Rare finds

By Bill Castanier

A roundup of literary happenings in Lansing this week

There’s a room on the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan where about 17,000 books are kept in the dark — for a good reason. It’s the Martha W. Griffiths Michigan Rare Book Room, and among the books protected by what librarian Carol Fink calls “extremely regulated temperature and humidity controls,” is an incunabulum, a rare 1490 edition of the Statham Abridgement of Law (a British law written in French) and a miniature copy of The Gettysburg Address, which — trivia alert — was written 150 years ago this week.

The Library of Michigan Foundation commemorates the Rare Book Room’s 10th anniversary from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 with an open house and a demonstration of medieval printing by Randy Asplund, a medieval manuscript and book artist who will show how a 15th century illuminated manuscript was made.

Fink said the public uses the library in many different ways: Authors documenting when a certain ship left a dock, for doing legal research or people simply admiring the leather bindings. The Rare Book Room was made possible by a gift from the Martha and Hicks Griffiths estate, which paid for the partial construction of the room and established a $500,000 endowment for the purchase of rare and unusual books for the collection.

On Fink’s wish list are a copy of the “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” the sacred text to a local offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The book is a translation of the “Plates of Laban” by James Strang, one of Michigan’s more unusual religious leaders who declared himself a king and took over Beaver Island in the mid-19th century. He led the group called the Strangites before he was killed in 1856.

Also on the list is an altered book, which is a form of mixed media artwork that transforms a book into a piece of art — think pop-up book as fine art.

The printing demonstration runs from 4-5:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception from 5:30-7 p.m. The events are free but reservations are required.

Ten days left in short story contest

Is Lansing home to the next Raymond Carver, Alice Munro or Flannery O’Connor? There just may be a mid- Michigan writer who will be able to make that claim when the Second Annual Write Michigan Short Story Contest ends Nov. 30. Story length is limited to 3,000 words; there is a $10 entry fee.

Elizabeth Breed, spokeswoman for the Capital Area District Library, said there have been 188 submissions, with more than 100 additional works now in draft that are expected to be submitted by the deadline. CADL is a co-sponsor of the contest with Kentwood District Library in Kentwood, Mich. In its inaugural year, the Kentwood Library received nearly 600 short story submissions. Breed said last year’s experience shows most of the submissions come in the final week. (Leave it to a writer to procrastinate until the last minute.)

The contest includes cash awards of up to $250 for winners in children, teen and adult category. Award winners will be included in the 2014 Write Michigan Anthology to be self-published by Schuler Books & Music.

There will be online voting for Reader’s Choice winners from Jan. 6-31. A panel of judges, including library staff and staff from Schuler, will select the Judge’s Choice Awards. An award ceremony will be held at the Kentwood Richard L. Root branch on March 22. MSU Journalism graduate and author Kristina Riggle will give a keynote address.

For more information on the contest, go to writemichigan.org.´

Poetry in Michigan

Poetry books are usually soft cover and self-published. However, that’s changed with the spectacular new art/poetry book, “Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry.” It was edited by two Michigan poets, William Olsen and Jack Ridl, and published by Western Michigan University’s New Issues Poetry and Prose imprint.

Nearly 100 Michigan poets and 30 visual artists are included in the book. The list of poets is impressive, including MSU graduate Jim Harrison, former MSU Poetry Professor Diane Wakoski and former

Grand Ledge native Jim Hicock, who teaches at Virginia Tech.

Hinrichsen said he sees the book as a “cultural map of Michigan in words and images.”

“The resurgence of the poetry culture in Michigan is huge,” he said. Included among the poets to read at the Creole Gallery are Patricia Clark, poet-in-residence and professor of writing at Grand Valley University; Keith Taylor, coordinator of the undergrad writing program at the University of Michigan; and Robert Fanning, associate professor of writing at Central Michigan University.

“The poems represent a strong sense of place of Michigan,” Hinrichsen said. For example, Harrison’s “Walking” recalls a fall walk in a poplar forest where the narrator recalls past hunting seasons and an ethereal dream of “women in white linen walking, pinkish warm limbs beneath white linen.”

Reading collections of poetry can be daunting, but the best advice comes from Jim Harrison who said, “Read a poem a day, set the book aside and read another poem the next day. It’s pretty simple.”

A Rare Invitation to a Well Done

Collection Library of Michigan, 4th Floor 4-7 p.m. 702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing FREE (517) 373-4692 michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan

Old Town Poetry Series

The Creole Gallery 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21 1218 Turner St., Lansing Find the event on Facebook