Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems

Univ. of Nebraska. Oct. 2019. 240p. ISBN 9781496216366. pap. $19.95. POETRY
Over the years, Minnesota Poet Laureate Sutphen has amassed seven collections of poems, including 2017’s The Green House. This “new and selected” gathers her best of the best into one wonderful volume. Mostly featuring the countryside, rural roads, and the farmer’s daily tasks, these poems often look back to the poet’s youth in the 1960s to celebrate a life that may have been hard but was also gentle and simple. Ultimately, these are poems about coming of age and coming to terms, and they read like conversations with old friends. In addition to the rich imagery, they move to an underlying beat, rhythms affected by the hundreds of classic poems Sutphen memorized as she drove to work at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she is now a professor emerita of English. “I’m thinking of ink,/ letters fading,/ and words that are fragile./ They begin to fly as birds do:/ suddenly, straight out of view”: a Sutphen poem takes you to a place you never expect to go but a place you knew you belonged.
VERDICT Gorgeous and deeply gratifying work recommended for all heartlands readers and anyone who appreciates the rural life Sutphen describes; with an introduction by former poet laureate Ted Kooser.
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