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Poet Kevin FitzPatrick, founder/editor of Lake Street Review, dies at 71

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Poet Kevin FitzPatrick, founder/editor of Lake Street Review, dies at 71

Kevin FitzPatrick, a poet who touched many lives as founder/editor of the Lake Street Review, died peacefully Tuesday, Sept. 21, surrounded by family at Little Hospice in Minneapolis, according to his sister, Colleen FitzPatrick.

Poet Kevin FitzPatrick, who founded Lake Street Review, died Sept. 21, 2021, at age 71. (Photo courtesy Colleen FitzPatrick)

A St. Paul native who wrote about working people and everyday life in the Twin Cities, FitzPatrick was 71 and had been battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

FitzPatrick was the quiet one in an Irish American family of eight children, according to his sister.

“How he survived in our large, loud family is amazing,” she wrote in an email announcing his death. “He would disappear from family gatherings and someone would say, ‘Uh oh, Kevin’s gone.’ We knew he was somewhere writing a poem about something that just happened. We were all hoping it was about the other sibling.”

FitzPatrick attended St. Thomas Academy and held an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s from the University of St. Thomas. He worked as a Disability Program Specialist with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and a claims examiner for the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training.

Poetry was part of FitzPatrick’s life as far back as high school. His three well-reviewed collections were “Down on the Corner” (1987), “Rush Hour” (1997), and “Still Living in Town” (2017). All were published by Midwest Villages & Voices, the press started by poet, writer and activist Meridel LeSueur and her daughter, Rachel Tilsen.

LeSueur said of FitzPatrick’s poetry in general, “He’s a wonderful chronicler of the people’s journey.” John Daniel, writing in North Stone Review, said the “Rush Hour” collection “captures the seedy, downtown life of Minnesota’s slush and snowbanked sidewalks.”

“The power of Kevin’s poetry flowed from his person and from his place,” his sister wrote. “Kevin wrote poetry as he lived — true to his core self and, more broadly, true to his heartland roots — direct, unadorned and with a solid sense of place.”

FitzPatrick, whose poems were widely anthologized, also taught writing and poetry classes and mentored new writers and poets.

A member of the Lake Street Writers Group, FitzPatrick founded and edited the Lake Street Review, receiving submissions from around the world. When the Review ceased publication in 1990 after 15 years, FitzPatrick recalled in a Pioneer Press interview that he and five friends ran 500 copies of the first edition on a stencil machine and collated it around a dining room table. “We wanted to publish things that were readable, accessible, and about our lives,” he said.

Colleen FitzPatrick talks about how her brother “unfailingly seemed true to his core self. He observed, reflected, and then acted. His intelligence boiled things down to their essence. He was a soft-spoken person of few words, but they were the right words and meant.”

Besides writing poetry, FitzPatrick did some boxing and was heavily into martial arts. For a while, he taught a self-defense class where one of his students was Tina Blomer, who became his life partner.

In FitzPatricks’ honor, his family has established the Kevin J. FitzPatrick Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing at the University of St. Thomas that will assist students majoring in creative writing. Information is at: give.stthomas.edu/give/memorials/patt/.

A celebration of FitzPatrick’s life is planned for next spring.

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