have not yet published a substantial amount of work. The grants were for “emerging writers,” which meant that these applicants did not necessarily have to compete with those whose precocity had already allowed them to flourish. Many of the applicants whose work I read in the past couple months will not have to wait too long for a book to come out, however. I spotted at least two dozen manuscripts, in the samples of these portfolios, that will no doubt end up published or scheduled for publication by the end of this decade. For those not chosen for the award, please know that I read carefully, and I truly wish I could have doubled or tripled the number of awards. While a total of fourteen people were listed as winners, alternates, finalists, or deserving of honorable mention, there were at least a half-dozen others whose writing I found memorable. I wished, in fact, that I could have them as students in a workshop and watch their work grow even more compelling and intriguing.

The Loft has released the names of the writers selected by the panel for the “emerging writers” grants in 2017, and I will let its announcement speak for itself.


Clairvoyant Organist: a review of Trish Hampl’s First Book of Poems

One of the best literary magazines of the early 1970s was LAMP IN THE SPINE, edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl. Both Moore and Hampl had attended the University of Iowa workshop, after which they moved back to their hometown of the Twin Cities and settled in for the duration. (Moore first distinguished himself by being one of the few poets of his generation to resist the draft and serve a term in prison.) Their magazine ran for nine issues and made a point of being interested in poems that differed from the workshop model that would be valorized in Daniel Halpern’s mid-decade anthology. Both Moore and Hampl had first books of poems published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and I wrote reviews of both books. My review of Jim Moore’s book of poem, THE NEW BODY, was published in Beyond Baroque’s magazine, but my long review of Trish Hampl’s first book of poems never got published. Trish moved on to become primarily known as a non-fiction author who won a Guggenheim Award and the MacArthur (“Genius”) Foundation grant, as well as two NEA Creative Writing Fellowships. Her lapidary prose still shows her original grounding in quietly lyrical, meditative language. Here is a partial list of her books:

I Could Tell You Stories: Soujourns in the Land of Memory (Norton)
Spillville. Hampl, Patricia, Milkweed Editions, 1987.
Resort and Other Poems. Hampl, Patricia, Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
A Romantic Education. Hampl, Patricia, Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Woman Before an Aquarium. Hampl, Patricia, University of Pittsburph Press, 1978.
Burning Bright, anthology of sacred poetry (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Ed. Patricia Hampl. Ballantine, 1995.
Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime. Hampl, Patricia, Harcourt, Author, 2006.
Virgin Time. Hampl, Patricia, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992.

In going through my archives a few years ago, I found a long-lost version of a review of WOMAN BEFORE AN AQUARIUM that I had keyboarded on a Compugraphic 7500 typesetting machine one evening when I stayed late after work at Radio & Records. I hope at least a few readers will not only go to their libraries and read her first book of poems, but will also dig into some of her other books. According to World Cat, by the way, over three hundred libraries have a copy of WOMAN BEFORE AN AQUARIUM.