I first grew to love Joyce Sutphen's poetry when we read her book Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000) in grad school in Richard Robbins's poetry workshop at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. On the plane returning from the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2005, Joyce sat across the aisle from me. I introduced myself, we chatted, and I told her I'd written an explication of one of her poems for class. Later, I emailed it to her, and she was delighted to read my take on her poem. In 2004, she won the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry for Naming the Stars.
American Life in Poetry: Column 293
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
It’s a rare occasion when I find dozens of poems by just one poet that I’d like to share with you, but Joyce Sutphen, who lives in Minnesota, is someone who writes that well, with that kind of appeal. Here is just one example. How many of us have marveled at how well our parents have succeeded at a long marriage?
It is mid-October. The trees are in
their autumnal glory (red, yellow-green,
orange) outside the classroom where student
stake the mid-term, sniffling softly as if
identifying lines from Blake or Keats
was such sweet sorrow, summoned up in words
they never saw before. I am thinking
of my parents, of the six decades they’ve
been together, of the thirty thousand
meals they’ve eaten in the kitchen, of the
more than twenty thousand nights they’ve slept
under the same roof. I am wondering
who could have fashioned the test that would have
predicted this success? Who could have known?
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Joyce Sutphen, whose most recent book of poetry is First Words, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Joyce Sutphen. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.