In May, I taped an interview with John Rezmerski, a Minnesota writer living in Mankato. (This interview aired on July 12, 2009)
I first met John when we both served on the board of the Minnesota Literature Newsletter, maybe 25 years ago, but I had never heard his story. I am always struck how often that happens; there’s no occasion in normal Minnesota conversation to find out who you are talking to.
I attach here the first ten minutes of the interview, John’s account of his life through the publication of his first book, through his first teaching job at Gustavus Adolphus College. It is a pretty ordinary story: a bright kid explores more and more widely, having great fun with words and ideas. I am struck by all the points of generosity along the way: parents with an overstocked library, indulgent small-town librarians, a scholarship with a provision for unlimited classes, a helpful poet to criticize early work, another poet to invite him to go in new directions, a contest committee that took the trouble to communicate with the runner-up in its contest. None of these advantages was huge or expensive. Taken together, they made all the difference; they made an interesting and productive life possible.
One can learn a lot about how to make an environment where people become scholars and poets from stories like this. One could almost do an index of it: the more small acts of needless generosity, the more lives work out.