Between the Lines: A Century of UP Writing

Aug 11, 2017

Upper Peninsula woodland scene
Credit Zinta Aistars

Most Michigan residents do the same thing when someone asks where in the state we live: we hold up a hand and point to a spot on the "mitten." But how many of us hold up two hands, the second one sideways to show where Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is? Not many. That’s just one thing that irritates U.P. native Ron Riekki. The other is the lack of attention that Upper Peninsula writers receive – so much so that he is compiling four anthologies of U.P. writing. And Here (Michigan State University Press, 2017) is the third in the series.


And Here includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with Upper Peninsula roots written from 1917 to 2017. Riekki's other anthologies include The Way North, a collection of new and never before published U.P. writing that won the Michigan Notable Book Award in 2014. There's also Here, which features writing by U.P. women from the early 1800's to today.

Riekki says his latest book shows shifts in the writing from and about the Upper Peninsula.

“After 1917, you get the post-war movement, whereas in the 1920's, there is an explosion of U.P. writing. Another critical year is 1957, when the Mackinac Bridge was built. There’s a real distinct difference in writing from lower and upper Michigan. It has different thematic focuses, and there’s a lot of indigenous writing, and indigenous heritage. And it’s very working class and outdoor oriented."

Credit Michigan State University Press

Riekki says U.P. writing has a strong emphasis on nature and the environment.

“You’ll find that environmental writing is a consistent theme. We have writers who are very outspoken activists about their climate change concerns. I’m very happy about how many U.P. writers we have who write about significant subjects.”

And Here includes writing of every decade from the early 1900's to today. It starts with “The Blue Duck: A Chippewa Medicine Dance," by Lew R. Sarett, who wrote under the pen mane Lone Caribou. The anthology ends with Margaret Noodin’s “Babejianjisemigad” and Sally Brunk’s “KBIC.” Riekki says he wanted the book to emphasize writing by Native Americans in the U.P.

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