Literature 11-17-2010

mnLIT presents: 2010 What Light grand prize-winner, Connie Wanek

Read "Polygamy," Connie Wanek's 2010 mnLIT grand prize-winning poem for this year's competition, originally selected by juror Sunshine Glenstone. Stay tuned: A newly commissioned poem by Wanek will be published on next month.



Some men don’t hate marriage,

or slavery for that matter.

Nor can they ever own enough land.

When I was a girl back on the farm

I surprised a wild tomcat in the hayloft.

He was eating a kitten,

its eyes still shut tight

like apple buds.  The shutter clicked

as he looked at me, his expression fixed.

I still think he knew what he was doing, 

though not why,

which makes him almost human,

or makes us almost feline.

I could hear the other kittens 

mewing softly 

somewhere in the hay, 

deep in the hidden nest

established by our barn cat

when she felt them coming.

How many did he take, I wondered,

and how can I punish him?


About her piece, juror Sunshine Glenstone writes: “The ‘cruelty,’ or predatory aspect of nature, the interplay of human and animal motivations and desires, the determined character of the young female narrator, combine to give the reader a glimpse into what may be a first attempt by the speaker to set things right in the world of animal relationships.  The evocative poem ends with a question hinting at the speaker’s realization that the matter before her is full of unknowns and impossibilities. All of this is achieved with debatable declarations about men, a philosophical statement, and a rather unforgettable image of a kitten.”


About the poet: Connie Wanek lives in Duluth, Minnesota.  Her latest book, released in January, 2010, is On Speaking Terms from Copper Canyon Press.  She was named a Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress by US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. 

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Connie Wanek

I have been writing poetry, mostly, all my life.  Recently I published a small book of prose called Summer Cars.  My three books of poems are Bonfire, Hartley Field, and On Speaking Terms, and in the fall of 2015 I’m going to have a new collection: Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems, from the University of Nebraska Press.  Anyone interested can find out more at my website: Thanks! …   read more