RING RING POEM SIXTEEN, Sabo Bridge, Minneapolis, MN; June 25-30

IMG_6001Martin Olav Sabo pedestrian bridge, Hiawatha Avenue and Midtown Greenway

Thank you for calling Ring Ring Poetry. My name is Cole Sarar. This is the “last” poem of the scheduled Ring Ring Poetry series. Poems will continue to be available through the same phone number until the project runs out of funds or until I have a chance to put together a new project for the phone number (More Twin Cities poems from Twin Cities poets? A collaboration with a festival, or another set of artists? Some other, more technologically clever project?). But that’s all an upcoming post. Right now, let’s talk about this poem.

Over the course of this project I wrote a poem for each a library, a cemetery, a neighborhood, and a train station. Two in Minneapolis, two in Saint Paul. Two indoors, two outdoors. I put off deciding my last location for a long time, made lists of places I wanted to write poems about. One day, biking home from work, I stopped, not a quarter of the way home, knowing that I knew the answer. I did research, being a nerd, found out a lot about bridges, about trains, about trees. I tried to jam it all into a poem. It did not work. So I slept on it, woke in the morning, and asked myself what does it mean to be on a bridge- which lead me to the right poem, a poem I am very happy with, a poem I am especially happy to leave as the last poem of the scheduled series. It’s a good poem.

Things I learned but cut from the poem: three of my four favorite trees are kind of the same tree, the fourth tree is sort of “misnamed”. Our favorite Martin Olav Sabo Bridge is one of several built in the same style of a pedestrian bridge in Germany. If the angle of the bridge’s mast (which I guess is technically called a “tower”, but come on, Look At It) was just 2° different, it’d be the proper angle for one of the legs of an inverted, five-pointed star. People are working on all sorts of strange electronic noses, because human noses aren’t all that great. Things you will learn from the remaining poem: what it means to stand in the middle of a bridge with your eyes closed. Call 612 223-POEM.

Thank you,


RING RING POEM FIFTEEN, Franklin Avenue Library, Minneapolis, MN; June 21-24

1314 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN

Lost Poem BaoBao Phi is considered one of Twin Cities slam poetry’s “old guard”, and seems to have found a balance between his performance work and being an active part of the community. His Equilibrium series has been phenomenal, keeping performance poets from here and from out-of-state on the Loft stage- reminding us that there are lots of voices to be listening to, lots of different styles and stories to be told. His blog posts on the Star Tribune’s website have been thoughtful and necessary, and that’s not even touching on his work as a poet.

His poem for Ring Ring Poetry is an honest examination of trying to make sense of identity in the face of racism, about family, community, and being honest with oneself. Call (612) 223-POEM to hear the piece. -Cole

Bao Phi has been a performance poet since 1991.

A two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, Bao Phi has appeared on HBO Presents Russell Simmons Def Poetry, and a poem of his appeared in the 2006 Best American Poetry anthology. His poems and essays are widely published in numerous publications including Screaming Monkeys and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. He has also released several CDs of his poetry, such as the recently sold-outRefugeography to his newest CD, The Nguyens EP.

He has performed in venues and schools across the country, from the Nuyorican Poets Café to the University of California, Berkeley. He was featured in the award-winning documentary feature film The Listening Project as an American listener who traveled the world to talk to every day people about global issues and politics. He also returned to acting in 2008 with a feature role in Theatre Mu’s production of Q & A.

In addition to his creative work, he was nominated for a Facing Race Ambassador award in recognition for his community work, and has published essays in topics from Asians in hip hop to Asian representation in video games. He maintains a popular blog for theStar Tribune’s website, which he uses to bring issues and alternative perspectives on Asian American community to light. Currently he continues to perform across the country, remains active as an Asian American community organizer, and works at the Loft, where he creates and operates programs for artists and audiences of color. He was the Coordinating Chair of the National APIA Spoken Word Poetry Summit, 2011.His series, Equilibrium, recently won the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Anti-Racism Initiative Award.

His first collection of poetry, Sông I Sing, is published by Coffee House Press. In 2012, the Star Tribune’s inaugural Best of Minnesota issue named Bao Phi as Best Spoken Word Artist.

RING RING POEM FOURTEEN, NE Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, MN; June 17-20

Lost Poem SarahNE Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, (roughly) 21 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN

I was introduced by Coffee House Press to poet Sarah Fox just this spring, and she introduced me to her collaborator, Fred Schmalz the day of the recording. Their poem is the longest of the Ring Ring Poems, at 7 minutes, but fully embraces the idea of exploring a physical location with poetry. If you take the time to visit the sculpture garden, you’ll see the shapes and plants referred to in the poem, and perhaps learn a bit about them in the process. Thick with mythology and playful with sound, the piece is by turns light, philosophical, suggestive, and matter-of-fact. Performed back and forth between Sarah and Fred’s voices, it is perhaps the least “narrative” of the pieces thus far- suggesting shapes on a page like sculptures, the asking of questions about the nature of art and existence, and thoughtful explorations of what might be their answers.

RING RING POEM TEN, Seventh Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN; June 3-6

7th Street Entry, 29 N. 7th Street, Minneapolis, MN

Lost Poem JohnI didn’t know John Colburn or his work, when Coffee House Press’s Chris Fischbach recommended him to my project. I still can’t claim to “know” John, but I know you should listen to him. His poem for the 7th Street Entry is on the shorter side, at 2 1/2 minutes, but is entrancing, kind, and somehow sad, too. I encourage you to go and listen to “The Entry” outside by the iconic starry wall, preferably some evening when a line of concern-goers curls around the building. Or go when the concert has started, and the handful of smokers stand outside getting their fix. Or late, after the show is finished, while the headliner from 1st Ave is packing up a bus around the corner. There is something timeless, personal, and magical in this poem. It reminds me of all of the times of day and night I’ve wandered downtown, past that wall, how many of the stars’ bands I’ve seen on that stage. For a poem as short as John’s is, it is also enormous- it encompasses something bigger than itself. Meet me outside of the 7th Street entry at 3am some night this week, dial 612 223-POEM, and explore John Colburn’s poem with me.

John Colburn is originally from Mantorville, MN, and is an editor and co-publisher for Spout Press. His book Invisible Daughter is available from firthFORTH books and a second book, Psychedelic Norway, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2013. With his wife, Sarah Fox, he tends The Center for Visionary Poetics in Minneapolis and he is also a member of the improvised music collective Astronaut Cooper’s Parade.

RING RING POEM NINE, Schmitt Music Mural, Minneapolis, MN; May 31-June 3

Schmitt Music Mural, on Marquette Avenue between 9th and 10th Street, Minneapolis, MN

Lost Poem SamSam Cook was one of my first favorite slam poets. When I first saw him, he’d recently moved to Minneapolis from Colorado, and I didn’t realize I was attending my first poetry slam. Sam is an incredible writer, a dynamic performer, and puts a lot of time and effort into supporting the local slam scene. Sam runs the Saint Paul Soapboxing poetry slam.

Sam, a National Poetry Slam Champion, received a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Minnesota. He is the founder of Button Poetry, which co-produced and cast the Poetry Observed video series. He currently works performing and teaching poetry in middle schools, high school, and colleges around the country. In addition to competing in and coaching adult-level slam at Soap Boxing, Sam is also highly involved with collegiate slam in the Twin Cities. Sam founded the University of Minnesota slam program in 2009, which he then coached to College Nationals (CUPSI) finals stage in 2010 and 2011. Sam now coaches for Macalester College, which took 2nd place at the same tournament in 2012.

Sam’s poem takes place at the Schmitt Music Mural on Marquette. “Like other American cities of the 1970s, citizens and business owners in Minneapolis were concerned about beautifying the older downtown buildings. Schmitt hired the repair of the old bricks and bricked up 32 exterior windows. He asked a company employee to choose notes from a musical score that could be painted as a mural over the enormous facade. The employee searched through the store’s sheet music and came up with the most graphically attractive piece of music she could find, Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit.” Pianist Van Cliburn posed playing a Steinway concert grand piano in front of the mural for a now famous photograph, which attracted the attention of national newspapers.” “The concert this piece is from, has three parts, that were based on poems, the bits on the wall belonging to the third movement, called Scarbo, about small vision of the devil. The music on the wall is said to be scattered with jokes for musicians.” The are rumored to be sections out of order. Phone 612 223-POEM to hear Sam’s poem.

RING RING POEM EIGHT, 24th and Dupont Ave S, Minneapolis, MN; May 28-31

24th and Dupont Ave S, Minneapolis, MN

Misty Rowan speaks faster than most humans I know, and is one of two poets I know whose main reason for writing is to educate on social issues. I liked her style immediately, because it was not like anyone’s I knew, and it had an unrestrained ferocity that a lot of Minnesotan poets lacked. As I’ve gotten to know Misty better, I’ve found that she is also ferociously kind.

I enjoy the piece she’s done for Ring Ring Poetry because it is yet another part of her, a little softer, more sentimental. And because this is my neighborhood, too. Call 612 223-POEM, and check out Misty’s post about her experience with this project.

Lost Poem Misty