Literature 6-4-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Jen March

What Light, sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, publishes a new poem by a Minnesota poet every week. They are chosen by juries every three months. Watch for calls for poems on the site, and get our anthology, "What Light," at Magers and Quinn.

Jen March
joyce sutphen

after sparrow

tiny, yellow-headed
you’ve fallen on cement,
cold heart of the hard world
backdrop to your brightness,

and what does it mean
that i see you
this morning on my way
to work? this cold
september morning
chilled like the day
after halloween,

but you are not gruesome
in your tiny, yellow-headed
death, your feathered shape still
a bright mark on the world,
on this morning.


Jen March is a poet in the MFA program at Hamline University. She is a founding member of the Graduate Liberal Studies student group, West Egg Literati, which sets up readings in the Twin Cities, and publishes rock, paper, scissors, a literary magazine of GLS student work. She was on the editorial board for the 2006 issue of Water~Stone Review, and has interned with Lit 6 Project, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Graywolf Press. She is the recipient of a 2006 Artist’s Grant from Mizna: A Forum for Arab American Art. Her work has appeared in Freshwater and The Northridge Review


As a poet, I am constantly asking questions about life and death. I am concerned with love, loss, and grief, and with the struggle to find reason in living. In Alice Fulton’s essay Of Formal, Free, and Fractal Verse, she talks about creating a form for the poem that is born out of the work itself, and shaped in part by certain repeated words or images. I think about this when considering how my poem will sit on the page as a reflection of living—what pattern exists in uncertainty; what dichotomy creates the whole?

The Juror: Joyce Sutphen

Joyce Sutphen was the juror who chose this work of Jen March for the contest.

Her first book, Straight Out of View, won the Barnard New Women’s Poets Prize (Beacon Press, 1995). Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000) was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and Naming the Stars (Holy Cow! Press 2004), won a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. She is one of the co-editors of To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from the Territorial Days to the Present (Fall 2006, New Rivers Press). Currently she teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.


I like poetry that is tight and lean, that leads me to think things I hadn’t thought before and does that in a clean, unpretentious way; I go to poetry for what I can’t find anywhere else—it’s hard to say what that is, but I always know it when I see it (or hear it). For years now I’ve been memorizing poems I especially like, ones that sound good and can keep me company.