By Sabrina Hornung
Kevin Zepper is no stranger to the literary scene in North Dakota. An author, poet, MSUM English and humanities professor, photographer, he’s a man of many hats.
He has led memoir workshops with residents at Eventide, he is a 2022-23 visiting Poetry Out Loud poet through the North Dakota Council on the Arts; and be sure to be on the lookout for his photos in the Plains Art Gala this year.
His latest chapbook, “The Shaman Said” is a collection of poems and photography. Upon reading the work, one common theme that really resonated within the collection was pause or maybe more appropriately, allowing for pause: slowing down and allowing time to observe.
“Alone time isn't necessarily bad, I mean, you have to be alone if you're a writer. As a photographer, you can go in a group, but it comes down to what you're looking at. So that time was unusually productive this winter. I'm starting to feel it now. So when we get done with this, I'm probably going to sit down and rewrite some stuff because I'm working on another manuscript already.” Zepper said.
“The Shaman Said” was picked up by a small independent publisher and printed on demand as part of the Audience Askew Chapbook series from Nat 1 Press in Maine. He selected 10 poems and the accompanying artwork and he considered the chaplet “pretty low impact.”
He said, “They picked it up and said we love it, we'll take it. I mean, I didn't have to work that one bit– but that's a Chaplet. That's not a booklet.”
Zepper elaborated on a few poems from his chap book, sharing a bit of his selection process.
“I guess, the theme that I was thinking about was possibilities, and the extremes of those possibilities like from ‘The lonely wound,’ which is kind of surreal and made up, but it's also sort of like this other kind of life or this other type of living… or something like ‘Ribcage,’ which was about something that is grotesque, or seemingly grotesque, but suggests something that's absolutely beautiful. It's the idea of nature doing its thing, and how a rib cage, which is a cage that eventually leads to some kind of a release, like the release of spirit. So it was really narrowed down from about 30 pieces, the remainder, mostly from this next manuscript.”
While compiling the work, Zepper wanted it to fit thematically and flow as free verse, and described some pieces as song-like and others more descriptive or “visually poetic.”
“These are the ones that seem to fit. And honestly, they fit together the right way. Because, like I said, I can't believe they were scarfed up so fast– so, after all these years, maybe I'm finally getting this darn poetry thing right... finally.”
IF YOU GO
Kevin Zepper will be performing along with fellow poets Fatima Camara, Donte Collins, Shane Hawley, and Joe Davis, as part of the Minnesota Poets Out Loud: Spoken Word Poetry from the Land of 10,000 Voices at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead on Saturday April 29 at 7pm. This program is appropriate for ages 16 and up and may feature topics sensitive to some listeners. Admission is free thanks to funding from the Minnesota Art & Cultural Heritage Fund.
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