Tanka & Me

Kaethe Schwehn


Tanka and Me cover

Mineral Point Poetry Series, no. 1

Release Date: December 14, 2015

Length: 58 pp., with interior illustration and a foreword by series editor Kiki Petrosino

Print ISBN: 978-1-942083-10-8

PDF ISBN: 978-1-942083-12-2

EPUB ISBN: 978-1-942083-11-5

Kindle ISBN: 978-1-942083-13-9

Brain Mill Press offers Tanka & Me for direct sale in ebook and in a limited fine first edition printing of signed, numbered paperbacks.

Ebook buyers receive access to MOBI (Kindle), EPUB, and PDF files, offered without DRM restrictions. Print book buyers receive a physical copy of the book as well as access to the ebook files in all formats.

As with the best writing, I found myself simultaneously devastated and soothed, satiated and hungry for more.

—Susanna Childress, author of Entering the House of Awe

Meet Tanka, the girlish/ghoulish spirit at the heart of Kaethe Schwehn’s marvelous Tanka and Me. She’s ‘all ears and a liver,’ knows extraordinary things, has a boyfriend named Briar and poignant adventures in grief, but her penchant for detail, at once hilarious and harrowing, is all Kaethe Schwehn.

—Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of Y

A 2016 Minnesota Book Award Nominee

Tanka & Me is a visceral, pleading, and fierce collection of poems, underpinned with thudding vessels and satisfying wreckage. Kaethe Schwehn externalizes the overlooked power of women into a multidimensional character who hunts both the speaker and the reader. Our wild Tanka engages down deep with role-play, sex, prayer, and refusal until we can’t look away or stay quiet. These are love poems, but they love with claws and whiskey, bolt cutters and saws. You can love someone for a long time without knowing how, our speaker realizes, and Tanka prowls and preens and breaks us down until we know how to love ourselves, how to know ourselves, how to free ourselves. Tanka & Me is feminist poetry with muscle, bones, and heart.

About the Author

Kaethe Schwehn

Kaethe Schwehn‘s first book, Tailings: A Memoir, won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction. Her poetry and prose have appeared in journals such as jubilat, Crazyhorse, New Orleans Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Word for /Word. Schwehn has been the recipient of a Minnesota Arts Board grant, a Loft Mentor Series Award, and the Donald Justice Poetry Award. She currently teaches creative writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

About the Art

"Timeout Chair" by Leann McDaniel

Tanka & Me features a photograph titled “Timeout Chair” by Leann McDaniel. The editors selected this image of a female figure posing in a ruined interior to represent the Tanka figure in Schwehn’s poetry — a female force of power, beauty, birth, and destruction.

About the Photographer

Leann McDanielLeann McDaniel is a creative hobby photographer from central Wisconsin. She enjoys taking long drives on back roads discovering abandoned houses and capturing the beauty they offer. This picture was a collaboration between model Samantha Novak, stylist and concept designer Miranda Steingraber, and the photographer. This picture was a part of a set of images of a ghost girl who was revisiting her last moments alive.

About the Cover Design

Stray King Design interpreted McDaniel’s image to create a signature look for the Mineral Point Poetry series, with color that carries into the interior of the fine first edition print book and the ebook.

The Fine First Edition

Keyhole illustrationThe fine first edition of Tanka & Me was produced on 80# matte paper stock in a 5.5 x 8.5″ trim size. Each copy in this 100-copy limited edition is signed by the author and numbered. The edition features Leann McDaniel’s cover photograph, an illustrated interior motif by Ann O’Connell, and interior color pages.

Along with the fine first edition, those who preorder Tanka & Me also receive an 8 x 10″ a letterpress print by Kristin Joiner of 622 Press. The two-color print features lines from the poem “Me & Tanka,” which is included in Schwehn’s collection, as well as O’Connell’s keyhole motif, which illustrates the chapbook interior.

bonus art gift tableau
Photograph courtesy Laurels & Stars Photography.

About the Illustrator

Ann O'ConnellAnn O’Connell is a Colorado-based illustrator specializing in realistic-looking artwork. She works primarily in colored pencil, watercolor, ink, and graphite. She is currently pursuing a certificate in botanical illustration from the Denver Botanic Gardens School of Botanical Illustration. In her spare time, she recovers from her former career as an attorney and enjoys all that living in Colorado has to offer. You can view some of her work at www.orangeoakart.com.


About the Printmaker

Kristin JoinerKristin Joiner first discovered letterpress in college and acquired her own press — an 1882 Pearl Old Style she calls Bess — on Craigslist six years ago. She produces limited-edition prints, greeting cards, invitations, and other custom work on 100% recycled cotton paper with oil-based inks and vintage wood and lead type. Formerly operating in Madison, Wisconsin, Kristin recently chose love and relocated to Bermuda with her boyfriend. You can find her work at 622press.com and on Etsy at 622press.etsy.com.


“Me and Tanka”

from Tanka & Me by Kaethe Schwehn

(c) Kaethe Schwehn, 2015. All rights reserved.


Tanka, I say over lemonade, I brought you to life.

Please try to show some respect.


Tanka sticks out her tongue and then

holds it between her fingers.

I was born on a pirate ship, she repeats

again and again and again.


It is late afternoon.

The seashell mobile twirls above us on the porch.

Tanka has had three glasses of lemonade already.

I do not want her to have any more.

I do not know how to say no.


You have small tits, says Tanka,

let’s play Twister.

No Tanka, I say, I’m tired.


You’re dull, you mean, says Tanka.

I’m full of vixen tricks, she says.

Fine, I say.


I pull the stuffing out of cobras.

Good for you.


I paint cacti on teacups. I’m the muse

of brigadiers. I fashion a slug with a little mortarboard.

In his eye I sprig the gleam of triumph

or Rousseau.

I know, I say.


You’re dull, she says, you can’t even

cross your eyes correctly. Your relationships last

five months because you turn so USUAL.

In your Secret Garden

you grow carrots and plastic wrap.

You like Lean Cuisine dinners.

You don’t have fancy shoes.

You hum poorly. And you’re dull.

I know, I say.


Then how did you make me? she says.

Grace, I say.


Oh, she says. I don’t feel much grace inside me.

Me neither, I say.


I start to cry a little.

I didn’t see the sadness coming

and that makes me cry harder.


Tanka is quiet then.

We breathe.

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