Last evening (August 23) was one of August’s highlights: the Capstone Event for the Northfield Sidewalk Poetry Contest. Unlike the past five years, when the event has been held in Bridge Square with music by local favorites, Bonnie and the Clydes, this year’s event combined music with poetry in a new way. Readings of the 2016 winning poems were interspersed with outstanding musical offerings made possible by the Bridge Chamber Music Festival. David Carter, a professor of music at St. Olaf College, founder of BCMF, and a new member of Northfield’s Arts and Culture Commission, who introduced the musical component of the evening.
The Artaria String Quartet played an early lullabye by George Gershwin and later the second movement of “String Quartet #7 in C major” by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. (Ray Shows and Nancy Oliveros, violins; Annalee Wolf, viola; and Rebecca Merblum, cello.)
The remarkably inventive and sonorous Parker Ousley, who sings like an angel and plays the cello like no one else, sang and played a range of works including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River,” Lorenz Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” Ben Folds’ “Sentimental Guy, ” and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” He spoke eloquently of the influence of Ella Fitzgerald and the sonic possibilities of the electrified and unbowed cello.
The evening concluded with a number of lively and unusual arrangements of Brazilian music by the Glider Trio (Dave Hagedorn, vibes; Kevin Clements, bass; and Erik Hanson, drums.) Their selections ranged from an Eliane Elias arrangement of “The Girl from Ipanema” to a medley of works from the classic 1959 jazz film Black Orpheus. (The Glider Trio will be performing other works at St. Olaf College this coming Friday evening.) Black Orpheus, a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, was an especially appropriate choice for an evening of poetry and music.
All nine winning poems were read by their authors: Steve McCown (2 poems), Barbara Belobaba, Orick Peterson, Richard Waters, Julia Braulick, Lori Stoltz, Anne Running Sovik, and Becky Boling.
Emcee Bonnie Jean Flom, Chair of Northfield’s Arts and Culture Commission, also made an historic announcement: the City is establishing a Poet Laureate position, and Rob Hardy has been named to serve the three-year inaugural term beginning September 1, 2016.
It was a vibrant celebration on many fronts.
Both Sidewalk Poetry and the Bridge Chamber Music Festival are supported by generous grants from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC), with funds from the people of Minnesota through the Legacy Amendment. Sidewalk Poetry would not be possible without the enthusiastic in-kind, volunteer, and moral support of the City of Northfield (especially the Engineering Department’s staff), the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library, and the Arts and Culture Commission.
Wishing you a happy conclusion to the Dog Days of your summer, wherever they take you! Leslie
A few weeks ago, I received a surprising email.
Karen Kelsay, the poet who also publishes other poets’ work through Kelsay Books (including my own recent collection of elegies) let me know that she was launching a brand-new online journal called The Orchards. She asked if she could reprint the title poem from Still Life with Poppies: Elegies.
My answer? Wow! Of course! Never before has a journal editor contacted me about reprinting a poem. Furthermore, everything Karen does has substance and beautiful finish.
The Orchards was published this week. It is, as I anticipated, sensitively arranged and beautifully presented. Each poem is a new surprise. A special delight to me was to read the wealth of sonnets as well as some villanelles that left me dazzled by the possibilities of these forms I love.
Karen plans to publish The Orchards three times a year. I am already looking forward to reading the next issue in December. Thank you, Karen!
(P.S. I took these photos of apple blossoms in Northfield, Minnesota, and the ones of the apples at an orchard in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.)
Enjoy some luscious poems! LESLIE
On July 30, 2016, Tim and I traveled to Winona, Minnesota for our annual treat–listening to the reading of the winning sonnets from the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest–a closing event for the famous Great River Shakespeare Festival. We then spent the day along the Mississippi River to celebrate our anniversary which falls in early August.
Since I first learned about this contest in 2013, I have been not only impressed by the great variety, beauty, and power of the winning poems, I have begun, much more frequently, to “think in sonnet form.” What I mean by that is that the meter, rhyme schemes, and rhetorical structures offered by the sonnet form(s) are now etched more deeply into my poetic consciousness. Consequently, while I have been writing sonnets for thirty years, I write many more of them these days–Shakespearian, Petrarchan, the odd “curtal sonnet” (with homage to Gerard Manly Hopkins), and fourteen-line poems I call “sonnet-like objects.”) Of course, with all of these sonnets arriving, every year I select a few to enter in the contest, despite knowing that the competition is steep.
This year, I was surprised and pleased to get a phone call the week prior from Ted Haaland, husband of the late Maria W. Faust, who runs the contest. He told me that my own poem, “Carp,” written this spring, was one of this year’s winners, and asked whether I would like to read it at the event. It was great fun.
A list of winners from all nine years, and the texts of winning sonnets for 2015 and 2016 can be found HERE. For those of you who want to try your own hand, the site also has a very helpful section on the mechanics of sonnet creation. Contestant poems can be received sometime in January for the 2017 contest–you can also bookmark the site and check back in the New Year for the exact date.
Meanwhile, do enjoy reading the work online, and consider purchasing the beautifully made anthology showcasing winning poems from the first five years (2008-2012) of the contest.
(Copies can be ordered from Ted Haaland, whose contact information can be found at the link above.)
And when you think of Winona, nestled into the limestone bluffs next to the storied waters of the Mississippi, think, too, of the annual movement of fine sonnets, from all over the nation and beyond our borders, flowing into the little jewel of an art town.
Enjoy the waning days of summer! LESLIE