More from 'To Sing Along The Way': Fish

Joanne Hart, who lives on the Grand Portage Chippewa Indian Reservation near Grand Portage, is among the contemporary Northland writers featured in the anthology. This poem is from "Witch Tree," published in 2000.

Joanne Hart, who lives on the Grand Portage Chippewa Indian Reservation near Grand Portage, is among the contemporary Northland writers featured in the anthology. This poem is from "Witch Tree," published in 2000.

Because I remember Grandfather tiny, old,

Silent, obeying the white-haired matriarch,

my grandmother, I love this large photograph

of him with Daddy. Even here he's not


smiling, but looks strong, young with,perhaps,

a smile hovering under the moustache.

Daddy's ten years old, knee pants,suspenders,

bare feet, Huck Finn stance. From his right hand

a monster pickerel hangs, caught in theMinnesota

sweeping downstream past the familygarden.

The boy grins, happy to make his father proud --

it's there in the way young Clarence grasps


his bamboo pole, face to the camera lens.

I heard no stories from Grandfather,

but lore of him as linguist came fromDaddy --

how John would close his barber shop

when Sioux, appearing at the door likeshadows,

asked him to translate their dealings

with the Agent. He'd learned their tongue.

He went with them. They trusted him.


Today the same Sioux Band reels in

casino gamblers. Such big fish the Sioux

catch now would surely make Grandfather smile.

Alison Brown (1899-1949), who lived on Woodland Avenue in Duluth, was a nationally known poet who worked for the St. Louis County welfare board as a case supervisor. She wrote three books of poetry. Brown wrote in several forms: prose, free verse and rhyming poetry, the later of which was likened to the work of Emily Dickenson. One of Brown's poems was set to music during World War I and became an Allied marching song. This prose poem is from her 1927 book, "Lake Superior Magic."

Keeping close to the sandy shore of Minnesota Point we paddled down the bay, leaving the sunset behind us and heading toward a slowly darkening sky where great clouds were piled, purple and blue at the base and foaming white above. The bay was quiet except for little waves that were hardly more than swells. Only when we drifted we could hear them slap against the canoe and feel the rise and fall of the water. Along the Point the dark green pines were deepening to black, and red and white cottages stood out vividly in the half-light.

Then we turned about toward the sunset. Night was closing down behind us and the last of daylight lay ahead. A pale orange band stretched above the darkening hills. Tiny lights began to appear, outlining the streets of the city. From the base of the hills white mist arose and trailed upward. Tall elevators loomed black in the pale golden light.

Other canoes slipped silently by, and voices came to us from the cottage on the shore. A sailboat passed us, distinct in every detail, but soon to become wraithlike in the dusk. A creaking rowboat labored by, a little girl at the oars, and in its stern a woman with a baby in her arms. One of the two children kneeling in the bow chanted softly, "Starbright, starlight," and looking upward we found the first pale star of the evening.

We gazed back over the way we had come, and above the pine trees far down the Point saw the rim of a great August moon. Soon it rose into full sight, lovely like a Japanese print, with a bank of gray clouds above it and an outspread branch outlined across its golden surface.


Maurine Hathaway was born in Nebraska about 1883 and returned there in her later years. Her varied life included teaching for several years in Minnesota. She wrote three books of poems from 1911 to 1922 with a style influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Hathaway also wrote children's stories and was active in women's and civic organizations.

The Captive

Oh, I'm hindered and bound by conventional things,

And I beat at the bars of my cage

As a wild captive bird beats and bruises its wings

In the wrath of its weak, helpless rage.

I long to go on as I will in the world,

Untrammeled and reinless and free,


While these sickening social conventions are hurled

To the winds of the billowy sea.

I want to be free to grasp pleasures I see,

Which a God-given nature impels,

And to scorn what society thrusts upon me,

'Gainst which soul, brain and body rebels.

Like a young panther caught while asleep in her lair,

They have bound and are holding me fast,


While with mad yearning eyes I gaze out at the fair

Lovely world where I dwelt in the past.

My soul was not meant to be captive, I know,

And 'twill never be reconciled,

So I tear at the bonds that are holding me so,

For I long to go back to the wild.


Louise Leighton (1891-1974), a one-time Hibbing newspaperwoman, had three sons who fought in World War II. Her poems about war and peace stand out, including this one written just after World War II. It was published in her 1953 book, "Journey to Light."

Now that the war is done,

Let us bury an unknown child

At Arlington.

A child who died alone

On a Chinese street, his body a pitiful

Cage of bone,

Or a child who lived in Greece

Who cowered in caves and never knew

The ways of peace;

Or take a Jewish child

Whose delicate flesh was burned away

At Buchenwald.

Oh, let us bury here

A child without a name or a nation,

Kneel at the bier,

Never again supine,

But in bitter shame and grief, whispering;

This child was mine.


Irene Paull (1908-81) of Duluth was the daughter of Russian Jews and a political activist. Married to a labor lawyer, she helped found the Timber Worker newspaper, which became Midwest Labor. She knew Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger in the 1930s. She belonged to the Communist Party and worked for social causes including women's rights and civil rights. Her writing, such as this 1951 poem reprinted from 1996's "Irene," reflected her politics.

With heads bent low and bowed with grief

Upon your grave we lay this wreath.

Well, things are looking up this spring,

The market's really taken wing;

We ought to see a handsome boom

With plenty of scratch and elbow room.

He gave the most a man can give,

He died that other men might live.

Man, what a haul in '17!

We took the fat an' we took the lean.

Just chicken feed ... all said and done,

To what we took in '41!

U.S. Steel just hit the sky,

And Bethlehem went plenty high;

Republic Iron and Steel was soaring

And Standard Oil was really pouring!

Who knows, perhaps he had a wife

Who mourned the passing of his life.

American Sugar waxed fat and sleek,

Railway Steel Spring hit a peak;

American Can sold pretty dear

And New York banks hit a record year.

How happy the little wife must be

To know he died for liberty!

Net earnings on capital stock were bright,

And foreign trade reached an all-time height;

Wheat went over three bucks a shot,

But a dollar was all the farmer got!

How proud his mother must have been!

(This time we really muscle in!)

These babies know we have our price,

The Dutch East Indies would be nice,

The British held the field enough,

Their customers will like our stuff.

How proud to know the son she bore

Gave all he had to end all war!

Greenland's an important base,

And Turkey's a strategic place;

One thing cannot be overlooked:

If peace breaks out, our goose is cooked!

Our brand-new arms would go untested;

Good God! The dough we've got invested!

The crash would wipe us off the map

With all these orders in our lap.

Without the hope of fame or booty,

This noble son has done his duty.

We've got to make our soldiers frisky,

Less chocolate sodas and more whisky;

To dominate the Chinese yen,

Is worth a couple million men.

We need more bodies if this will be

The Great American Century.

And so we honor you, the dead,

And lay this wreath upon your head;

With silent prayer... be with us yet.

Lest we forget... lest we forget.

Duluth and Wanek herself.

"They sing in many different voices," Tammaro said of the collection of 155 poems. "There wasn't a single song that they were singing. The voices are varied; the voices are diverse."

First to focus on women

Bart Sutter, Duluth's poet laureate, is anxious to see the anthology.

"I'm sure the editors have uncovered good poems that we've missed," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they've discovered good poets that we've missed. And poets that we'll all want to pursue."

Annette Atkins, who has written a book on the history of Minnesota, already has seen the book.

"I love this book," said Atkins, a professor of history at Saint John's University/College of Saint Benedict in Collegeville, Minn. "In the language the poets' use, the subjects they select, the approaches they use, these women tell us a powerful story not just of women, but of the state itself."

Until this anthology, no one had looked back on women's poetry in Minnesota, Wanek and Tammaro said.

"There was no history because it had never been written down," Wanek said. "Now we have an overview of Minnesota history through poetry by women. Women wrote a lot of poetry. Now we will have that within our grasp. Now people have an overview."

The idea for the anthology was Tammaro's. As an English professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, he has compiled and edited several anthologies of regional works.

"I was thinking what voices don't we have," he said. "I didn't see anything that gathered Minnesota women's voices."

While many anthologies had been done, none were exclusively women's poetry in Minnesota. Tammaro limited the focus to Minnesota and the span from pioneer days to the present.

It's a departure from the traditional focus on poetry coming out of the East, Sutter noted.

"Now in the Midwest, we're finally waking up to the fact that people have been writing here for 100 years," he said. "Let's see what we've got. Let's value our own tradition."

Search uncovered variety

Tammaro recruited Sutphen, a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and Wanek, both poets whom he knew and respected.

Wanek, 54, has had two books of poetry published, "Bonfire" in 1997 and "Hartley Field" in 2002. Her honors include a Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize, and her books have been finalists for a Minnesota Book Award. She was named a 2006 Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, who has twice included her work in his American Life in Poetry newspaper column (including today's column on page 2).

For the anthology, the editors considered hundreds of poets. "Minnesota Verse," a comprehensive 1930s anthology by Maude Schilplin proved an invaluable resource for poets from 1900-38.

One requirement for the anthology was that a poet had published a book that is considered a milestone. "Otherwise, how else would we know what they write?" Wanek said.

A call went out in January 2004 for submissions from contemporary poets and about 60 were selected from 200 submissions. Some prominent poets who didn't submit work were sought out, such as Patricia Hampl of St. Paul.

"We were looking to represent the whole state, with a variety of subjects and styles," Wanek said, referring to both historical and contemporary poets.

Styles vary, from early formal forms of the early 20th century to contemporary free verse. Subjects include domestic themes, nature and social issues of the day.

"There's a kind of social awareness that emerges from the book, a tension between self and the larger society and some of the large social issues at work in the culture," Tammaro said.

Works dealing with social issues, such as the World Wars and race relations, are among the liveliest, Wanek said.

"Some of the most wonderful poetry has to do with the women's reaction to war," she said. "Women write about their lives and how these world events affect people in their day-to-day lives. They personalize these issues. There's a reason why women are usually against war."

Editors discovered many women poets were productive in their time and got published. Then they seemed to disappear from the literary scene.

"Part of the fun is going back and uncovering their work," Tammaro said. "Some have been out of print for 50, 60, 70 years. Many were quite good and prominent on the state and national scene."

Some faded when poetry shifted from a popular art to a university-centered one where poets are often academics. Others faded when the literary styles shifted from traditional rhyme and meter to free verse in the early 20th century.

CANDACE RENALLS is at (218) 723-5329 or e-mail: .

What To Read Next
Get Local