The envelope, please...


Almost one thousand entries have been narrowed down to seven prize-winning poems.

Close to 1,000 poets submitted their work to Common Good Books, in St Paul, MN. Entries came from across the United States, with Minnesota making up the single largest bloc of poems. After reading them all, store owner Garrison Keillor, has chosen seven poems of particular merit. Congratulations to this year’s winners, and thank you to all who entered.

$1000 Winners:

  • Lisa Kundrat of Minneapolis, MN, for "Dear You"

  • Ethna McKiernan of Minneapolis, MN for "Leaving"

  • Kari Castor of Arlington Heights, IL, for "Dear Roger”

$500 Winners:

  • Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, MN, for "Regarding Your Dishes"

  • Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, NY, for "Dear Neighbor"

  • Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, MN, for "Red, Cabbage, Oldsmobile"

  • Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, MN, for "Dear Stan: You Know Horses"


Lisa Kundrat

Dear You

Dear you

If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?

Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no

time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a

hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to

wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in

that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning

toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our

rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway

toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and

ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like

restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights

dangling like calcite.  Driving north through the pitch black, we knew

we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the

cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.

Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into

the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You

wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we

always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and

when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our

hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on

the other side.


Ethna McKiernan


         For Conor

                    I turned around tonight to say—

And then I missed you so hard

at that instant, the wry smile of you

absent, every atom of you flown,

not a particle hovering in the house.

I left too, young as you

craving wind-shifts of change,

hitching through Europe in the 70’s,

camping rough, picking grapes in France,

bleaching the stain off down in Spain,

five months of glory on the road.

Now the same winds have pushed you

to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars

in the sky last night, that long curl

dissipating into cloud.

Remember how I knew you at five

in that Ninja costume?

I knew you skate-boarding

with an attitude at Brackett Park,

and sensed for certain when

you first fell in love. I knew you

as a heartbeat beneath my ribs

at nine months, almost born.

And know you now,



Kari Castor

Dear Roger

Dear Roger,

I think sometimes about

that night in college when I

sat on your lap in your room

and the way we tried to devour

each other when we

realized we were alone for a moment--

         Aaron graduated and in

         Chicago waiting

         for me to join him,

         our friends returned

         to the living room--

the way your thick stubble

burned my cheek

the way I was terrified

to make this mistake

and also terrified

to not make it

the way I made you drive me

home and leant my

still-burning cheek

against the cool car window

and fantasized

the whole way about asking

you into my empty apartment

the way we carefully

avoided touching each other

for fear of striking a spark that might

set the whole fragile veneer ablaze

and I wonder sometimes if you

all these years later

ever think about that night

the way I do

Alan Page reads from "The Invisible You"

04/23/2015 7:00 pm

Celebrate what makes each child special and unique in this wonderful hardcover children’s book by Alan Page and his daughter Kamie Page, with artwork by Dave Geister.

The goal of our new children’s book, The Invisible You, is to nurture a conversation celebrating the things that make people different and unique and the common things we share. Co-authored by Justice Alan Page and Kamie Page, a second grade teacher, and illustrated by Minneapolis artist David Geister, The Invisible You focuses on a young boy, Howard, and a hard first day at a new school in a new neighborhood.

The Invisible You is a simple, yet important concept, delivered in a story that’s easy for all children to understand... And adults too. The Invisible You is what makes you, you. It’s who you are deep down, not the color of your skin or where you come from. It is your passions, your achievements, your dreams.


Alan Page spent fifteen years in the NFL, becoming the first defensive player in the league’s history to receive an MVP award. While playing football, he became a full-time law student, earning his Juris Doctor in 1978. He was appointed to be a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993. In 1988, Page and his wife Diane founded the Page Education Foundation, which provides financial and mentoring assistance to students of color in exchange for volunteer service in the community.

38 S Snelling Avenue
Saint Paul
Postal Code:
United States

Cathy Wurzer discusses "We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying." This event is cosponsored by Amherst H Wilder Foundation.

04/26/2015 4:00 pm

“In this exquisite book, Bruce H. Kramer finds adventure the most unlikely of places: the death sentence that is ALS. We Know How This Ends is a moving tale that teaches us more about living well than any self-help book ever can.”--Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

A floppy foot and leg weakness led to a shattering diagnosis: Bruce H. Kramer had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a cruel, unrelenting neurodegenerative disease in which the body’s muscles slowly weaken, including those used to move, swallow, talk, and ultimately breathe. There is no cure: ALS is a death sentence.

Rather than wallowing in sadness and bitterness, anger and denial, Kramer accepted the crushing diagnosis. The educator and musician recognized that if he wanted a meaningful life, then embracing his imminent death was his only viable option. His decision was the foundation for profound, personal reflection and growth, even as his body weakened, and inspired him to share the lessons he was learning from ALS about how to live as fully as possible, even in the midst of devastating grief.

At the time Kramer was diagnosed, broadcast journalist Cathy Wurzer was struggling with her own losses, especially her father’s slow descent into the bewildering world of dementia. Mutual friends put this unlikely pair--journalist and educator--together, and the serendipitous result has been a series of remarkable broadcast conversations, a deep friendship, and now this book.

Written with wisdom, genuine humor, and down-to-earth observations, We Know How This Ends is far more than a memoir. It is a dignified, courageous, and unflinching look at how acceptance of loss and inevitable death can lead us all to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.


The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps children, families and older adults in the greater Saint Paul area through direct service programs, research, leadership development and community building. Established in 1906, the mission of the Wilder Foundation is to promote the social welfare of persons in the greater Saint Paul metropolitan area without regard to nationality, sex, color, religion, or prejudice. For more information about the Wilder Foundation, visit


Bruce H. Kramer is former dean of the College of Education, Leadership, and Counseling at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the creator of The Dis Ease Diary (, a popular blog about life with ALS, and coauthor of Leading Ethically in Schools and Other Organizations, a realistic look at leadership ethics.

The host of Minnesota Public Radio’s flagship news program Morning Edition, Cathy Wurzer has been broadcasting conversations with Bruce H. Kramer about his ALS experiences since 2011. She is also the cohost of Almanac on Twin Cities Public Television, the longest-running weekly public affairs program in the nation.

Book List
ISBN-13: 9780816697335
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: University of Minnesota Press, 4/2015

38 S Snelling Avenue
Saint Paul
Postal Code:
United States

Per Petterson and Laurie Hertzel discuss Petterson’s new novel "I Refuse"

04/21/2015 7:00 pm

“Readers will find that they’re in the hands of a master whose quiet, unforgettable voice leaves you yearning to hear more.”--The Boston Globe

Laurie Hertzel, books editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the author of the memoir News to Me, will discuss I Refuse and Per Petterson’s other books with him. Per Petterson is the author of five previous novels, which have established him as one of Norway's best fiction writers. Petterson worked as a manual laborer, spent twelve years as a bookseller, and was a translator and literary critic before becoming a full-time writer. His novel Out Stealing Horses won the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was named one of the best books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review and Time.


Per Petterson’s hotly anticipated new novel, I Refuse, is the work of an internationally acclaimed novelist at the height of his powers. In Norway the book has been a huge best seller, and rights have already been sold to sixteen countries.

In his signature spare style, I Refuse weaves a tale of two men whose accidental meeting one morning recalls their boyhood thirty-five years ago. Back then, Tommy was separated from his sisters after he stood up to their abusive father. Jim was by Tommy’s side through it all. But one winter night, a chance event on a frozen lake forever changes the balance of their friendship. Now, Jim fishes alone on a bridge as Tommy drives by in a new Mercedes, and it’s clear their fortunes have reversed. Over the course of the day, the lives of each man will be irrevocably altered. I Refuse is a powerful, unforgettable novel, and its publication is an event to be celebrated.

Book List

I Refuse (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781555976996
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Graywolf Press, 4/2015

ISBN-13: 9781555977009
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Graywolf Press, 4/2015

Out Stealing Horses (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780312427085
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 4/2008

To Siberia (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780312428990
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 9/2009

ISBN-13: 9780312429539
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 8/2011

It's Fine By Me (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781555976262
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Graywolf Press, 10/2012

In the Wake (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780312427047
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 4/2007

Weyerhaeuser Chapel, Macalester College
1600 Grand Ave
Saint Paul
Postal Code:
United States

Read The Book Before You Read The Book


There's no shortage of sequels in the summertime. In fact, a few of our staff's favorite novels are soon to pick up right where they left off...  

Enon (Now in Paperback), Paul Harding's follow-up novel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers, explores the grief of protagonist Charlie Crosby (grandson of Tinkers character George Crosby) over the loss of his daughter. Peter Recommends

10:04 (Available 9/2), a meta-sequel to Ben Lerner's breakout debut (winner of the 2012 Believer Book Award) Leaving the Atocha Station, finds our unnamed author/narrator under contract with a major publisher, but no more certain how to face the future and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be underwater. Colin Recommends

Lila (Available 10/7), the last of three novels by Marilynne Robinson set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, tells the hardscrabble story of Lila, wife of minister John Ames. Robinson's preceding novels Gilead (2004) and Home (2008) received the Pulitzer and Orange Prizes, respectively. Jean Recommends

Enon (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780812981773
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 7/2014

ISBN-13: 9781566892742
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Coffee House Press, 9/2011

Home (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780312428549
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 9/2009

Bad Want: Interview with Sean Bishop

"Writing did give me a means to grieve publicly, to make others aware of my loss, in a way that wouldn’t have gone over so well if I had just randomly stood up in the middle of a cafe once a month and proclaimed, 'hello, strangers, allow me to tell you about my dead father and how sad I am about it!'"


Sean Bishop talks about life, death, and Carson Daly. Bishop reads from The Night We’re Not Sleeping In on Friday, November 21, with poets Su Smallen and Kara Condito. Click here for more information. Click here for the complete interview.

Common Good T-Shirts

Common Good Books is pleased to unveil the first in a series of limited edition t-shirts, not available wherever books are sold. 

Syndicate content