Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

The River Readings preview of The Carlson-Wee Brothers

Anders Carlson-Wee and his brother Kai Carlson-Wee are two writers invited to Augustana on Tuesday, September 18th at 5 pm for the yearly River Readings event. Among other members of the River Readings Committee, Professor Rebecca Wee invited these brothers. “They write about hard things but there’s something redemptive and universal about poems about pain and struggle,” Wee said. Their readings consist of themes like brotherhood, for example, their poem Dynamite is about violent tendencies between young siblings, which has other layers that delve into brotherhood,” stated Anders. These brothers have been writing for years. For Kai, poetry started in elementary school. “I used to write love poems to girls I had crushes on,” Kai said.
The two brothers recently did a collaboration and produced multiple chapbooks, a small paperback booklet, typically containing poems or fiction, as well as documentary films. When asked what made them decide to work together, Anders responded, “Both of our parents were Lutheran co-pastors at a church when we were growing up. We had a model of collaboration since we were kids because of our parents. Kai and I were really tight when we were young and got into these skating projects. We interacted with the police and the constant negation made us closer as brothers because it was us versus the world. When we both started writing, the collaborative idea was totally natural because we had done it so much already.”
The Carlson-Wee brothers took a trip in 2011 to create a documentary which consisted of hopping high line trains from Minneapolis to Seattle, passing through their hometown Fargo-Moorhead. These trips impacted Kai. “Making films helped me imagine my poems more vividly. There’s only so much you can do with language, especially with words on a page. But when you imagine a soundtrack to a poem, a color scheme, a series of images you want to accompany the words, a whole bunch of new possibilities emerge,” Kai said.
The first time they embarked on this journey, there were many obstacles in the way. “There was bad weather and we got caught and kicked off the train, left abandoned on foot,” Anders stated. Years later, they were able to complete the trip successfully, creating Riding the High Line. Filming on trains was quite the process for these two. “There were limited shots for the artistic process because it was so in the moment. There is a distinct rawness to sound qualities and camera movement because you can’t block out the train noise so you get that raw documentary quality element rooted into the editing and presentation,” Anders said.
When you read or listen to these brother’s poems, do so with an open mind. Poetry is open to interpretation. “I am trying to conjure emotions and thoughts that are hard to articulate but are fairly common. There is an interest in creating something that has multiplicity and has the potential to mean different things to different readers. Everything is subjective to whose listening/reading. It can be exciting to have people respond to your work differently than how you thought,” Anders said.
“…I always try to create a sense of momentum in my work. A feeling that accumulates energy and builds toward a breaking point,” adds Kai. Both brothers are looking forward to this reading. “We’re really stoked to come to Augie,” exclaimed Anders. So bring all your friends and come to the reading! Rebecca Wee says it is the perfect fit for Augustana students. “[The brothers] are both superb poets whose subject matter is likely to be as compelling for our students as it’s been at the other venues and campuses where they’ve read and performed. They have impressive educations and they’re having a lot of well-earned success, but they have taken a lot of risks — physical, emotional, literary, etc., and lived quite unconventional lives. Following your gifts and calling, even if others may not understand or approve of your choices, is completely relevant for college students,” Rebecca said.

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The River Readings preview of The Carlson-Wee Brothers