Literature 4-4-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Joyce Sutphen

Joyce Sutphen of St. Peter is featured as the first poet in this once-a-week yearlong survey of Minnesota’s poets and their work, sponsored by Magers and Quinn Books. Her poem “Harrow” was chosen by poet and juror Cindra Halm.

Joyce Sutphen
Ray Gonzalez
Wang Ping
Cindra Halm


I want to praise
the harrow,
first for its name,
which when I write it,

is like unto what it is,
and that (as I remember)
is a collection of iron points
held together by
a wide and wooden frame.

Nothing about
the harrow is harrowing—
leave that to the mower
or the combine.

The harrow comes
after the disk, which comes
after the plow. The plow
was yesterday; the harrow
is now.

For the harrow rides
over the field, it moves
like a stream over rock,
like rain on the roof.

For when the world
is turned inside
out, the harrow
slips it back into
its skin again.

“What Light” is a juried series of poems that will appear each week on Poet Lightsey Darst is coordinating the series; she asked, for this round, the following people to choose poems from the 130 that were submitted. They chose a dozen poems, which will appear, one per week, for the next 3 months. Another call for entries and another jury will choose another series after that. “What Light” will continue through 2006, and will also feature readings at Magers and Quinn Books and an eventual book by the same title that will feature the selected poems and other works by the series poets.

The initial poem is by Joyce Sutphen of Saint Paul.

Joyce Sutphen’s first book of poetry, Straight Out of View, won the Barnard New Women’s Poets Prize (Beacon Press, 1995). Her second book of poems, Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000), was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and her third book, Naming the Stars (Holy Cow! Press 2004), won the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Poetry and other journals. She holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance drama and teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

The Jurors

Ray Gonzalez is the author of nine books of poetry including Consideration of the Guitar (2005). His other titles from BOA include The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande (2002), a winner of a 2003 Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, Cabato Sentora (1999); and The Heat of Arrivals (1996), a winner of a 1997 PEN/Josephine Miles Book Award. He is the author of two books of nonfiction: Memory Fever (1999), a memoir about growing up in the Southwest, and The Underground Heart (2002), which received the 2003 Carr P. Collins/Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Nonfiction. He is also the author of two books of short stories: The Ghost of John Wayne (2001) and Circling the Tortilla Dragon (2002). His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry and in The Pushcart Prize: Best of Small Presses 2000. He is the editor of twelve anthologies, most recently No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 Poets. He has served as poetry editor of The Bloomsbury Review for twenty-five years and founded LUNA, a poetry journal, in 1998. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature from the Border Regional Library Association in 2003 and is a Full Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Wang Ping was born in China and came to the United States in 1985. Her publications include American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), all from Coffee House Press. She edited and co-translated New Generation: Poetry from China Today (1999), an anthology of Chinese poetry published by Hanging Loose Press. Her most recent book, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000), is from the University of Minnesota Press. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the New York State Council for the Arts for poetry, and the Minnesota State Arts Board for fiction.

Cindra Halm’s poetry chapbook, Inflectional Weather, was published in 2003 by Press of the Taverner. Her poems, prose poems, essays, and book reviews can be found in The Bellingham Review, Say . . ., Paragraph, Rain Taxi, and elsewhere. In 1998, she was one of three winners in Border’s Flash Fiction Contest. She is also an instructor at the Loft Literary Center. She loves rhythm and sound, Lake Superior, and dance in all forms.