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