Creative Showcase

by | Apr 2021

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Local poets write art for our ears.

April is National Poetry Month. The Oxford Dictionary defines poetry as literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas using distinctive style and rhythm. Maybe you learned a bit about poetry in school or maybe you read or write poetry as a creative outlet.

Or maybe, you should consider getting acquainted with poetry since this style of prose is beyond beautiful, it can also be beneficial to brain function. That’s right, some studies show that our strong emotional response to poetry is not unlike how we feel when hearing a song that strikes all the right emotional chords, providing needed mental space for self-reflection. Poetry slows us down, provides calm, boosts our mood and helps us better understand others and the world around us.

But don’t just take it from us, we spoke to a few local poets, members of a writing group offered through Edina Community Education and led by Edina author, Maureen Millea Smith, about why they love and write poetry. We’ve also included some excerpts of their poems for your enjoyment.

Thornwald Hansen

Edina Magazine: How long have you been writing poetry and how did you begin?

TH: Since high school. People began asking me for a poem to use in an invitation or for a holiday greeting or to commemorate an event.

EM: What is the inspiration and style of most of your poetry?
TH: Early on it was girls of course. Besides the requests of others, I wrote about events or feelings about those events. Several years ago, I wrote a series of poems about Christmas cookies for my wife and a pal of hers to use as part of their entry to an annual Christmas cookie contest. My poems almost always rhyme. The past few years, I have written story poems, poems about current events, poems about Minnesota and poems about memories. Several have featured cats.

EM: Why has writing poetry become important to your life?
TH: I can sometimes express my feelings easier in poetry.

EM: How should average readers view poetry versus other types/styles of writing?
TH: Poetry is meant to be heard. Even by yourself it’s better to read it aloud. Poetry has a message. Not necessarily the message the poet had in mind, but the message it gives the reader. Good poems are new every time a new reader reads them.

EM: Tell a bit about the poem you’ve submitted.
TH: Our cat is the most affectionate cat I’ve known. Some of the best moments of my day are when she sits on my lap and purrs or sleeps. Sometimes, a spontaneous flash comes into my head, There is no finer thing for me to be doing right now than this.

Dawning by Thornwald Hansen

Start with what I always do: put
on my robe, visit the loo. I feed
the cat who stopped my sleep,
make my morning caffeine treat,

obey her lead to armchair
where she leaps to rest on
offered knees, and purrs
my eager ears to please.

Thrums of peace, relief from strife,
they seem a preview of Above.
I see why artists photograph,
write poems, paint, elicit

laughs. They yearn to save just one
green leaf, one loving look, one moment
where there is no grief no dark black book
just love stripped bare.

Carol Flint-Kaliebe

EM: How long have I been writing poetry?
CF: Somehow adults and teachers called me “the little poet” before I understood the form. I started journaling and writing verse in my early twenties.

EM: What is inspiring?
CF: Awakening all my senses. Listening to other poets. Poetry is sonic. Just listening to the music beneath individual voices answering one another touches me. The songs of nature—leaves, wind, water, birds and stone flow into my thoughts.

EM: How is poetry different than other forms of writing?
CF: Take a long slow breath. If you aced a speed reading course, you might crash into the speed bumps that the poets intentionally placed. Or you might run over an ancient turtle crossing. Life’s complex contradictions and conflicts require reflective wrestling and perseverance. Acceptance of ambiguity may feel humbling. When you read Shakespeare aloud, you are breathing with Will from centuries ago. Take a long slow breath. Great artists tell the angels what it is like to live on earth.

EM: How should average readers view poetry versus other types/styles of writing?
CF: There is a need for casual conversation and banter. And there is also a need for more formal and purposive speech. You can drink from a flowing river with your hands, yes, it satisfies thirst. Doesn’t a vessel, such as a cup or glass, contain and quench. Like a poem. Someone said, “You never step into the river in the same place twice.” Perhaps a poem captures that.

Catch Me If You Can by Carol Flint-Kaliebe  

At only One,
She knows more,
Then I know.
Or forgot?
How to thaw memories,
Unencumbered,
Feeling
Immortal again.

My little one,
Wriggles and wrestles
Wraps away,
Freed from layers
For winter play.
No stroller straps to stop,
Feet fresh to the earth,
And fast,
Padding perilously,
Down and deep,
The steep snowy slope,
Edging the swift stream.
I stumble and clasp,
She is almost outside
My grasp.

She crouches,
I kneel.
Now, meeting eye to eye,
Silently she studies me
And Beyond.
Her mittened hand
Circles the cloud
Of our combined breaths.
And the vanishing mist
Of my word,
The “No.”
Such stillness.
Beneath the blue-gray ice glass,
Her hand slashes,
And swishes,
Watery twinkling talk,
And the surging singing,
Of a thawing creek.
Oh little one,
Gurgling and giggling,
My fearful arms and alarms,
Can not bind you,
You know more of this World
Than words.
And so she stands,
Smiling
In the halo of the Sun,
At only one.

Bruce Burnside

EM: How long have you been writing poetry and how did you begin?
BB: Between 5 and 10 years old. One of the reasons was my mother used to read us poetry every night before bed, The Childcraft Series and poems like Down Dirk of Dowdee and the Highwayman. I still remember some them, I memorized them.

EM: What is the inspiration and style of most of your poetry?
BB: I was a musician for 50 years, mostly in the Midwest. Dad was also a teacher, a historian, a writer and a staff editor for magazines. I use a lot of the things that I have knowledge of in my writing.

EM: Why has writing poetry become important to your life?
BB: Because I’ve got Parkinson’s and have had it for 15 years. I decided I’m better off putting my energy into writing poetry instead of being a musician. I don’t drive anymore but I’ve moved near my daughter. My daughters have learned by watching me do what I love, so now they do what they love. The pandemic is a tragedy but it’s drawn us all together, which has really been fun for me.

Terminal by Bruce Burnside

Never thought about where the future would go.
Assumed I’d be young and invincible ‘til the end.
The answers to our questions mom and dad would know.
Their kisses made everything mend.

They both have left us. It’s been quite a while.
Visiting the farm though, feels like they’re there.
I think it’s because we sense that smile
they gave us when doing more than their share.

Now we see years in the flash of one night.
Didn’t see clothes widen and the steps get high.
You and I shared moments that turned out right.
Those are forever in our mind’s eye.

We never threw dice to hear others cheer
but were guided by that voice from deep inside.
We’ve done it the same for so many years.
Feeling your spirit still fills me with pride.

My wish on this late fall overcast day
is to be nearby when you finally let go.
Sometime, after Christmas, I can get away.
There’s always less traffic when we get a good snow.

Cara Sophia Tollefson

EM: How long have you been writing poetry and how did you begin?
CST: I was introduced to poetry during my grade school years. I grew up in Minneapolis and each winter the first big snowstorm would ultimately arrive. My three younger brothers and I would gather around the kitchen table while our mom, preparing lunch at the kitchen counter, would begin reciting The First Snowfall, by James Russell Lowell. As she repeated the lines, verse by verse, I would recite along with her, memorizing as we went along. I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager.

EM: What is the inspiration and style of most of your poetry?
CST: Although I have explored writing poetry in its many forms, I primarily write free verse poetry. I draw on inspiration for my poetry from many sources including day-to-day life, memories, the dreamtime, and nature.

EM: Why has writing poetry become important to your life?
CST: Creativity has always been an essential part of who I am. It’s as necessary to me as breathing. Both writing and reading poetry are important to me. When reading poetry, I replenish my creative spirit and when writing poetry, I express my creative spirit.

EM: What should average readers view poetry versus other types/styles of writing?
CST: That might depend on their own familiarity with poetry. For the reader who is less familiar with poetry, they might begin by rereading poems from school like those by Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Neruda or Maya Angelou. Readers might also begin by reading shorter poems with familiar subject matter, like Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, or Gary Soto’s poem, Oranges.

Rereading a poem is common practice. Reading a poem once and then rereading it can deepen our understanding of a poem. Poetry is an oral art form and is meant to be both spoken and heard. Listening to poems by reading them out loud engages the senses and often reveals the meaning of the poem in new ways. Reading poems out loud can engage the whole family in the experience of poetry.

Shel Silverstein is a poet beloved by children. Kids easily memorize poetry and can be encouraged to recite poems out loud and even write their own poems.

EM: Tell a bit about the poem you’ve submitted …
CST: I’m currently writing a poem inspired by a portrait by Laurel Burch. This is an excerpt from the poem …

Maybe she’s someone I know
or someone I once met.

Brilliant crimson birds
with gold-tipped wings,
gather at her crown.

Shining hair
defined by fine, dark lines
billows out,
cascades down.

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