Article by Dion Mindykowski
Photo by Dan Taylor

Blow up the balloons, bake a cake, and light the candles because poet Andrew Christ is celebrating a birthday on Thursday, August 13.  He will also be celebrating one on September 17 and every month following.  None of these dates is actually Christ’s birthday; instead they are part of the "Birthdays of Poets" series organized by Christ and the River Junction Poets.

Since 2005 the River Junction Poets have been hosting these free readings, which have been held at the Barnes & Noble in Saginaw, MI (3311 Tittabawassee Road).  This month's reading features the work of Marvin Bell and will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 13, 2009.  Next month's reading, taking place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 17, will be the first time that the event will be held in Bay City.  La Belle Epoque Art Gallerie & Café, located at 809 Adams St., will open its doors to the participants in celebration of poet Kay Ryan.

Both of the featured poets are living American writers. Marvin Bell was Iowa's first ever poet laureate and Kay Ryan was the sixteenth poet laureate of the United States.  Both have won numerous awards for their poetry.  According to, Bell has received "the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships" and Ryan's awards include the "Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Union League Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, and three Pushcart Prizes."

Though Bell and Ryan will not be present at these events, their writing will be read aloud during an open mic session.  In addition, Andrew Christ will be leading a discussion that aims to further educate audience members about the works of these poets.  At these events, a birthday card is typically passed around and signed by the participants, then mailed to the "birthday" poet.  In the past, these cards have received responses from a few of the honored writers. 

Along with his involvement in the River Junction Poets and its Birthdays of Poets series, Andrew Christ is also the president of the Poetry Society of Michigan and a participant in the Second Monday Workshop, which also meets at Barnes & Noble. It was through the help of this workshop group that Christ revised the poems that are now part of his book Phillip & the Poet, which was published by Mayapple Press in 2008 and reviewed here at 360 Main Street.

Further information about Birthdays of Poets can be found at  In addition to information about the events at Barnes & Noble and La Belle Epoque, Christ also posts writings by and biographical information about poets that are not featured at the readings.

© Dion Mindykowski, 2009