May 22, 2019

Walt Whitman at 200

Come join us! Friday, May 31 at 7 pm.  “Walt Whitman at 200: A Birthday Party with Poetry Readings, Presentations, and Cake” will take place at the Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Ave., Duluth. 

The event will feature readings by Duluth Poets Laureate Bart Sutter, Deborah Cooper, Sheila Packa, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Gary Boelhower; presentations by Mara Hart, Professor John D. Schwetman, and Professor Chris Johnson; and book sales of recently published anthologies by Holy Cow! Press.

May 7, 2019

Writing about Place

Meena Alexander said, "Poetry and place—if poetry is the music of survival, place is the instrument on which that music is played, the gourd, the strings, the fret."

In poetry and prose, place is critically important. In her book "On Writing," Eudora Welty wrote:
Place, to the writer at work, is seen in a frame. Not an empty frame, a brimming one. Point of view is a sort of burning-glass, a product of personal experience and time; it is burnished with feelings and sensibilities, charged from moment to moment with the sun-points of imagination. It is an instrument — one of intensification; it acts, it behaves, it is temperamental. … The writer must accurately choose, combine, superimpose upon, blot out, shake up, alter the outside world for one absolute purpose, the good of his story. To do this, he is always seeing double, two pictures at once in his frame, his and the world’s, a fact that he constantly comprehends; and he works best in a state of constant and subtle and unfooled reference between the two. It is his clear intention — his passion, I should say — to make the reader see only one of the pictures — the author’s — under the pleasing illusion that it is the world’s; this enormity is the accomplishment of a good story. I think it likely that at the moment of the writer’s highest awareness of, and responsiveness to, the “real” world, his imagination’s choice (and miles away it may be from actuality) comes closest to being infallible for his purpose. For the spirit of things is what is sought. No blur of inexactness, no cloud of vagueness, is allowable in good writing; from the first seeing to the last putting down, there must be steady lucidity and uncompromise of purpose.

In an essay poet Meena Alexander wrote:
While poetry is bound to the sensorium, to the sensual powers of bodily being, to memory that draws its power from feelings heightened by the senses, it is also bound to place. It is in place that we locate ourselves, mark ourselves in relation with others; it is in place that we survive. But what becomes of the past when place is torn away, when the sensorium is radically displaced, and when exile or dislocation marks out the limits of existence?

April 30, 2019

Poetry Events

Poetry Events

May 20, 2019  (Monday) 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm - Celebrating the recent publication of "Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice" edited by Ron Riekki and Andrea Scarpino at Content Bookstore, Northfield, MN with 5 Poet Laureate recipients: James Armstrong, Emilio DeGrazia, Rob Hardy, Ken McCullough, and Sheila Packa.  For information about the book, see

May 31, 2019 (Fri) 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm – Organized by Duluth Poet Laureate Gary Boelhower, the event “Walt Whitman at 200: A Birthday Party with Poetry Readings, Presentations, and Cake” will feature readings by Duluth Poets Laureate Bart Sutter, Deborah Cooper, Sheila Packa, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Gary Boelhower; presentations by Mara Hart, Professors John D. Schwetman, and Chris Johnson; and book sales of recently published anthologies. The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. For additional information, please contact Gary Boelhower, Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Avenue, Duluth, MN 55803.

Poetry Book Club @ Zenith Books

May 8 (Wed) 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm – In May, we are discussing “The Beauty” by Jane Hirshfield. Zenith Bookstore, 318 North Central Avenue, Duluth, MN 55807.

June 12 (Wed) 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm –  In June, we are discussing Danez Smith's "Don't Call Us Dead," a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. 

April 27, 2019

A Free-flowing River: Thoughts About Poetry

To see the slides, click on this link:

April 27, 2019 Keynote Address for the League of Minnesota Poets Spring Conference in Ely, Minnesota.

This keynote presents my experience of a northern watershed and an intertextual exploration of poetry. This examines ideas of flow, rhapsody, turns, landscape, headwater, time, erosions, opposing forces, tributaries, the body, permeability, mosaics, and it includes Works Cited.

April 22, 2019

The Muse

"When I Met My Muse"
by William Stafford

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

I'm especially fond of Stafford's poem because it emphasizes the muse is connected to one's own set of perceptions. "Writer's voice" is the unique set of perceptions, attentions, obsessions, and experience of the writer. It reflects his or her culture, words, habits, and landscape. A writer needs a muse. Each writer has a unique experience and image of his or her source of inspiration.

April 12, 2019

Wilderness and Mineral Landscapes

Lately, musician Sara Pajunen has been composing Mine Songs: Sounding an Altered Landscape.  She has been recording sound and video in areas near mining operations and at harbors, and she uses this collected sound in her violin compositions. It's beautiful work. 

I have a poem published at Cortland Review, "Boundary Waters."  In this excerpt, I allude to the extraction of minerals in the northern Minnesota landscape.

a tail flick of a fin 
among the sunken 
in a vein of ore. 
To take from another body
is a question
answered by loon...

There is a tension here between the environmental quality and economic development in the form of taconite and iron mines. In order to sustain our lives, there is a balance we need to achieve between economics and environment.Read the entire poem at

Horses: A Lyric Essay

Entropy Magazine published my lyric essay, "Horses."  This was written for Sibelius' Symphony #2.

The series "Variations on a Theme" seeks to examine the intersection between music and literary works.

"Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced?"

Read the essay at Entropy's website:

April 1, 2019

Donald Hall: Goatfoot, Milktongue, and Twinbird

In the essay, "Goatfoot, Milktongue, and Twinbird: Interviews, Essays and Notes" Donald Hall considers the psychic origins of poetry.

This essay captures what feels true.  Donald Hall believed poetry had root in vatic expression, coming from God or the divine. In addition, he considers the experience that is preverbal as a major source of poetry, saying: "The mouth pleasure, the muscle pleasure, the pleasure of match-unmatch.”  Milktongue refers to the five senses, the infant nursing at the breast with milk in his or her mouth.  Goatfoot refers to muscle pleasure, like the rhythms of nursery rhymes, games and happy dances. Twinbird is the infant's discovery of his or her hands. Like birds, they are in the air. Initially, they seem independent but gradually a baby understands the hands are dependent and respond to his or her will. Also a delight grows when a child sees the mirror image, the match-unmatch of the hands. The words goatfoot, milktongue and twinbird contain both image and rhythm (dactyl).

In the following poem by Hall, one can trace these three: mouth pleasure, muscle pleasure and match/unmatch.


Pale gold of the walls, gold
of the centers of daisies, yellow roses
pressing from a clear bowl. All day
we lay on the bed, my hand
stroking the deep
gold of your thighs and your back.
We slept and woke
entering the golden room together,
lay down in it breathing
quickly, then
slowly again,
caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily
touching my hair now.

We made in those days
tiny identical rooms inside our bodies
which the men who uncover our graves
will find in a thousand years,
shining and whole.

Hall also once said, "Poetry begins in elegy."  See his essay about elegy here:

To see his entire book of essays, Goatfoot, Milktongue, and Twinbird: Interviews, Essays and Notes (digitally archived):

See the text of "Gold" by Donald Hall:

March 30, 2019

League of MN Poets: Poetry Reading April 26 and Keynote / Workshop on April 27, 2019

The wilderness of poetry...yes!  

I'm looking forward to this event. Please join the community of poets and me in Ely on April 26 at Northern Grounds and April 27 at the Grand Lodge.  

Commit to your own poetry practice and register at:

March 20, 2019

Experimental Poets

The Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Award Judges have selected Dawn Lundy Martin as the winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her book Good Stock Strange Blood (Coffee House Press). The judges describe Good Stock Strange Blood as a “formidable, sublime” collection that presents “an uncompromising poetics of resistance and exactitude.” Diana Khoi Nguyen is the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her book Ghost Of (Omnidawn). Timothy Donnelly, chair of this year’s judging committee, described Good Stock Strange Blood and Ghost Of as books that will challenge the expectations of readers. “They are probably different from what many people are used to or expect from poetry,” he said. “Martin and Nguyen capture a whole new layer of being in their work that, to many, will still be unfamiliar.”

Martin's writing is poly-vocal and rooted in the body.  

Poetry by Dawn Lundy Martin:

Lecture about the racialized body and grief: