Sharon Chmielarz Biography

Sharon Chmielarz's poems are published in several literary magazines including The Laurel Review, The Iowa Review, Water~Stone, Kalliope, Ascent, Margie, The Hudson Review, Commonweal, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, The Seneca Review, Louisiana Literature and many others. She’s had three children’s picture books published and travel memoirs anthologized in The House on Via Gombito, Talking of Hands, and Inn Near Kyoto. She’s received a Jerome Foundation Fellowship, MN State Arts Board and Region 2 grants. Sharon is the recipient of the 2012 Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize from Water~Stone Review. Calling was awarded first runner-up in the Indie Book Awards, 2011. A finalist in the National Poetry Series, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in ’99, ’01, ’02, ’05, ’07, ’10, and ’13. She’s been featured on “American Life in Poetry” and translated into French and Polish. The Rhubarb King won a Merit Award from the 2007 Midwest Independent Publishers Association. She’s served as readings coordinator for SASE at the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts; she has read in several venues in the Twin Cities, Duluth, New York, Toronto, Tucson, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and North Carolina. The Other Mozart has been made into a two-part opera. Her latest books are Love from the Yellowstone Trail (2013) and Visibility: Ten Miles, a Prairie Memoir in Photography and Poetry (2015).

More about Sharon

I was born in Mobridge, South Dakota, and raised at 306 6th Avenue West, a block and a half south of Highway 12. “12” led in and out of town, east to my future, west to my past. When I was ten, I didn’t know that. 6th Avenue, the boulevard of four elms, was one of my stomping grounds–the Cains’ yard– Alvie’s fish pond, Cassie’s grape arbor aka sedan chair, lovers’ bower or train; Manuel’s house, a new kid who was handsome and liked horses and moved away with his family all to soon; the Powell’s two-story rickety house with a great barn to play in though you had to watch out for lice. 

In August our garden’s just-picked tomatoes sold like hot-cakes in the trailer court on the east side of 6th Avenue. Knock on the trailer door, show your wares. How much? Six for two bits. An easy sell. My mother, a canner, was glad to get rid of the surplus.

The court was run by Mrs. Richter who allegedly sold liquor under the counter to the Indians. Illegal. But on Mondays if there were any Sunday Aberdeen papers left she might give one away; inside the bundle a rich lode of comic strips, the “funnies,” waited to be read. 

Drive four hundred miles east on Highway 12, you wind up in Minneapolis. A straight shot by train, too, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific. In the city Highway 12 was called Washington Avenue. The railroad station was also on Washington. Board the train at midnight in Mobridge and arrive around six in the morning. Cross Washington Ave. to catch the bus, and in no time you’d arrived at the University of Minnesota’s Comstock Hall. 

That was the route I took to get where I am, nine books of poetry and many years of teaching later. You can read about my books’ contents in this website’s “Books” section.
Sharon Chmielarz
Sharon Chmielarz
Interview by Brian Thao Worra,
Twin Cities Daily Planet
interview with Robert Russell, for
South Dakota Germans from Russia
Oral History Project,
Northern State University,
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Our house on 6th Avenue
Website copyright 2010- Sharon Chmielarz. All rights reserved. Photos, poetry, and text on this website may not be re-used electronically or in print without permission.