Literature 10-8-2010

mnLIT presents: Susan Stevens Chambers

What Light finalist Susan Stevens Chambers' poem, "Personal Response to Last Week's Letter to the Editor," was selected by Todd Boss for the 2010 mnLIT competition cycle. PLUS: The second mnLIT winners' reading is October 18 at the Red Stag!


Personal Response to Last Week’s Letter to the Editor

Who are you to tell me of soft babies,

all rolls and smiles,

only waiting to be born…

when I have ached a thousand minutes,

stared at the lopsided moon,

listened in dark heat to my man

say “no more” in quiet sorrow:

when I have sweat through days

kneading a rigid checkbook,

pounding a little creative yeast into it,

when I must, every morning,

return to those two I call mine,

who–all rolls and smiles themselves–

cradled safe in my arms until past heaviness,

then wrapped skinny limbs around me:

when I would, for these bright stars,

give up meals,

throw myself in front of trucks,

tear out my hair,

my eyes,


when I would even

wrench out this

small dream

we tried so hard to avoid

which slipped,

errant seed,

between the patched cracks of my very foundation?


About her piece, What Light juror Todd Boss writes: “I like this poem because as I read it, I get a sense of urgency from it. It’s visceral and dangerous and scarred and fierce. I also love that the speaker is, in a moment, ambivalent herself about her ‘small dream’ … This is a poem that learned something in the writing of it. Which, of course, is why we write poetry in the first place.” 


About the poet: Susan Stevens Chambers has had family law practice for over 30 years, and now concentrates on mediation and poetry.  Among her literary publications are some unusual venues: Minneapolis Regional News; UU Minister’s Publication; Minn. Law and Politics Magazine; Family Law Forum — a magazine for divorce attorneys; The Legal Studies Forum “Off the Record, an Anthology of Poetry by Lawyers.” She is in numerous anthologies including County Lines, Encore, Midwest Review, The Moccasin.  She has won the NFSPS Annual Contest Grand Prize ($1,500 and $1,000 respectively) on two separate occasions. She does poetry in schools in Minnesota, Texas, Utah and Iowa; and has presented poetry, copyright and publishing contract speeches in Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Utah, Florida, South Dakota and Wisconsin.  She doesn’t do so badly at poetry slams either, even if she is an old lady.


About the juror: Todd Boss is the author of the prize-winning poetry collection, Yellowrocket (W. W. Norton, 2008). Read and hear his poems at

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