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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Poem(s) of the Week: Joyce Sutphen

Updated: May 12, 2022

One for poetry itself and one for spring today as we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month at the library. Both of this week's poems come from Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen. Sutphen grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and her poetry is permeated by a strong sense of place (rooted in both people and land). As I read through Sutphen's thin volumes of her poetry and her more recent collected work, Carrying Water to the Field, I was struck by how fascinating it is that a person who grows up with such deep interconnectedness with family and nature is then able to extend, as an adult, into other parts of the world and maintain this sense of wonder and meticulous observance, this constant awareness of people and place, that then returns to us in her poetry.

For National Poetry Month, I've chosen to share "Why We Need Poetry" (because we do... emphatically, we do!). Sutphen reflects on some particular poets and experiences of poetry, how the words of spectacular verse carve "a place for us to walk." As Camden becomes abundant with snowdrops and crocuses, and we begin to delight in the coming of blooms and warmer weather, the simple, joyful "Some Glad Morning" feels like a remarkable way to reflect this buoyancy of the spirit. Enjoy!

Why We Need Poetry

How would I know that I loved the Lions

on the steps of the Public Library

if Elizabeth Bishop hadn't called them

"agreeable" and promised they would rise

and pace through the open door up into

the reading rooms? And who would tell me

how to ride along with Death—except,

of course, Emily, who also told me

about Hope, that sturdy little thing with

feathers, singing its heart out in the storm.

When the Colonel swept the ears to the floor

and they were pressed there, listening, who would

have told their story, if not for poetry?

And how could it be the world we turn to

without knowing, unless it is our only

way to say what we feel about living

in the body? How can I learn to stand

and wait without it? Who will compare me

to a summer's day? If not for poetry,

I would not know that small birds sigh, that

butterflies sleep, that fish smile, and that words

are riprap, making a place for us to walk.

- Joyce Sutphen

From Carrying Water to the Field: new and selected poems


Some Glad Morning

One day, something very old

happened again. The green

came back to the branches,

settling like leafy birds

on the highest twigs;

the ground broke open

as dark as coffee beans.

The clouds took up their

positions in the deep stadium

of the sky, gloving the

bright orb of the sun

before they pitched it

over the horizon.

It was as good as ever:

the air was filled

with the scent of lilacs

and cherry blossoms

sounded their long

whistle down the track.

It was some glad morning.

- Joyce Sutphen

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