Literature 10-5-2009

mnLIT presents: Mary Butler Harpin

This week, read Mary Butler Harpin's What Light-winning poem, "We Walked Five Villages," selected for this year's mnLIT series by poet Deborah Keenan.

mnLIT: What Light Poetry Project and the miniStories flash fiction competition
What Light winner, Mary Butler Harpin

We Walked Five Villages

In Riomaggiore we ate ice cream sweetened

with fruit from a cactus.

In Manarola our bed was

a large yellow rose.

In Corniglia I said come here,

and kiss me like this.

In Vernazza we found a crumbling church,

lit candles for private prayers.

In Monterosso al Mare you picked a red fruit

from a cactus with yellow flowers.

On the train I tweezed prickles

from your lips and tongue.

You plucked the same from me.

So hair-like, so soft, they tasted like nothing.

But how sharp they were —

how impossible to remove.


Juror comments: Poet Deborah Keenan, about her selection of Harpin’s poem for mnLIT: “This poem for its beautiful understanding of how to condense and amplify, all at the same time. This poem for its understanding of lovers, and the ways we lose each other, and for its sharp, surprising images.”

About her poetry, Mary Butler Harpin says: “As much as I’d like to think of poems as a collage of artistic words and phrases, I tend to work with them as containers of stories. Each poem has a story of some kind, and I view it as my job to give the reader enough to trigger their own imagination, to leave room for interpretation, for wondering. Our stories, and the story of every being and object, leaves an imprint-sends sound into the atmosphere, leaves behind waves of energy, impacts the location, the environment. I try to capture the impact of existence on our landscape, and the impact of our landscape on us.” 

About the poet: Mary Butler Harpin’s work has appeared in Prairie Poetry, Dos Passos Review and the Minneapolis Quarterly Review. She is a freelance writer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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