Literature 5-28-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Patricia Kirkpatrick

Come hear many of the winning poets for yourself, June 1 at Magers and Quinn from 5-7 pm. This week's winner, "Near Odessa" by Patricia Kirkpatrick, was selected by Katrina Vandenberg.



Near the end of summer.
Wheatfield with lark. With swift,
longspur, and sparrow. I see the birds
opening tails and wings
above grasses
and hidden nests.
Soybeans with bells, yellowing, green
tassels of corn,
geese again and again.
I see the birds
but hardly hear them.
Wind takes all the sound.
Small towns are reduced to chains or storefronts,
Almost to the river called a lake, grey stones of water,
dammed, white-capped, hinge
between states.
Some fields are so gold they seem to be singing.
The gold fields lie down, flat but not empty,
and will be harvested later with blades.
Near Odessa
I come to a place where the end is beginning.
Where the light is absolute as it rises.


I’m a lyric poet: we want to sing! and show the whole story in one moment. So birds, landscape, and ‘the highly charged lyrical phrase,’ spliced with colloquial language, meet the inner life of dream and feeling. But the inner life takes place in an outer world where one civilization overtakes another, where ‘progress’ fractures landscapes, ways of life, and poetry too, although my poems aren’t particularly fractured compared to many being written now. This poem is from a series of “Odessa” poems which explores western Minnesota.


Patricia Kirkpatrick received a 2006 McKnight Fellowship Loft Award in Poetry. She has published a book of poetry, Century’s Road, a chapbook, Orioles, and several books for young readers. She is Poetry Editor for Water-Stone Review and teaches in the MFA program at Hamline University.