Reading Report: Cracked Walnut’s “Stargazers,” June 22, 2018

Recently, SFPA members performed with local Minnesota poets at the Cracked Walnut reading series. They shared work addressing the theme of “Stargazers.” The reading was held at the East Side Freedom Library in Saint Paul on a Friday night.

The month’s featured poets were Josh Brown, Riawa Thomas-Smith, Mike Finley, Emylisa Warrick, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang and Bryan Thao Worra, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. This reading was part of the SFPA’s ongoing celebrations of its 40th anniversary this year. SFPA thanks the League of Minnesota Poets for informing us of this opportunity to present.


Established in 2010, Cracked Walnut believes in the power of the creative spirit, and particularly the creative writing spirit of the Twin Cities.

Cracked Walnut organizes readings in traditional and non traditional  spaces in the Twin Cities Metro Area to procure a love for live literature, community and creativity. They also offer writing workshops and sponsor contests and other programs designed to promote literary endeavors for writers of all levels and backgrounds.

The East Side Freedom Library (ESFL) has its home in the former Arlington Hills library, one of St. Paul’s historic Carnegie library buildings at 1105 Greenbrier Street, located in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

The ESFL’s mission is to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice and work toward equity for all.  The library houses non-circulating research collections that appeal to interested general learners as well as scholars, with innovative databases and finding aids that make using the collections fun and vital.

Josh Brown read first. A graduate of the University of Minnesota–Duluth with a degree in English Literature, he has spent the past fifteen years in the publishing industry working for and with award-winning publishers and best-selling authors. An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, his work can be found in numerous anthologies as well as in Star*Line, Scifaikuest, Mithila Review, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and more. His essay, “Poems and Songs of The Hobbit” was recently featured in Critical Insights: The Hobbit(Salem Press, 2016). He served as editor for issue 20 of Eye to the Telescope, the official online journal of the SFPA, and was the chair of the 2017 and 2018 Elgin Awards. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his family.

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Riawa Thomas-Smith was born and raised in Minneapolis and writes weird fiction and poetry.She has performed short stories, poems and the occasional song at open mics around the Twin Cities since the early 90s. She read at Storyfest in 2016 and once won Poetry Division of the Misfits writing contest.

The third reader was Mike Finley. Finley manages Robots & Pirates, a small foundation providing services to young people in trouble in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He was the winner of the 2011 KPV Kerouac Award, 2011. He was awarded a Wisconsin State Arts Fellowship for fiction in 1985. In 2010 he published Zombie Girl, a novella about the death of his daughter. Finley self-published his collected works, Yukon Gold: Poemes de terre in 2001. He has also published many books of poetry, nonfiction, and humor, from presses such as Litmus, Inc. (Lucky You, 1976); Minnesota Writers Publishing House (Home Trees, 1976); Vanilla Press (The Movie under the Blindfold, 1976); and Salthouse Press (Water Hills, 1985). Other books by Finley include For the Young Poets of Cleveland (NightBallet Press); The Poet Voznesenski; Spit on the Griddle; Poets Ruin Everything;  Letting God Go; The Curtis Hotel and Other Confabulations; Don’t Be Like the Moon; and Defending the Cake. He is coeditor with St. Paul bread baker Danny Klecko of LIEF Magazine, an online journal of arts dedicated to bright messages.

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A late but welcome addition to the reading’s lineup was Emylisa Warrick, who is a recent Poetry MFA at the University of South Carolina. Her research interests include familial and generational trauma, the inheritance of silence, and colorism. Before pursuing her MFA, she worked in the independent publishing and nonprofit arts industries. Notable places include Coffee House Press, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, and the Walker Art Center.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang was the closing poet, reading some of her classic poems as well as two new pieces for the occasion. She is a journalist, essayist, speaker, educator, and poet focused on issues of diversity, race, culture, and the arts. The child of immigrants, she was born in Los Angeles, raised in Silicon Valley, and now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawai‘i. She has worked in philosophy, ethnic new media, anthropology, international development, nonprofits, and small business start-ups. Her writing has appeared at NBC News Asian America, PRI Global Nation, New America Media, Pacific Citizen, Angry Asian Man, Cha Asian Literary Journal, Kartika Review, and several anthologies, journals, and art exhibitions. She teaches creative writing at University of Hawaii Hilo and Washtenaw Community College. She co-created a multimedia artwork for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Indian American Heritage Project online and travelling art exhibition. Her website can be found at


SFPA president Bryan Thao Worra read pieces interspersed throughout the evening responding to the various poets’ works.

Overall, the evening had almost 30 people in attendance in East Saint Paul and the energy and response of the audience suggests there is more than enough reason to encourage future readings and events in the area in the future.

Do you have a recent reading you’d like to share with the SFPA? Let us know at!


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