The Gustavian Weekly

A night of poetry with Nolan and Kirkpatrick

By Peter Diamond Staff Writer | March 15, 2013 | variety

Gustavus Adolphus College will be welcoming poets Patricia Kirkpatrick and Tim Nolan on Thursday, March 21 to read their work in the Melva Lind Interpretive Center beginning at 7 p.m.

Kirkpatrick’s writing credits include Century’s Road published by Holy Cow! Press in 2004 and Odessa in 2012. She has also taught graduate and undergraduate writing and children’s literature at Hamline University (1988-2012), Macalester College, and San Francisco State University.

She served as poetry editor for the literary magazine Water-Stone Review for ten years (2001-2012) and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the McKnight Foundation.

Kirkpatrick also received the first Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, established by Milkweed Editions, for her latest poetry collection Odessa. Written following the grim diagnosis of a brain tumor, Odessa recounts Kirkpatrick’s extremely personal story while simultaneously infusing elements of myth and landscapes.

“I began writing poetry as a child in second grade. I had a teacher, Louella Streyffeller, who read us poetry and had us write it. I remember standing beside her as she typed a poem of mine that would later be pasted on red construction paper. I was thrilled to see my words in print, and forever will be grateful to her for showing me the possibilities of language in poetry,” Kirkpatrick said.

When asked about the importance of poetry to people today, Kirkpatrick expressed her compassion for poetry’s reflection of humanity.

“I don’t know about people in general, but there are so many poems and so many kinds of poems: there’s a lot of inspiration, delight, challenge, and comfort in poetry! As for students, I guess I’d say that education involves learning about human expression and achievement and that includes poetry. A liberal education to me still means learning how to think and feel and lead a meaningful life, both in solitude and in community with others,” Kirkpatrick said.

Nolan is a lawyer working in Minneapolis whose poems have been published in numerous magazines, including “The Gettysburg Review,” “The Nation,” “Ploughshares,” and “Poetry East.” Nolan’s poems have also been read on National Public Radio by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. His collections include The Sound of It, published by New Rivers Press in 2008 and a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, alongside “And Then,” his latest book published in 2012.

And Then is a collection of lyrical poems about things that have happened in my life in the past few years. I wrote many of the poems while sitting in a chair in my front yard.  I tried to let whatever would happen, happen. I tried to pay attention. Maybe they are Reports from the Front Yard. I would summarize my first book, The Sound of It, in the same way,” Nolan said.

Nolan expresses his love for the meditative qualities of the poem. In today’s digital age, with people being engaged with one another for nearly every minute, it can be difficult to find a moment to self-reflect.

“Poetry slows the mind and the heart down. When you enter a poem, the beat of your heart changes.  You find yourself in a meditative state of quiet and listening. This is so important when we have so much noise and distraction everywhere. To listen. Poetry urges one to listen closely—to the poem and to oneself,” Nolan said.

The event is hosted by Professor of English and Minnesota’s Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen. As Minnesota’s Poet Laureate, it is Sutphen’s role to promote the reading and appreciation of poetry around the state. The position is not paid, and there is no office support despite this, Sutphen fully dedicates herself to her craft and is frequently called upon by people requesting talks, readings, and introductions.

“What interests me about poetry is everything—the sound of it, the way it makes connections between things, and the way it tells things. I’m interested in the way a good poem can hold a fleeting moment, the way it can stop time and make us look closely at things that are rushing by us,” Sutphen said.

“‘Why should people read poetry? There are lots of reasons,’ Stanley Kunitz, a wonderful American poet who died a few years ago after living to be a hundred, said ‘If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn.’  We should read to find beauty and truth, and (no less important), we should read for the pleasure of the poem—for happiness,” Sutphen said.