Gustavus Adolphus College alumnus and current Visiting Professor of English Matt Rasmussen ’98 is a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in poetry. Rasmussen is nominated for his debut collection of poems titled Black Aperture, where he faces the tragedy of his brother’s suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. The National Book Award winners will be announced at the National Book Award Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 20 in New York City.
Rasmussen was recently featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press by journalist Mary Ann Grossmann. Rasmussen and Gustavus Professor of English Joyce Sutphen were both interviewed for the story.
Here is an excerpt from Grossmann’s story:
Matt Rasmussen doesn’t expect to win a National Book Award on Wednesday for his debut poetry collection, “Black Aperture.” But that’s OK with him.
“This book has already overachieved my expectations,” Rasmussen said of the poems that capture emotions surrounding his brother’s suicide. “When it won the Walt Whitman Award, that was plenty. Just being long-listed for the National Book Award was something I never expected.”
Rasmussen is an engaging 38-year-old poet and teacher who lives in Robbinsdale with his wife, Jana, and 3-year-old daughter, Lydia.
Part of his prize as winner of the prestigious Walt Whitman Award, presented by the Academy of American Poets, was publication of “Black Aperture” by Louisiana State University Press.
Rasmussen learned his collection was a National Book Award poetry finalist last month while Lydia was Skyping with Matt’s parents in International Falls, Minn. But he had to keep it a secret until the official announcement.
“I couldn’t tell my parents for 24 hours,” Rasmussen said of retired educators Gail and Allen Rasmussen, to whom he dedicated his book.
On Wednesday, Rasmussen will be joined by his wife and parents at a black-tie gala at the elegant Cipriani Wall Street building in New York during which Book Award winners will be announced.
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