Poetry, History, and Storytelling for the Earth and its People: Anya Achtenberg reads from Blue Earth at SMSU

Katie Stromme, Editor-in-Chief

Anya Achtenberg’s writing is a sharp explosion of poetry, history, and eloquent literary awareness.

“Why do people do the things they do to each other?” She mused on Monday, March 25 during her reading in the William Whipple Gallery. Her question was a response to a question asked to her about evilness in her characters and how that affects her attachment to them.

She noted that she used her most recent work, Blue Earth, to explore the notion of evil and how it relates to some populations exerting dominion over others. “That has a lot to do with Carver’s character,” she said, of one of the central figures from the novel, a man who provides refuge to a young girl seeking refuge from a tornado.

Numerous awards have confirmed Achtenberg’s prowess as a writer. She has won a Pushcart Prize, and was a finalist for the Fiction Writers at Work Fellowship Competition.

Most recently she received a Minnesota State Arts Board Individual Artist’s Initiative Grant to work on her next novel, History Artist. According to Achtenberg’s website, the book is about “…the experience of a Cambodian woman born of an African American father at the moment the bombing of Cambodia by U.S. forces began.”

She spoke at length about telling stories from the perspective of other populations: Blue Earth incorporates the stories of both native people as well as people with European ancestry. She feels that the vast intersections of experience between all people allow for cross-cultural understandings. This belief is reflected in her gracious, hopeful writing. “Whatever frees you is good,” she said, at the closing of her reading.