Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poets & Songwriters at 20th Anniversary of Sinclair Lewis Writer's Conference

Last Friday Red House Records artists John Gorka, Meg Hutchinson and Storyhill's John Hermanson joined my alter ego Mother Banjo, former Minnesota Public Radio DJ Dale Connelly and poets Robert Bly and Freya Manfred to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sinclair Lewis Writer's Conference. The songwriters and poets performed a special concert in the Pulitzer Prize winning author's hometown of Sauk Centre, Minnesota. It was a really lovely evening of great writing and fun collaborations. It was also wonderful to see Dale behind a mic again, and he was in fine form, cracking jokes and providing the witty banter that fans so much miss on the Minnesota airwaves.

Here are photos from the concert taken by Dave Simpkins, the editor of the Sauk Centre Herald...

John Hermanson kicks off the concert

Minnesota Poet Laureate Robert Bly charms the crowd

Sitar player David Whetstone joined Robert Bly

They got a standing ovation after their performance

I followed Robert Bly and was joined by John Hermanson, who sang with me on "Revival Train." He then had to head back to the Twin Cities to perform on A Prairie Home Companion.

After an intermission, Meg Hutchinson plays a set

John Gorka joined Meg on her last two songs--"See Me Now" and "Home"

Freya Manfred made us laugh with her stories and poetry

John Gorka finished off the night in fine form, playing his musical interpretations of the poems "Let Them In" and "Where No Monuments Stand," a William Stafford poem featured in a documentary about the Oregon Poet Laureate and activist. Meg joined him on his last song "Branching Out."

At the writer's conference the next day, storyteller-actor-NPR contributor Kevin Kling delivered a wonderful keynote address, hilarious and moving.

All of us were put up at the historic Palmer House, which is famous, not only for being immortalized in Main Street but also for being one of the most haunted inns in America.

The town that once resented Sinclair Lewis' seminal work Main Street now honors him. We all found the Sauk Centre to be extremely proud of the Sinclair Lewis heritage and very welcoming to writers.


Jess said...

Cool. I miss Meg, and I miss you. Maybe you should both come to Portland soon!

Matt Winters said...

Wait a second! That's not the historic Palmer House! I thought that this was the historic Palmer House:

In that photo, John Gorka looks like he's going to go over to the side of the stage and kick some butt.