Literature 8-4-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Connie Wanek

Duluth's Connie Wanek is the author of "First Star," a What Light winning poem selected by poet Patricia Kirkpatrick.


First Star

Never tell anyone what you wished for
that fall evening. Die with that wish as you
lived with it. You grew around it,
like a sapling pruned back to one strong leader
by an amateur. He consulted a book
with drawings: Right. Wrong.
Then he looked up at you.

Each year buried the cut deeper.
Now, another northern summer:
a sunlit stone, windy shadows.
No or yes, or perhaps—
from a distance they all look the same.
What changes is the question.
Every tree knows there are many ways
to enter the sky.


I wrote First Star as a response to a weaving undertaken by Karen-Monson Thompson of Superior, Wisconsin. She works in a historical technique known as “summer and winter weave”. Her image included trees under an evening sky, with Venus high and bright…the “first star” upon which we wish, earnestly and secretly, in autumn. I wanted the poem to be as mysterious and as clear as Venus in the half-dark. That could be what I wished for “that fall evening.”


Connie Wanek is the author of two books of poems: Bonfire (1997) and Hartley Field (2002). She also served as an editor of the anthology, To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (2006), which has won several awards. Her third book of poems, On Speaking Terms, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2009. Ted Kooser named her a 2006 Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

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