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Wayne State University Press

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The Way North

Collected Upper Peninsula New Works

Edited by Ron Riekki

Award Winner

Fiction, Michigan, Poetry, Upper Peninsula

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: May 2013
ISBN: 9780814338650
Pages: 280 Size: 5.5x8.5
Published: May 2013
ISBN: 9780814338667

It's about time we had an anthology like this, news from the cold, winter world, a new kind of North. 

— Ander Monson

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is distinct from the rest of the state in geography, climate, and culture, including a unique and thriving creative writing community. In The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works, editor Ron Riekki presents poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from memorable, varied voices that are writing from and about Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In all, this unique anthology features new works from forty-two writers, including rising star Ellen Airgood, Edgar Award-winner Steve Hamilton, Rona Jaffe Award-winner Catie Rosemurgy, Jonathan Johnson of Best American Poetry, Michigan Notable Book Award-winner Keith Taylor, and Michigan Author Award-winner John Smolens.

In 49 poems and 20 stories-diverse in form, length, and content-readers are introduced to the unmistakable terrain and characters of the U.P. The book not only showcases the snow, small towns, and idiosyncratic characters that readers might expect but also introduces unexpected regions and voices. From the powerful powwow in Baraga of April Lindala's "For the Healing of All Women" to the sex-charged basement in Stambaugh of Chad Faries's "Hotel Stambaugh: Michigan, 1977" to the splendor found between Newberry and Paradise in Joseph D. Haske's "Tahquamenon," readers will delight in discovering the work of both new and established authors. The contributors range widely in age, gender, and background, as The Way North highlights the work of established writers, teachers, students, laborers, fishermen, housewives, and many others.

The Way North brings the U.P.'s literary tradition to the awareness of more readers and showcases some of the most compelling work connected to the area. It will be welcomed by readers interested in new fiction and poetry and instructors of courses on Michigan writing.

Ron Riekki was born and raised in the U.P. and has graduate degrees in creative writing from Brandeis, Virginia, and Western Michigan, and a degree in religious studies from Central Michigan. He is the author of U.P.: A Novel, several poetry chapbooks, and numerous plays, including Carol, Dandelion Cottage, A Play, and All Saints' Day.

Contributors Include:
Amber Edmondson, Andrea Scarpino, April Lindala, Austin Hummell, Barbara Henning, Beverly Matherne, Cameron Witbeck, Catie Rosemurgy, Chad Faries, Ellen Airgood, Emily Van Kley, Eric Gadzinski, Jane Piirto, Janeen Rastall, Janice Repka, Jennifer A. Howard, Jennifer Burd, Jim Zukowski, John Smolens, Jonathan Johnson, Joseph Daniel Haske, Julie Brooks Barbour, Keith Taylor, L. E. Kimball, Linda Johnson, Lisa Fay Coutley, Manda Frederick, Marty Achatz, Mary McMyne, Matt Maki, Matthew Gavin Frank, Randall R. Freisinger, Raymond Luczak, Robert Alexander, Ron Johnson, Ron Riekki, Saara Myrene Raappana, Sally Brunk, Seth Marlin, Sharon Dilworth, Steve Hamilton, Sue Harrison, Vincent Reusch

It's about time we had an anthology like this, news from the cold, winter world, a new kind of North. These are notifications that we are not alone up here-out there-in our snowy hearts' interiors.

– Ander Monson

This collection establishes beyond a doubt that Upper Michigan has incubated some of the most exciting, innovative, and downright enjoyable writers and writing being produced anywhere in America today. Ron Riekki-a terrific writer himself-deserves plaudits and more.

– Tom Bissell, Escanaba native and author of Extra Lives and Magic Hours

Beautifully edited, The Way North is more than a collection. It is a collaboration of writers, each whom understand in his and her own way what is sacred about that utterly unique, freshwater peninsula known as the U.P. Open most any page of this book and you'll smell the piney air and feel even in the sunlight the clean, steely, visceral cold.

– Stuart Dybek

The Way North is a wide-ranging sampler of current Upper Peninsula writing, reflecting many different viewpoints, and an excellent introduction for those who are curious about the UP and its writers.

– Bradley A. Scott, ForeWord Reviews

The Way North is a powerful and much recommended addition to the literary compilations focusing on the Midwest.

– James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

The Way North, edited by Ron Riekki, is a unique collection of stories and poems from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. . . this is a worthwhile read, especially for those with an interest in Michigan.

– Christopher Tuthill, American Book Review

The Way North, a collection of poems and short stories gathered by editor
Ron Riekki, deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf. Riekki made his
selection with one thought in mind— to show off the best contemporary
pieces from authors associated with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. So
often the organizing principle of anthologies is contrived— the best poems
or short stories published in a single year or the best offerings from
a single literary magazine. Not so with the forty- eight poems and twenty
short stories found in The Way North. They share a sense of place. It is the
Upper Peninsula, the up as its residents call it, a unique, sparsely settled
boreal forest redolent of the northern reaches of New England. The up,
however, differs from all other places in one important respect. Lake Superior
borders its northern boundary. The lake is a vast presence and a formative
dynamic in most of the stories and poems found in The Way North. It
becomes the pure touchstone of unvarnished truth. For those who believe
that a writer’s culture is rooted in his or her environment, The Way North
provides a compelling argument.
It would be a mistake to think of Lake Superior and the stories and
poems of Riekki’s collection as idyllic escapism. For sure there are Hiawatha’s
rustling birches, clean sand beaches stretching empty for miles,
and the impossibly blue summer skies. But as with any true wilderness,
the savage is ever at hand. It is a world of the hunter and hunted, of the
predators— bears, cougars, fi shers and eagles— and the prey— deer, hare,
chipmunk and fi sh. The humans appearing in The Way North sort themselves
out along the same lines: fi ghting husbands and wives seeking a
feasting dominance, children fl eeing cruel parents and winter starvation,
grandmothers watching silently like perched owls as the ugliness of their
own history brings down their children and grandchildren.
The seasons assume greater importance in the up than in most other
places. The winters are long, dark, and often extremely cold, but there are
no more glorious springs than those that follow a severe winter. The woods
and fi elds bud at once and the countryside shows chartreuse, deep green,
and rust. The open air celebration that is spring fi nds no better spokespersons
than the authors of The Way North. The classifi ed pages fi ll with summer
jobs such as waitressing, roofing, pizza chefs, and camp counselors Tourists arrive, blueberry fi elds turn purple, walleye run, and woodland
trails dry and harden. The roads fi ll with Florida and Arizona plates and
logging trucks carrying off white and red pine, birch and aspen. Teenagers
have some spending money and romance and a brief sense of well- being
fi lls the up. Such is the stuff of comedy and tragedy, all found within Mr.
Riekki’s collection.
Commonplace images dominate. Reading The Way North, you will come
to appreciate a roaring wood fi re in the depths of winter, homemade fall
applesauce fl avored with cinnamon, a clean house with a newly sewn table
cloth to grace a worn kitchen table. But balanced against the commonplace
are brief glimpses of the up’s extraordinary beauty. There are the stories
of the lonely, cold hitchhiker transfi xed by an arctic sunset, of the freighter
deckhand who while wringing the neck of a Canadian goose becomes
lost in a fantastical building mist, of the frightened child who watches the
spring sun’s warmth break up ice fl oes and so comes to believe again his
life is a miracle. It is a hardscrabble existence for the poor. Yet again and
again the stories and poems bear witness to the fact that it is the beauty of
the up which sustains all its resident poor and wealthy alike. As the reader
moves from poem to poem and short story to short story, the understated
truth of wilderness with its many moods leaves an indelible thirst for the
Northwoods and its landscape.
The Way North refl ects the diversity of the up’s human inhabitants. Originally
it was the Anishinaabe alone living here, but then the French arrived
in search of furs. Later New Englanders started logging, and mining companies
brought in European migrants. About one in fi ve residents in the up
today are native. That percentage will increase as the up continues to lose
population, and so The Way North wisely includes native writers. One tells
of ritually sewing ornate dresses to dance at powwows; another recreates
her grandparents’ dreams of old Lac Vieux Desert while handling a brick
from their home. Often Anishinaabe phrases are interjected, a reminder
of the earliest days along Lake Superior. Sometimes the Anishinaabe is set
side by side with French and Latin, a living relic of the Jesuit missionaries
and the fur trade.
Many well known authors are included in The Way North. There is Steve
Hamilton, Sue Harrison, Beverly Matherne, Matt Frank, and John Smolens,
among others. To the tried and true Riekki has added strong pieces
by lesser known authors such as Marty Achatz, Ellen Airgood, Sally Brunk, and April Lindala. All contributors equally demand your attention. Riekki
has an ear for good literature, and he has put together an impeccable collection.
It is worth your time.

– John Gubbins, Middle West Review

  • 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the category of General Fiction, and Shortlisted for the 2014 Grand Prize
  • 2014 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the category of Fiction: Short Story/Anthology
  • 2014 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the category of Anthologies
  • 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the Anthology category
  • 2015 Michigan Notable Book Award - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually