“He took a vow of poetry,” someone once said of Eric Lorberer ’86. Longtime editor of the award-winning Minneapolis book review, Rain Taxi, Lorberer fell in love with poems at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, DE, where his teachers not only introduced him to the likes of Muriel Rukeyser, Denise Levertov, Richard Brautigan, Allen Ginsberg and a then little-known Louise Glück, but actually invited him and his fellow students into their homes to work on their own poems.
“I entered high school as a science and math kid and suddenly I couldn’t get enough of reading and trying to write poems,” he says. “It made all the difference to know that people cared enough about writing to take the conversation about it out of the classroom.”
With its vibrant literary life, Washington College felt like the obvious place to continue that conversation. “I grew up in the New York area and wanted to stay in the region and be someplace where the literary arts were valued,” he says. At WC, he edited the Broadsides poetry series, which, he says, “was a ton of fun and gave me a great passion for the nuances of publishing.”
When the College’s literary magazine was suspended for lack of funds, Lorberer and his friends made their own and called it The Blue Chesapeake. He was involved in drama. (“That was a lot of fun.”) And he served as arts editor for The Elm. “So I was pretty well-rounded, but the important thing was being immersed in a culture that really values words.”
In graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing, Lorberer met his partner, Kelly Everding, who was working on her M.F.A. in poetry.
The couple’s continuing quest for immersion in a literary culture led them first to Baltimore, where they tried to open a bookstore—a project whose failure Lorberer counts as a piece of good luck because it occurred “shortly before Barnes & Noble took over the landscape.” Moving to Minneapolis “may have been a bit arbitrary, but we’d always heard that it was a culturally vibrant place, and it turned out better than we ever dreamed —the arts are hugely supported out here.”
Lorberer started writing for Rain Taxi, then a brand new book review launched by Randall Heath and Carolyn Kuebler, and they invited him to help run it. The dream was to spread the word about good books that would likely not be reviewed by the mainstream (and rapidly shrinking) media. When Heath and Kuebler left to do other things, Lorberer and Everding took over. Circulation grew from 1,000 to 18,000—Rain Taxi’s reach is international—and they have managed to support their efforts through subscriptions and sales, donations and grants. They publish a chapbook series and host a wide range of literary events, including the annual Twin Cities Book Festival. In 2000, they won the Alternative Press Award for Best Arts and Literature Coverage. The magazine is now 17 years old.
Lorberer will be returning to campus Saturday, June 1, at 2 p.m. to read his poems at the Rose O’Neill Literary House as part of Alumni Weekend. His advice to students is this: “Write like crazy, write your heart out. Read like crazy and, for God’s sake, don’t worry so much about getting published. I think the anxiety of getting published really destroys some people. For students, especially, there will be time later. When you’re at a great place like WC, just soak in as much as you can, be as active as you can and the rest will come.”
To read back issues of Rain Taxi, visit www.raintaxi.com. To read one of Eric’s poems, see his profile at http://www.washcoll.edu/alumni/.
By Joan Smith Cramer