Mineral Point Poetry Series, no. 1 • Release Date: December 14, 2015

Print ISBN: 978-1-942083-10-8 • Ebook ISBN: 978-1-942083-11-5

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


"[The] language is so seductive..."

—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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.


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.

AN EXCERPT from Tanka & Me: Poems by Kaethe Schwehn

© 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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