As Rain Taxi forges ahead during our unexpectedly weird 25th year of existence, we’re taking a look back and celebrating some of the memories that stand out and remain inspirations. We hope these brief celebrations are a reminder that literature and community are powerful forces at all times.
june 17, 2020
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Having been entranced by her first novel, 2003's Purple Hibiscus, we were thrilled to host her as a featured speaker at our 2006 Twin Cities Book Festival for her next work, Half of a Yellow Sun. Her visit gave us a chance to marvel at this Nigerian writer's powerful voice in person, and succeeding years have amplified that powerful voice to millions of readers: Half of a Yellow Sun went on to win numerous prizes, including the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; Adichie was named a MacArthur "Genius" and a Young Person of the Year in Nigeria; her essays We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions took the cause of feminism to new heights; her 2013 novel Americanah (soon to be adapted by HBO) wrestled with questions of gender, race, and immigration; and her TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story" has received over 15 million views (making it one of the most-watched TED talks of all time). She's even appeared on a Beyoncé single! Back in 2006 we were already amazed by Adichie for her part in for bringing African literature so powerfully into the new millennium; today we thank her for using her unique and eloquent voice for so much more, and await her next novel, essay, story, or lecture with bated breath.
june 3, 2020
LITERATURE OF PROTEST
Today Rain Taxi celebrates the literature of protest. We define this as writing that is overtly restless about and in resistance against the unacceptable status quo of our society, and that conceives of the possibility of positive social change. Countless works in all genres do this—novels like George Orwell’s 1984 and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, poetry by Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser, Allen Ginsberg, and Claudia Rankine—but nonfiction has the unique onus to lay out specific arguments about our shared reality and persuade us to do better. Some of the nonfiction books advocating change that Rain Taxi has reviewed include Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Patrick Phillips’s Blood at the Root as well as books about crusaders like Dorothy Day and about the prison-industrial complex, and books by trenchant political thinkers such as Mike Davis, James Baldwin, Ariel Dorfman, Howard Zinn, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and others. In our live events, we have been proud to feature writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Carolyn Forche, J. Otis Powell‽, Cherrie Moraga, and so many more who have inspired audiences to rise up. We remain exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to point readers to writers who we truly believe can change the world.
may 27, 2020
We are suspending our Celebrates feature this week to create a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis on May 25. We are heartbroken over this event in our community, as well as by the fact that the subsequent legitimate, desperately needed protesting was infiltrated by looting, fire-setting, and other acts of violence by those seeking to cause further harm. All of us at Rain Taxi are more determined than ever to work toward a better world, affirming that Black Lives Matter and that we demand justice for all.
may 20, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Boards. Nonprofits like Rain Taxi—and they are legion in the literary publishing field—are essentially run by people who volunteer their time, insights, and expertise to forward the particular mission of their organization. These individuals perform the juggling act of both attending to an org’s present-day needs and imagining a more vibrant future—no small feat! Over our 25 years we’ve been blessed to have some extraordinary folks on our Board roster who have pulled this off, and that remains true today. In various configurations, our Board members have been working harder than ever to make sure that Rain Taxi can continue to serve the literary community despite the formidable challenges posed by the pandemic. We hear a similar story from many of our kindred nonprofits at this time, and we are heartened by it—the world to come will need all the forces for good it can muster. So three cheers to the good folks who keep organizations like ours on track; though you work largely behind the scenes, we see you, and we salute you!
may 13, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates the legendary Beat writer Michael McClure, who died on May 4 of this year at the age of 87. We at Rain Taxi had reviewed his books and CDs (check out our 1999 review of Touching the Edge; the poem quoted at the end will uplift you!), and we were incredibly honored to present McClure live in our Free Verse series at the Walker Art Center in 2014 (watch the video here). His visit was memorable in so many ways. For example, we had taken him to see an exhibit of lists curated by an artist friend, Harriet Bart; Michael loved the show and said “I wrote a list just this morning, want to include it?” Fishing out his notebook he tore out the page and signed it; Harriet immediately added it to the wall. We’ll assemble more memories about Michael for our forthcoming print issue—meanwhile, we say bon voyage to one of the coolest cats in literature, with thanks, love, and a hearty roar.
may 6, 2020
Today Rain Taxi Celebrates Alec Soth, photographer extraordinaire, whose debut book Sleeping by the Mississippi we reviewed back in 2004. A riveting work of reverie (and including a smart text by Patricia Hampl), it shows exactly why photo books are such an important part of what we think of as the literary landscape, and why we at Rain Taxi keep a happy eye on the medium. A book aficionado to be sure, Soth put another intriguing angle on his vision of photography when he began issuing publications that split the difference between zines and artists books, many under the moniker of a “pretend business” publisher called Little Brown Mushroom. We subsequently caught up with Soth via a review/studio visit on the occasion of a 2010 major retrospective of his work (see here), and had his frequent literary collaborator Brad Zellar discuss their collaborations at our 2013 Twin Cities Book Festival. Soth continues to be a bookish marvel—see this “slightly awkward” video tour of his library made last month—and we await the publication of his next book with bated breath.
april 29, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Arthur Sze, the very first guest in our fledgling Reading Series back in 1998. The day was May 3, and as it was the first Sunday in May, we spent part of it at the Twin Cities’ beloved May Day Parade, welcoming the spring, and walking to and fro we talked as much about the flowers and mushrooms coming up from the earth as we did about poetry. Sze was about to publish The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (which we reviewed later that year in our Online Edition), and that evening he gave a dazzling reading of his work, as well as translations from the Chinese poet Wang Wei. Through the entirety of that experience, our guest set the template we would aspire to in all our subsequent events, enacting kindness, generosity, and community spirit in addition to offering a high-quality presentation. Over the years we have continued to follow Sze’s poetry, occasionally covering it (read another piece here) and having him return to our local stages, and we were thrilled when his most recent book Sight Lines won the National Book Award in Poetry last year, the latest in a raft of awards that he has received in the past two decades. “Arthur Sze is truly a poet of clarity and compassion,” said Jackson Mac Low—we couldn’t agree more.
april 22, 2020
WRITING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
Happy Earth Day, readers! Today Rain Taxi celebrates writing about climate change. Climate justice is a cause we believe in whole-heartedly and we’ve been privileged to cover it on almost every front. This writing, increasingly important as humanity grapples with how we can best take care of the only planet we have, comes in all forms. We’ve reviewed books of nonfiction such as This Changes Everything, Extreme Cities, and The Climate Swerve, but we’ve also noted works of poetry that tackle this issue, such as Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter, works of fiction, such as Lives of Mapmakers, and even YA lit that bring this theme to life, such as Exodus and Zenith. We’ve interviewed some of the best minds who consider this, too, folks like Terry Tempest Williams and Steven Pinker. Our live events also have featured writers for whom climate change is an important aspect, including Amitav Ghosh and Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg (to use a metaphor we hope will not become an anachronism). Because we think literature is a place where all the aspects of our lives can be explored, we have always sought to include books about climate change in our purview. Though we hope to reach a day when such writing will be unnecessary, for now we will continue to pay attention to the work of those who care for the earth and fight for the rights of every living organism.
april 15, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Kate DiCamillo. A pillar of the Twin Cities literary scene, she has spent over two decades charming young readers with her sweet, funny, empathetic stories for ages 3 to 103. With characters from Despereaux Tilling to Mercy Watson, generations of kids have grown up on amazing imagination and heart-warming wit. And not only is Kate DiCamillo’s writing a crowd favorite for readers, teachers, librarians, and booksellers alike, she’s a charming and enlightening speaker and a personal inspiration to many in the kid lit world. We saw this first hand when she graced the 2004 Twin Cities Book Festival, and we are excited to say she’ll join Rain Taxi again this October to celebrate 20 years of both the TCBF and Because of Winn-Dixie! That astonishing debut book is also being celebrated this spring in the new One Book | One Minnesota program. We’re lucky to be able to boast such a talented woman as a hometown hero. Here’s to you, Kate!
april 9, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates bookstores. We all have a favorite—a particular place that was central to our childhood, our adolescence, or our coming of age. We all have had magical experiences there too, like when a bookseller looked at us and knew just what to recommend, handing us a book that would change our lives. Beyond offering us their namesake treasures, bookstores host readings, book clubs, and open mics; they foster community and invite wide swaths of people to gather around a mutual love. But even more important than what bookstores contain is what they are: Bookstores are places of peace, revelation, and joy. Their existence is unique in combining chaos and beauty, communication and community, to create somewhere that always reminds us of home. No matter how long your reading drought, what your genre of choice is, how downtrodden the world outside has made you feel, bookstores will always welcome you back with open doors and overflowing shelves. Although many are temporarily closed or slowed to keep us all safe during this crisis, their love and service still radiates—and today we celebrate bookstores to let them know that we love them back!
april 3, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Robert Creeley, one of the towering figures of American poetry, yet one of the most down to earth as well. Creeley graced Rain Taxi with his presence at our first ever Twin Cities Book Festival. As with this year, it was a strange time, because it was in October of 2001—the month after 9/11—and everything had changed. Audiences needed poetry more than ever, and Creeley, then 77, didn’t disappoint: he braved the newly chaotic airline security (the normally 4-hour trip took 18 hours!) and from an easy chair onstage, he spoke about his own reactions to the tragic event amidst readings from his recent work, turning a packed auditorium into an intimate gathering place. Though he died in 2005, we’ll never forget his support of our then-fledgling organization, his dedication to the art of poetry as well as the art of being human, and the gift of being inspired by a living legend.
march 30, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Bei Dao, one of China’s most important contemporary poets. Exiled from China in 1989 because of how his work stirred his country’s populace to protest, his work became renowned across the globe, and he has frequently been projected to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Bei Dao appeared in the Rain Taxi Reading Series in 2003 (along with his literary comrade and sometime translator Eliot Weinberger), and his image graces the cover of our Spring 2011 print issue (a portrait by Ann Mikolowski). In 2010, we were honored to publish his 23-poem sequence “Daydream” as a chapbook (a few copies still available!) in a new translation by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein; you can also check out Klein’s 2003 review of three books by Bei Dao in our Online Edition. However you encounter the work of this magnificent poet, we know you’ll find (as we do) a humanistic voice of conscience and compassion.
march 26, 2020
Today Rain Taxi celebrates Rikki Ducornet, the very first author interviewed in Rain Taxi (see the table of contents for that landmark issue here). Ducornet is emblematic of the very kind of writer Rain Taxi was founded to champion: those whose “aesthetically adventurous” work can be challenging but that we feel is worthy of a wider readership. Ducornet has published many books by presses small and large (a few of which we reviewed over the past 24 years); she has also appeared three times in the Rain Taxi Reading Series, contributed an illustration to one of our t-shirts (the “Dragon Edition,” natch), and collaborated with Anne Waldman on “Calendar,” perhaps the most unique chapbook Rain Taxi has published (it is actually a sequence of unbound broadsides, one for each month of the year). We are proud of our long association with this incredible writer – and grateful to her for being among our original inspirations.