Minneapolis is chock full of amazing literary events, however one of my favorites doesn’t really stem from the Twin Cities at all: rather, its visit to our area is only one leg of this bookish behemoth. The Literary Death Match is much less violent than it sounds, but is as fun to watch as a schoolyard brawl (supposing you’re an unapologetic individual with a rubberneck and staring problem like mine).
Truthfully, I’ve been to this event exactly once. Last March, the Literary Death Match found its way to the Twin Cities for the third time, with witty and downright hilarious readers such as Barrie Jean Borch and Brad Liening (who was that episode’s gracious winner). It was a mighty fine time. Todd Zuniga, host and co-creator of the event, however, gives that episode a middling grade of B, saying that there are times in London when the stars (astral or cultural) are perfectly aligned to make a LDM night one that will never be forgotten.
Sure, London is a hub for amazing writers, actors and musicians, but I’d argue that London’s LDMs might out-awesome the Twin Cities solely because they have more practice at Death Matching. Zuniga says that there is a Literary Death Match held monthly in London, while it comes to the Twin Cities only a few times a year. However, Zuniga admits that Minneapolis is probably his favorite place to host the event. “I say favorite place in that it’s an unexpected place to be a favorite place,” he says. “Doing it in Minneapolis…it’s just fucking awesome…All the people are so cool. Everybody is so talented. Everybody is so warm. And all the judges get it.” Hear that Minneapolis? Talented writer, video game enthusiast, and host of Literary Death Match, Todd Zuniga, loves you!
How did the Literary Death Match end up in Minneapolis? Because it’s “close to Chicago on a map,” says Todd, jokingly but truthfully. On a long stretch of U.S. tour dates, the LDM crew needed somewhere else to stop. Around that time, local author John Jodzio had just won two Opium Magazine contests in a row, so Zuniga figured he was probably the best person to contact for help in the Twin Cities. I’m sure I’m making it sound easy, but just like that, the Literary Death Match, Twin Cities edition was born. Now, with the help of Minneapolis-based producer Sarah Moeding, LDM has a sustainable, friendly Midwestern stop to call home a few times a year.
One of the most interesting things about the LDM, short of actually being there to witness the excitement of readers reading and judges judging, is how they obtain readers. Not just anyone can throw a hat in the ring, which I assume is because it would take far too much time to curate readers from a list of “writers” and weirdos (the bad kind). To make sure that LDM gets the best, the most up-and-coming, and the likeliest to entertain, participants are sent on behalf, or at the suggestion of literary magazines, publishing houses, and causes, be they rooted in online or brick and mortar settings.
The fourth Twin Cities Literary Death Match, which takes place on June 5 at the Aster Cafe, will feature the following amazing and accomplished local writers: Lightsey Darst, Ethan Rutherford, Jessica Fox-Wilson, and Geoff Herbach. Judging these amazing peeps will be some equally amazing nouns of the aforementioned transitive verb. The panel, focused on rating readers on literary merit, performance and intangibles, will comprise musicians Jeremy Messersmith and Mark Mallman, as well as Colleen Kruse of FM107 fame.
Hosted at the Aster Café, the room fills up with people chanting and yearning to see someone bleed words, so make sure that you show up early—or, if advance tickets are available, buy early!