Pelican grad founded publishing company specializing in poetry, hand-crafted, old-fashioned printing on vintage equipment
Quietly, diligently and largely unbeknownst to those from his youthful roots in Pelican Rapids, Scott King traveled an unusual path—which ended with his death April 2, at age 56.
He was a Pelican Rapids Viking wrestler; and an engineer, after college and early in his career.
But Scott King turned toward the literary world, and became well known in the Twin Cities as publisher of “Red Dragonfly Press,” printing poetry books the old fashion way. Using vintage typesetting and printing equipment, King printed all the pages, essentially by hand with old “technology” letterpress; and binding them—by hand—with needle and thread.
Throughout, he was a naturalist photographer, and the author of several books on insects. Among his literary influences, not surprisingly, Henry David Thoreau of “Walden Pond” fame.
King’s Red Dragonfly Press is likely unknown to most of his old Pelican area contacts. But, both he and his handcrafted poetry books were well-known in the Metro
Area art and literary world.
Following is brief online summary of the operation:
“Red Dragonfly Press is a small, literary non-profit, that has been publishing modern poetry and poetry in translation for twenty years. While the press has published a diverse array of books, having worked with upwards of one hundred authors and translators, promoting poetry that is engaged with rural, environmental, and political issues remains the prime editorial goal. Red Dragonfly Press books are designed and produced with care, keeping in mind the craft and art of fine printing and elegant typography.”
To top it off, King was a poet himself—and a translator of Greek and a “Do It Yourself” home renovator. He and his wife Lisa lived in Northfield, where they raised their daughter Lida—who King honored in two volumes of his own poetry.
Many Pelican Rapids connections and classmates had no idea of King’s artistic and literary enterprises.
“He was a quiet guy, but I remember him as very smart and a serious student,” said Cary Haugrud, who gradated a couple years after King. “He was a good wrestler, and hard working.”
Wrestling Coach Harold Holt recalls King as one of his early wrestlers, after becoming head coach of the Pelican team in the early 1980s. In addition to wrestling, King was on the Pelican football team.
King graduated from Pelican in 1983.
King and wife Lisa met while he was earning degrees in chemical and environmental engineering, on a volleyball court. His short poem “Marriage” summed up their relationship: “A husband and a wife. No, it’s more than that. And even more.”
Foremost, said those close to King, he was a devoted husband and father.
Family members in Pelican recall “adventures” with Mark along the sloughs, the local lakes and Maplewood State Park; as well as trapping—and different genres of music. He mastered outdoor skills such as tree, plant, insect, reptile and animal track identification; fishing and fly tying; tapping maple trees; the nuances of trapping gophers, muskrats and beavers; and ice shift variables. From his mother—culinary skills and a spirit of giving and charity.
Red Dragonfly Press was honored by the Star Tribune as a “Best of Minnesota” and King’s artful books became “collector’s items, and the envy of all us poets who wanted to be published by him,” said longtime friend Thomas Smith. King’s death garnered a detailed article by Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Rachel Hutton.
Another prolific Red Dragonfly poet and friend, James Lenfestey, called King “the rare combination of technical genius and poetic soul,” reported Hutton in the Star Trib article.
Friends described King as more an observer than talker; and as a consummate craftsman who was generous, ego-free and easy to work with. He was a brilliant mind and voracious reader, who was constantly learning and exploring. Friends said he excelled in whatever his many interests directed him toward.
He maintained a blog called “Of Books and Bugs” and collected a year’s worth of daily naturalist journal entries into a book, “Following the Earth Around.” His “Flower Flies of Minnesota” is forthcoming from Pollination Press.
In addition to his wife and daughter Lida King, King is survived by his father Robert King (Cheryl), retired Pelican Rapids teacher and founder of the Pelican wrestling program— in which the late Scott participated. His sister Sheri Meester (Marlo), is a teacher at the Pelican elementary school. Also surviving, his brother Mark King (Ann).
King was a naturalist and an enthusiastic student of many things including poetry, publishing, translating, insects, nature writing, volleyball, math, science, tai chi, and more.
In fitting fashion, donations in Scott King’s memory were requested to the Minnesota Dragonfly Society or the Cowling Arboretum at Carleton.