Minnesota

In 2007, Minnesota established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Joyce Sutphen. Sutphen is the author of Modern Love & Other Myths (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015).

In 2006, Carol Connolly was named poet laureate of St. Paul, Minnesota. Connolly will serve a twelve-year term.

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Minnesota poet laureaute
Joyce Sutphen

Joyce Sutphen is the author of Modern Love & Other Myths (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015), After Words (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013), and First Words (Red Dragonfly Press, 2010), among others. She teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and lives in Chaska, Minnesota.

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Let Me Disappear

According to scientists, astronauts get taller when they are in space and in Albania, nodding your head means "no" and shaking your head means "yes." This says I am going to disappear and become a parrot, sitting on my perch in some strange woman's living room, ready to imitate everything she has to say to her illicit lover over the phone. Maybe I won't have to speak in the shrill voice of parrots, but simply nod and shake my head, getting it right, unlike the Albanians. St. Paul, Minnesota was originally called Pig's Eye after a man named Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant who set up the first business there in the mid-nineteenth century. Well, let me disappear because I live about twelve miles south of St. Paul's southern city limits and have seen the eyes of pigs quite often. Minnesota is full of them. The last one I saw was tailgating me and almost ran me off the road. Before I could switch lanes, he swerved around me and shot away. About four blocks later, he was pulled over by a cop and given a ticket. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's mother's maiden name was "Moon." That sentence is hard to say. Of course, Buzz was the second man to step onto the moon in 1969. The first was Neil Armstrong, but he had no moons in his family, so he pleaded to Buzz on his knees, "Please, let me go second. Let me go second and every moon lover will love you forever, instead of me." This happened inside the capsule on its way down to the moon. Buzz thought, "Let me disappear," but it was too late. They hit the surface and history was on its way. I don't have a clue what this has to do with me because the only moon in my life rose over the desert skies for the first twenty-five years of my life, until I disappeared. It is why I insist on a dark, moonless night when it is the best time for all men to go away, inspect their dreams, and maybe come back taller, wiser, and able to know the difference between yes and no.

Another Epistle to Frank O'Hara

On the Forty-Ninth Birthday of "The Day Lady Died"
It is 3:00 in the torpid New South, three days past Bastille Day & yes
        this is the form you fashioned,
isn't it? Exact & fast & haunted as the opening chords of "Sweet Jane"
        (Mott the Hoople version),
which pulses from the minivan as I drive from shrink to soccer camp, shirtpocket
        staining my new Rx with sweat,

the bank thermometer flashing 103, the day's new record. We still
        use Fahrenheit, Frank
(if I may call you Frank). I might add that we are in deep shit,
        icecaps turning slush,
a gallon of regular more pricey than an opera ticket, not to mention
        a pair of wars, one of which

just killed a reservist—the husband of my son's kindergarten teacher.
        IED, it's called: your body parts
sail for blocks. How do you explain this to a six-year-old, Frank?
        Gauloises & Strega & your endless
namechecks seem beside the point; even the willowy & ravished
        junkie whisper of late

Lady Day cannot console. They have confiscated our cabaret licenses
        & men in camouflage turn men
in orange jumpsuits into whimpering fetal balls. Head slap, stress position,
        waterboard. Explain this
to a six-year-old. Today in the shrink-office Time, an obit for
        your long-lived buddy

Robert Rauschenberg—the trick is not to impose order but to make
        the most of chaos.
Uh huh. The Odyssey's—yes that's the name, Odyssey Espresso—unwieldy
        as a subway car & I'm running
yellow lights to make it on time to the Y, where Jake will stand
        by the potted doorway marigolds,

backpack, NASA baseball cap, his new black soccer cleats
        in hand. Then together
it's hardware store & CVS: ant killer, a/c filters, orange tabs
        to twist the dials of serotonin,
a goofy card for Noelle's fiftieth. Also her grocery list: milk, dinner,
        eggs, cheap pinot noir & a cheaper

(please, David) chardonnay this time. My skills at self-portratiure,
        we can both agree,
are limited. At two a.m. most nights I wake in terror. I pray
        to your good spirit, Frank,
that I be worthy of this life, longer than yours already by a decade
        & a half. & I am back

in a Minnesota dorm room, eighteen, snow occluding Fourth Street,
        colder than today by
one hundred degrees, & spellbound I page your big new phonebook-sized
        Collected, the "suppressed"
Larry Rivers cover, where naked you stand, posing Rodin-ishly.
        (Where is it now? Tattered

& worth a dozen tanks of premium.) & it's grace to be born
        & to live as variously as possible.
Grace o soccer cleat, Xanax, Odyssey, grace o standin-on-the-corner
        -suitcase-in-my-hand,
o seasons, o castles, o elegant & gracious & bedazzling Noelle,
        who waiteth for me to uncork

Rex Goliath. Grace o box set Billie Holiday: The Final Sessions,
        orchid ashimmer in her lacquered hair.
& Congressional hearings—Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo: let's start
        the war crimes tril now. Grace o milk,
dinner, eggs, o Chamber of the Felines at Lascaux, o my damaged
        life mask of Keats on the wall,

who now, poor bloke, looks trepanned. Grace o Microsoft Word
        (fucked up as it is), Grace
o songs of Junior Parker, Robyn Hitchcock, Grant McLennan. & wise
        George Oppen—
did you know him, Frank?—writing thusly in his Daybook:
        you men may wish

to write poetry. At 55, my desires are more specific.

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal

 

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise