Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Right Place - Dana Yost

The Right Place

by Dana Yost

The Right Place is a collection of essays and poems, largely about people and places in the rural Midwest, mostly southwest Minnesota — exploring and explaining how rural residents struggle to sustain amid rural decline. It includes essays on authors Bill Holm, Howard Mohr and Adrian Louis, essays on a small-town mayor, the Minnesota Machinery Museum, and on local veterans, among other topics. Most of the poems were published within the past year (one will be forthcoming) in literary journals and other magazines around the country. There are heroes and there are casualties in this book, and sometimes it may not be easy to tell them apart. At other times, both labels may fit the same person. Some of the essays and poems in the book may be uplifting or inspiring. Others may not. I write about accomplishments, artists, friends, nature, and faith, but I also write about death, illness, and economic failure.

“Why can't I pick one or the other— happy or downbeat? The reason is simple enough; life itself isn't about one or the other...A wholly engaged life is going to bring us all sorts of emotions, experiences, and lessons. What we make of them, and what they make of us, is what our lives end up being about." – DanaYost

"The Right Place shows how life is never easy in the Upper Midwest, and how there are people committed to the area."--Marshall Independent

"Dana has written a very nice, insightful book. Lee [Eggerstrom] and I are both struck by his understanding of people and place."--John Van Hecke, Minnesota 2020

Grace traces the journey from a wish for peace in the first poem to a calm communion with the moon in the last. The poems in between range from contemporary history (Iraq; the Cottonwood, Minnesota, school bus crash) to more personal matters, including a “bruised mind” or mental “murk.”

But Yost’s writing throughout is anything but murky; he writes clearly and affectingly of his various subjects, with the sharp images and American diction of a mid-western William Carlos Williams. As the title suggests, a religious or spiritual element runs throughout—at times specifically Christian, though not without wit (Jesus as hockey goalie). Plenty wins out over murk; Grace is about that triumph.

William Butler Yeats said, “Rhetoricians would deceive their neighbors, sentimentalists themselves,” but Yost would deceive no one; like the outstanding journalist he has long been, he aims to undeceive by means of honesty, integrity, gritty realism, and a command of the language. In one poem he hears a phone-like ringing and can’t find the source, but by the end of the book he has found that source—he’s no doubt been calling himself—and answered. His answer is this very collection, and we are privileged to be listening in on the conversation embodied by these urgent and necessary poems.



Dana Yost is the author of two books, 2008’s poetry collection Grace, and 2010’s collection of essays and poems The Right Place. For 29 years, he was an award-winning daily newspaper reporter and editor. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Wolf Head Quarterly, Awakenings Review, Relief, Open Minds Quarterly, Turtle Quarterly, Time of Singing, South Dakota Magazine, Stone’s Throw Magazine and online on Minnesota Public Radio. Minnesota 2020 posted three excerpts from The Right Place, along with on-camera interviews of Yost, in February on its Web site

Ellis Press

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