Literature 4-23-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Margaret Hasse

"What Light: This Week's Poem," sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Get the new anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn online.

Margaret Hasse


Morning lays long blue strips
of shadow on the frozen lake
as sun threads a white needle
through the trees.
Two red lights that burned
like the eyes of a creature
blink out at dawn
as ice fishermen
abandon their shanties.
A pastel yellow
in the eastern sky
congeals to yolk.
Today yields nothing
spectacular, not like
the afternoon when bandits
in black masks rode
the silver zippers
of their snowmobiles
across the lake’s broad back.
Or the hour at dusk
when a herd of six deer
crossed the darkening plain
through the stubble of reeds
past the messy huts of muskrats
leaving the split cloves
of their hoof prints
heart-shaped in the snow.
Still, in one slow turning
of the earth in one cold
season of the year
when nothing uncommon
happens, a lake – as almost
anything in the open world –
rewards each minute
of close attention to
what will never be seen again.


On a poetic family tree, I believe I grow from a branch made strong by Elizabeth Bishop and Stanley Kunitz who wrote that he admired poems that “ride the beast of an action.”
I want my poems to be welcoming, lyrical, and narrative like the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye and Mark Doty. In To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf wrote: “The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark…” I write to light matches with words, and to play with fire, by which I mean to discover strangeness in the ordinary, and to face the danger and heat of exploring the awesome mystery of life. Effective poems connect people to many layers of thoughts and feelings and make us feel more alive.


Margaret Hasse is completing a 2006-07 Loft-McKnight Fellowship in poetry, an honor that inspired her to make a lot of new work this year and to read and perform poetry as often as she was asked. Her poems are included in two newly published Minnesota poetry anthologies: To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (New Rivers Press) and Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry (Minnesota Historical Society Press).



Margaret Hasse is author of five collections of poems including her latest, Between Us. Hasse is winner of several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, Loft-McKnight Awards, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has an M.A., University of Minnesota, English and creative writing B.A., Stanford University, English and creative writing. …   read more