Poems from her heart

Joyce Sutphen reads from her new book at Stillwater library

It’s a two-for-one treat for St. Croix Valley poetry lovers tonight.

Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen reads poems from her new book, “After Words,” during a 7 p.m. appearance at the Stillwater Public Library.

“My reading in Stillwater is the first from my new book,” she said.

How new is Sutphen’s book? Her publisher, Red Dragonfly Press in Red Wing, brought copies of the book Tuesday to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where Sutphen teaches literature and writing classes, and shipped copies to Valley Bookseller in Stillwater in time for her Wednesday visit.

Sutphen said “After Words” is the follow-up to her previous book of poetry, “First Words” and continues her recollections of growing up on a St. Joseph, Minn., farm.
“First Words is about the farm I grew up on,” she said. “This one (“After Words”) is a little more . . . of that sense that that kind of life is going away. They’re still harvesting, still reaping, and weeping a bit.”

Sutphen said her new book also contains poems about a sister she was close to who died when the girls were teenagers.

“There’s a couple of poems about the thought of the farm not being a farm anymore,” Sutphen added.

Sutphen holds three degrees from the University of Minnesota, including a Ph.D. In Renaissance Drama, started writing poetry more than two decades ago and was named the state’s poet laureate in 2011 by Gov. Mark Dayton.

“About the last 20 years, I’ve been seriously writing poems,” she said. “Maybe I’ve been writing 21 years. Things happened all at once there.”

Sutphen’s book, “Straight Out of View,” won the Barnard New Women Poets Prize in the middle 1990s.

Sutphen said inspiration for her poems comes from a combination of her experience and observations.

“Sometimes I might be moved by my surroundings,” she said. “I live in a little house in a big 100-acre marsh. It could be the birds singing, the things around me. It could be a memory. I have a lot of poems about growing up on a small farm.”

Sutphen’s Stillwater visit is co-sponsored by ArtReach St. Croix and local residents Tom and Cathy Gillaspy. She recalled meeting Tom Gillaspy at a past event the pair attended.

“I had a nice invitation from Tom Gillaspy, and I feel like I met him before at a reception,” she said. “He seems like a really nice guy. I think he wanted to get me over the east side of the cities.”

It’s a trip Sutphen said she looks forward to.

“I love it,” she said about Stillwater. “It’s a great place.”

As for the number of poems Sutphen reads Wednesday, even she doesn’t have a number.

“Maybe a dozen. I don’t know how long they want me to read,” she said.

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Sutphen said “After Words” is the follow-up to her previous book of poetry, “First Words” and continues her recollections of growing up on a St. Joseph, Minn., farm. Sutphen reads from her new book, “After Words,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Stillwater Public Library. Read the full article in the Stillwater Gazette on Wednesday.

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