Newspaper article

Either Way, Poet Matt Rasmussen Is a Winner in the National Book Awards Experience

Newspaper article

Either Way, Poet Matt Rasmussen Is a Winner in the National Book Awards Experience

Article excerpt

Today, Matt Rasmussen, his parents, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter will all board a plane for New York City, where the poet will read from his National Book Award-nominated collection, and maybe, just maybe, pick up this year's top honors for poetry, if he's lucky. Which, he says, he already is.

"I don't feel like I can lose. Just being a finalist is something I never expected; this is my first book. Even being long-listed for this would have been amazing. So, I don't need to win for this to be an incredible experience," says the Robbinsdale poet.

His dad doesn't like to fly, and his parents have never been to New York, so Rasmussen is looking forward to showing them some of the city's highlights -- when he's not mingling with other nominees, such as George Saunders, Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Frank Bidart, that is. But he dedicated the book, "Black Aperture" (Louisiana State University Press), to his parents, and in a way, it is a book about family, so he's glad they will be there.

The collection centers on the suicide of his brother, and how the aftermath of that experience forever changed his family. It reshaped Rasmussen, and perhaps even made him a poet; at age 16, he began writing poems at the suggestion of a therapist he was seeing for grief. A decade later, in graduate school, he noticed that classmates responded most strongly to the poems he wrote about his brother.

"I was writing about my personal experience with grief, but it's something we don't really know how to talk about in our society, so if my poems help people understand something in their own life, the, obviously, that's great. Maybe it will help open up the conversation about suicide, because, really, it affects so many people," he says.

The poems are spare and careful, full of ache and observation as he chronicles the weird realm that is the world reshaped by suicide. …

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