Pankake Poetry 2018 with Margaret Hasse

>>Well, good afternoon,
everyone, and welcome. I’m Wendy Lougee, the University
Librarian here at Minnesota. And it’s wonderful
to see so many of you for the 9th Annual
Pankake Poetry event. It seems only fitting
to start with a poem. Dear calendar, why
are you lying? You claim that it’s
spring but I’m not buying. We’ve had one lovely day
but now snow is on the way. You’ve betrayed us. There’s just no denying. I didn’t write that [laughter]. But I do endorse the sentiment and I’m guessing
all of you do too. This annual gathering was
actually begun informally years ago by Marcia Pankake, who planned a special reading
each year during April National Poetry Month. And when she retired, we decided
to continue the tradition and name the series
in her honor. And Marcia, who is
here, over there, thank you for leading
the way and I also want to thank Malaika Grant who
is somewhere way back there, our librarian for
English, African and African-American studies who
organized this evening’s event. So our program today is
sponsored by the Friends of the Libraries as part of its Friends Forum
series for curious minds. And for those of you
who are Friends here, we thank you for
your commitment. So National Poetry Month
has an interesting genesis. It was inspired by the
success of Black History Month in February and Women’s
History Month in March. And in the mid ’90s, the Academy of American Poets convened
a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians
and poets and teachers to discuss launching a
similar month-long holiday, to celebrate poetry
because after all poetry predates literacy. So it seems only fitting to
acknowledge the importance of poetry in our culture. And in April 1996, National
Poetry Month was established. Now today’s honored
poet, Margaret Hasse, joins a long list of stellar
Minnesota Pankake poets. We have Jim Lenfestey,
Louis Jenkins, Heid Erdrich, Ed Bok Lee, Joyce Sutphen,
Michael Donald Browne, Ray Gonzales and Bao Phi, a number of them are
here tonight too. And we’re honored that Margaret’s archives are
now here in Anderson Library. They were included in a
year-long grant-funded project to increase access to these
premier literary collections in our Upper Midwest
Literary Archive. These also include papers
from Robert Bly, Bill Holm, Patricia Hampl, Milkweed
Editions and several others. The project was funded by
the State of Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Now Margaret is a poet,
a teacher, a mentor, and an arts consultant. Her career spans four decades. Her poetry was frequently
featured on national public
radios, Writer’s Almanac, and in many publications. And two of her collections
were finalists for the Minnesota Book Award
and one of them are the winner of an award from the
Midwest Independent Publishers Association. She has received fellowships
from the National Endowment for the Arts, the
Minnesota State Arts Board, McKnight Foundation
among others. And today, she will be
reading selections from each of her five collections. And her first book, “Stars
Above, Starts Below”, was formally out of print. But just this week, it’s
been reissued by known press to coincide with this event. And finally, Walt Whitman once
said, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” And it’s evident
today that was right. So please welcome
Margaret Hasse. [ Applause ]>>Wendy, thank you for
that fine introduction. I’m really grateful to you
and to the university– oh, an award-winning
library here for this series, and for all that you do
for writers in poetry. For the curators and the
archivists who work here in this institution, I am– just
have loved working with them. I’m grateful that they cooked up this wonderful project called
Three Prairie Poets and a Press and they were very alliterative when they did it
and got it funded. And, of course, I
want to add my thanks to Marcia Pankake even
though I haven’t met her yet, but I will today for this
delicious annual reading event in her name. Wendy, thinking about today, I
watched a lot of YouTube videos of past Pankake readings. I have been here several times
but not to all of them and I– you always seem to start
things out by saying, “Welcome to a warm spring
day,” and I thought, we didn’t get warm
weather but none of you is a fair weather friend. You’re all here. I’m very grateful
to you for coming. And maybe tonight,
if we get rain, it’ll be good for the earth. As Wendy said, my
presentation today, my reading, is a retrospective. I am going to read from my
five books from the oldest to the most recent book. And to get the reading started
though, before I start looking at those books, I’m
going to read a poem that addresses the
theme of retrospective. It’s a poem about looking
backwards by living backwards and it’s called “Life
in Reverse”. “Life in Reverse” is an
uncharacteristically long poem for me. Don’t worry. It’s not an epic but it
does run– most of my pages, standard poems, are
a page or less. But this is a few pages
long, “Life in Reverse”. What if life were designed for
us to arrive when we’re ancient and then grow younger? That might be a better plan. If we start out as
elders in our 90s or 80s and change toward youth, when
our knees start working again like well-oiled latches to a
gate, we don’t protest gray hair or difficult digging
in the ragbag of memory for the right word. When we become 70 years old,
we’re elated that our bodies are as spry as they are for we’ve
passed down from decrepitude. We know what old, old age
wrought disabilities, diapers, disease, that’s over
now and we look forward to decades of vitality. We enter our 60s, that
marvelous epoch of activity, when we are now known for
something, when people see us as fluid, not finished
with our changes. The driver’s license
we relinquished, back in our pockets. We take only occasional
naps, are into long walks and good works and road trips. We have decent teeth and
most foods agree with us. Our 50s, it’s a really
dreamy time. Lovemaking is not
an effort anymore. Our flesh, though
somewhat loose, is more elastic than
it used to be. We cherish the work
we do, whatever it is. We didn’t get to do these
things back when we were 80. When stuck on the freeway,
we sing along to the radio. When we grow back to 40, we
wear tighter, shorter clothes. We can’t get enough
of color and travel. As we build new rooms in our
life, we work on being generous because we recall old age
when we appreciated visitors at the nursing home, even
if they were the sons of the neighbor’s son. Thirty, we’re ecstatically
30, even with our struggles, maybe the marriage isn’t ideal
and we have to move a few times, but it’s all experience,
experience, and we thrive on our power to learn. In our 20s, we look down at our
bodies, amazed how they shine with youth, the flesh
springy and firm like a forest floor
under pine trees. We like sex outside,
or on a table. We welcome work and
opportunities. Next comes adolescence, the
best and the worst of times, because we felt so much
and we knew so little. But our past maturity
now gives us ballast. Now it’s only the best of times. We consistently make
great decisions. We learn to play that flute. We show kindness to
ourselves and our parents. We are avid about education. We use birth control and
enjoy in all ways our brief and splendid blooming. When we get into grade school,
the great sex we used to have when we were older is now
yucky to even think about. Our parents tower over us. Candy tastes delicious. Playing kick-ball all
afternoon, what could be better? We love our mother’s voice
murmuring, her perfume, the way stars are brighter
than they’ve ever been. We can fall asleep anywhere
opening our hearts to dream, and we wake up smaller, believing in stories
where animals talk. And then we are losing language, but playing with all
the toes on our feet. And someone is usually holding
us and it feels so good to suck. When we slide into
the birth canal, there’s an agreeable sensation
of being drawn from a place big and bright that made us cry
into a cozy padded cave, where we rest with
our ears pressed to the pulse of the universe. Then we are stilled with a lullaby before
lullabies had sound. [ Applause ] Thank you. So, we’re in a library
together sitting above thousands of books below us
in the archives, memorabilia on the shelves. I don’t know if you’ve
ever taken a tour but it’s a really
worthwhile thing to do, to go down into the– do
we call them the caverns, into the caverns. Because this is a bookish place, I decided for this
Pankake reading to choose a very
few book images to– of covers of books to show you. It’s part of the theme
of retrospection. When I was growing up in a very
small town in South Dakota, we had in our family
a myriad of books and we also had a very good
Carnegie library downtown. Among the many books that
inspired me to become a writer, I want to show you the
covers of just four of them and offer the invitation to
you all to think of when poetry or literature first
ignited something in you, what particular books
were touchstones for you. So, if this works well and wonderful Kate has helped
me setup a little image– a few images here. There it is. That’s the image. My mother read a great
deal of poetry often out loud and she wrote poetry. And she fore saw, I think,
a decade that was coming– two decades later where poets in
the schools had the philosophy that if you pay attention
to young children, listen to their words in
their writing, they will come into language in a
different and new way. So, this is a book, a
notebook that was begun when I was five years old by
my mother who when I came home from kindergarten or first grade
before I could write would say, “Do you have any
poems or stories?” and would write them down. And so by the time I was eight
years old, I had already– then, I was a writer, I didn’t
have to dictate to my mother. I was keeping notebooks
and journals which was something
she also did. And that notebook and
journal habit has stayed with me, well, all my life. I’m 60 years and a hundred
journals or notebooks into that life of kind
of paying attention of noticing what’s
happening to you. So– Oh, and my notebooks
are always the places where my poems get their
first kind of inkling of that they might
become a poem. So, this is the– a book
that I received and– when I was nine years
old in grade-school, “The Golden Treasury of Poetry”. We had many poetry anthologies
and collections in our house. And it was in this book
that I first really found, Emily Dickinson and Walt
Whitman and Elizabeth Bishop and hungered for more. So, this book is,
as you can see, a copy of “Black Elk Speaks”,
which I read in my teens. Writers always seem to come
from someplace far away. They didn’t seem to come from
where I lived in South Dakota. But this book was the
first book that I read that I realized this man was
from South Dakota and the poet who wrote down the
vision, John G. Neihardt, was from our neighboring
State of Nebraska. And to this day, books about the
Great Plains and South Dakota and the prairies, I just gravitate towards
those kinds of books. They have a pull for me. I discovered Virginia Woolf and
feminism at about the same time when I was in college in
the San Francisco Bay Area and I took the heart
Woolf’s advice about how a woman can sustain a
writing life not only reading, study, practice, but having a
room of her own to write in. And soon after graduating
from college, I moved to the twin
cities, which was 1973, and there were many
organizations that could buoy up a writer and keep
her on the path. The Loft Literary Center
was one of those just coming in to being in the 1973. Women poets of the twin cities
meant a great deal to me, and the poets in the schools
as well where Kate Green and I were the first women poets
hired to work in that program. And I’m so grateful to all
the great arts administrators who worked on those programs
and made them happen. So, when I got a book of my own,
this is my first book in 1984. It’s– It was published by New
Rivers Press and was the winner of the Minnesota
Voices Competition. This is the cover of that book. And as you can see,
it’s seen some wear. I mean, it’s 36 years old now– 34 years old now,
three decades ago. And two decades ago,
it fell into– it went out of print when
the press moved up to Fargo. And I was so lucky that my
current publisher Nodin Press brought it back into print
after that long time. I’ve always loved this
painting by Mike Lynch, the house with one light
on to me suggest a person up late reading or writing and
I always think of Virginia Woolf who talked about creativity
being the lamp in the spine. The poems in this book, and
now I’m going to have two or three poems from each of
the books to read to you, these poems are ones
about coming of age, poems about the natural world,
pleasures and repressions of life in a small town and
the loss that made me feel as if I knew for sure what
Dylan Thomas meant when he wrote “After the first death,
there is no other.” “Being Still”. She’s a quiet clapper in
the bell of the prairie, a girl who likes to be alone. Today, she’s hiked four miles
down ravine’s low cool blueness. Bending under barbed wire,
she’s in grass fields at the edge of the great plains. Wise to openness, she
finds it a familiar place. Her clothes swell
like wheat bread. When she returns to her
parents’ house, the foxtails and burrs have come home, too. The plants seem intent
on living in new ground. She’s the carrier. Carrier is a precision learned
in summer’s biology class. She likes to think
of ripening seeds, a cargo inside the
bellies of flying birds. Birds like red-winged blackbirds
who skim the air and land alert on their cattail stalks. They allow her a silent manner. They go about their
red-winged business of crying to each other, dipping their
beaks in the swampy stand of ditch water, full of
the phantom of green. The stiller she is, the
more everything moves in the immense vocabulary
of being. “Trying to Save Ourselves”. We’re in the bottom of the
swimming pool in September after they pulled the plug. Now the only blue is paint loose
in large patches like eczema and Craig Kaizer is calling my
name from over in the deep end. Boys’ soft tongues, hard
hands begged to let go and our bodies wanted to shout
back, swimming over our heads. But in 1965, the
campaign on the side of not letting go
was tremendous. Our mothers enlisted their large
words speaking of menstruation and marital bonds, a brazier’s
worn like life jackets, making all things more formal
so that they belong not to us but those small town hands who
cackled over our virginity. In school, the film for girls
only confirmed our bodies would betray us. Our sins balloon and live
forever, born out of control, the unwanted ghost, a face
lost to the family album. Some of the boys learned this
too, peaking through slices of light that fell
into the black room where we sat hot
packages under wraps. [ Laughter ] “My Mother’s Lullaby”. When my mother smelling of milk
and bread brushes the long robe of her hair, the
vines spring roses. We wake in a white bed
floating with feather pillows. Morning patterns her face. She curls me in her
arms; she is a seashell, pale and full of song. And now I come to tuck my
little mother into bed. I am too young to be
empty-armed and the weeds in my throat will not
let me sing lullabies. Waiting has teeth in it. My mother smiles at me
and wraps around herself. I won’t see her cry; her wheat
body does not even shake. She will not know
how echoes return. Silent tears are turquoise
peacock feathers which tickles and the hyena in me
laughs, it’s crazy, crazy. And my mother on her thin
shelved bed hears the dogs move restlessly. There is a clack of
their nails on linoleum. She knows they have come for
her, she whimpers, they whimper. There will be no one
to tell me what I was like when I was a child.” These early poems that I wrote
when I was in my 20s, I think, continue to be– although
the content has changed, I think the style
has stayed the same. I remember, I wrote down
something a reviewer wrote about that time saying, “Hasse’s
voice uses a lyrical eye tethered to a narrative. She has the eye for
visual images and her poems always feel
personal even when the situation or attitude may be
partially or wholly imagined.” So the content, as I say,
changed but when I’ve read all of my poems again recently
for this retrospective, I felt that some of the style
didn’t– was set at that point. This– The next book that
I’ll read poems from is “In a Sheep’s Eye, Darling”. And this book is from
Milkweed Editions. It was winner of a
contest called the Lakes and Prairies Competition. The designer of this cover
was Randy Scholes who was– is a Minnesota artist
and was cofounder with Emilie Buchwald
of Milkweed Editions. Here, the subject matter is
now the body, a love affair, travel and in the
continued ache, I suppose, one would say of a great loss. “In A Sheep’s Eye,
Darling” for you, Cindy Gehrig [assumed spelling]. “In A Sheep’s Eye, Darling”. All day, in biology class, he’d
looking hard at everything put in front of him on the counter as if he were starving
for these sights. A tree frog’s beating heart
liken from a tree, swamp waters, industrious community,
even wax from his ear under a magnifying glass
made him bend lower, audit the gunk his
body produces. If this is what we slough off, how amazing attached
cells must be, he thought, and carefully scraped some
from inside his cheek. The cells were blurred, like a smudged charcoal drawing
just the way he imagined cheek cells to be, not the
precision of liver, not brain. He knew he didn’t
know much about this and was probably wrong but
he loved his own excitement as if he were the first person
to open another in an operation and discover all those organs
under a slip cover aphasia like tender offspring. All this looking set him
up to be stunned by the eye and he stared back at that
big dismembered thing, the way it sat in its socket
like a pearl in a soft oyster, like an oiled see-through
marble, the cornea, tiny and perfect in its
convexity, and the lens, the way it flattened
and thickened in the center quite irregular
filaments running through it, as if some site shattered inside
or some site held all sewn up. The teacher thought it unlikely
his wife would share his thrill but let him carry the
eye home in his backpack in the baggy leftover from
lunch and the two bent over it in the bright fluorescence
of kitchen and noticed the irrigation
system of blood vessels and the soggy iris and
the cornea and talked about what they could see
being only the tiniest part of the eye, and the eye only
a small part of the sheep, and the sheep a small part
of the farm, and the earth, and the universe, and they went
to bed too odd to have sex. That night, he dreamed of the
great grass of sheep fields, the way it looked to the
sheep who stuck her head into it seeking a particular
blade and the color green welled up inside him like
tears and he woke. “Seamstress”. “Seamstress”. You give me your
pants to repair, you who haven’t been my
lover for a long time. I had nothing to do with the
pants being torn for it was not from feeding you too much or
too little, not for a project on my roof you sacrificed
the seam. It was not in the haste
of sexual play with me nor in any way I saw or knew. What have you been
doing these days? We have so much to talk about. Where these pants went when I
wasn’t with them, whom they met, where they were washed, what hour of the night
they were taken off and where they were left
when you went to bed. Here is my hand,
here is the other. I take your pants with
your body absent from them and I still repair the rents. Here is my head bent
over the tear and the fingers all
together in one organization, the frenzied end of the thread
finally licked into submission. My eyes thread the needle
first then the thumb and index follow suit. I say nothing while I work. You too sit with mouth
pursed as if sewn that way. My lips are chapped feel like
the edges of cotton pulled by hand but I am torn up
by happiness at being used and this is a rip I don’t
know what to do with. “Going On Alone in the
Great Conversation”. Mother, you used to say
that old was just going on, no special feeling except
of surprise in the mirror. You said dad was a great
conversation continued. With the stars, I
wondered, with the living, with dreamers taken
up in sex or death. Mother, the last time I
saw you was last night, though you have been
dead 10 years. Like fire in a paper, your face
flamed, each line and hair, both lips and hands coveted
in their sweet perfection. Your only fault, you
didn’t stay long enough. I want to talk with you. With luck, your hands
would pet my hair which can never be
touched enough. With time, I could have
smelled your yellow perfume, the dry flower of make-up. Instead, after glimpse of
you, I was like a child on the green grass in
a sputter of tulips, the parent departing
in the big black car. I cry after it, Come back! Take me with you. go along. Me go on alone. Much later, when I am 70, your
age when you died, mother, I’ll be your twin in the mirror. We will both be wearing
lavender, absurd Easter hats and smiles because we
have faith in what is new and what is given, because
we loved reading out loud. Each word, a new
penny dropped in a jar because we loved walking,
because we have kneeled at each other’s sick
beds and you passed on these little secret notes
and gene codes, these bow legs from you, these valentine eyes,
this sentimental breathing, because we are each a word in a great conversation
and the word is good. “Milk and Tides.” The last book came out
in 2008 that I showed you with Randy Scholes’ work on it. And this one came out
exactly 20 years later, a gap in my publishing
career, shall we say? But Randy Scholes also did
this particular artwork. That 20 years was the generation that I spent getting
the next generation of my family raised, my sons. And I rarely sent out
poems to be published. But remember those
notebooks I told you about early on, I kept notes. I just didn’t finish poems, but
I kept notes, drafts of poems, starts, and fits and starts. And by 20 years after the
other book, I had a book again. And I am so happy that
Norton Stillman took a gamble on this book. And my poems came to live
in the house of Nodin Press. Many of these poems
are about motherhood, yet the prairies reappear. That first poem I read,
“Life and Reverse”, that’s from this particular
book “Milk and Tides”. And although the drawing
is by Randy Scholes, the cover of this book and of
all the books that follow this or each book that follows
this is by John Toren who does a remarkable
job with his book design. And he’s right here today
and I’m looking at him. So, from “Milk and
Tides”, “Water Sign”. Two-year-old Charlie loves
water, loves the force of water in gutters, pipes. The second hose bought to
keep peace between brothers who spray tomatoes
with the intensity of fire fighters at
a five-alarm fire. He loves the sources of water,
faucet, penis, rain, spit. He longs like pilgrim
for wet places for his worship is
complete submersion, bathtub, swim pool, lake. To praise water, he secludes
himself in the bathroom, ascending a stepping stool
to the sinky open valves to an endless rush of new
pressure in copper pipes. So much water, why not share
it, give it away until it seeps through the floor boards,
showers into the kitchen, fills the bowls on the
table, flows on the heads of his amazed mother and brother
who do not immediately recognize that grace might descend
like this, inconveniently from a complete enthusiast
who needs to be generous with whatever he loves. [ Laughter ] Here comes South Dakota again in the prairies,
“Milk from Chickens”. The day my son declared
with hammerhead certainty that milk comes from chickens
was the day I yanked him out of the city and drove
west to farm and prairie land. Like a nail pried from
hard wood, he complained from the backseat, missing
electronic games and TV. Near the South Dakota border, he saluted a MacDonald’s
as we flew by. I wanted my boy to take a
turn lifting barb wire to slip into open fields keeping an
eye out for the crazy bull. I wanted him to hold
a bottle for a lamb, to feel the fierceness
of animal hunger, the suck of an animal mouth. I wanted him to sleep
out in nights encoded with urgent messages
of fireflies, to see the bright planets in
alignment overhead to stand, on the graves of
his grandparents, dead so many years
before he was born, and to trace the names
etched on granite pillows, hard as the last sleep. How else to plant in him the
long root of plains grass, help him reached
water in drought, and know who his family is? “Earth’s Appetite”, The Museum of Modern Art gave
Nodin Press the right to use this Paul Klee lithograph
with the charming name of “A Guardian Angel
Serves a Little Breakfast”, which was delightful name for
the content of the book too because the poems here are
really about luminous qualities of everyday life,
honey at breakfast, hiring a window washer, taking
a dog for a walk, the pleasure– the deep pleasure
of deep friendships. The poems also turn again–
There’s South Dakota, Sharon, coming in again. So, in the past and prairies, this poem is “How Does
the Dog Spend Her Day?” “How does the dog
spend her day?” I used to wonder when
I was gone eight hours at work, but now I know. Since I lost my job, I find
myself following my dog’s lead: wake late, clean myself
up, eat some crunchy food. Then she and I go for a long
walk in the neighborhood, taking inventory of the
supply of squirrels, noting wild rabbits so still
they advertise themselves as lawn ornaments. I, too, get my morning and
evening news from the air, a human nearby smokes a pipe;
the rain will arrive on wind that fells the leaves. The smell of another dog on the
telephone pole causes my dog to tremble the way a
ringing phone startles me. Sleep rules us within the house and we both drool
on our pillows. I will get over this
spell, I think, I will answer ads, make calls. But right now, I just whistle. My dog comes at a
trot to look up at me, adoring everything about me. If only she were the head of a company looking
for someone to hire. [ Laughter ] And a poem called “Truant”. “Truant”. Our high school
principal wagged his finger over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names, my
boy friend and me called to his office for
skipping school. The day before, we ditched
Latin and world history to chase shadows of
clouds on a motorcycle. We roared down rural roads through the Missouri
River bottoms beyond town, wind teasing the hair
on our bear heads, empty of review tests
and future plans. We stopped on a dirt lane to
hear a meadowlark’s liquid song, and smell the heartbreak
blossom of wild plum. Beyond leaning fence
posts and barbwire, a tractor drew straight lines across the field unfurling
its cape of black birds. Now 40 years after that
geography lesson in spring, I remember the words of the
principal and how right he was in saying: “This will become
of your permanent record.” [Laughter] It did come
become our permanent records. What’s on those things? This is “Between Us”, a
book that came out in 2016 and the image is
called “Songbirds”. And it’s a tile that was
designed by Motawi Tileworks and used with permission
of Nawal Motawi, who in turn had borrowed this
image from the book covers of Percy Bysshe Shelley and
Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I just love how images will
keep passing themselves on through their beauty. I was very grateful to have
her authorization of this and that John and
Norton both liked it. Many of these poems in this book
are about the fleet foot of time and aging and love
that’s between people and also some poems
about our present time about some difficult things
that have come between us. So I read two poems
from “Between Us”. “Come Home, Our Sons”. Come home, our sons, young
drivers, tell us you’re safe, not detained again by police for
your dark color, sprocketed hair and a crime you didn’t commit. Maybe your car’s the wrong
make or rusty in a neighborhood where cars park in
garages at night. Once, when you saw a swat– squad car you remembered
Officer Smiley and his dog that did tricks in
read-aloud books at school. Now, as you reach for your
license with shaking hands, tension raises the chance
something will go wrong. This poem is for you, sons,
and for everyone who is afraid, citizens of police,
police of citizens. It’s for Philando Castile,
a school lunch supervisor in an inner city school who
memorized children’s names and their food allergies. And it’s for the policeman
who stopped the car with a damaged taillight. After he used his gun, his voice
broke like a frightened child’s. Come home, sons. Come home to mother’s like
me, alert at night waiting for car lights to beam
in front of our house, for the car to belong to
our sons, and our sons to still belong to the world. They said one of the themes in
this recent book is about aging. So this is called, “Lapses”. You probably won’t relate to
anything in this, “Lapses”. Sometimes a word is obedient
and comes, good word, good dog. Sometimes the word cowers in
a corner, a friend might fill in the blank, or a mime
action that brings laugher, circling my hands around my
waist conjures that belt, or I invent a description. When I can’t recall
airbags, I say, the car’s exploding pillows. I say, you know those
little white barbells? To which my husband
says, do you mean Q-tips? Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m looking for Q-tips
and friends’ names and books I read just
last month of last night. Memory cleaves to
the distant past. It’s easy to remember the name
of the blonde boy who moved away in third grade and the title of
the first movie that made us cry like an old horse twit
salt lick, the mind ambles to essential nouns to
rain, two apples, to sleep. And this book is my oldest book and my most recently
published book. It’s kind of come
full circle now. Do you remember the
image by Mike Lynch at the very beginning? Same watercolor,
different cover color, and a different designer
of the cover. Some new material has been
added to this book in the form of a foreword by the poet and
my friend Athena Kildegaard and an afterword by me. I want to say that
Athena was just heroic in writing this foreword
because it was in January right at the time she was
working on the final version of her own beautiful
book called “Course”. And she was working on
the launch of that book in sites throughout the
state, and teaching, and a few other things,
mother and parenting, wifing, probably things I can’t
think of, so many, many, many heartfelt thanks for that. She made time for it and
she made a fine foreword. So as I said, come full
circle with this book but hope that the circle will get
opened again sometimes so that there are more
books in my future. There’s a tradition
at the Pankake Reading of letting you have your two
cents worth or more in the form of comments or questions. And I did save a couple of
very short poems to close this out at the end if
there are questions. Class, who’s sitting in front? My sister, my husband, my sons. Comments? When the reviewer
said some things are imagined, some things are from real life,
and some things, you just borrow from someone else, the poet
here who use that expression about the belt around her
waist and she knows who she is and I just took it and put in
my poem, I don’t think she cared because she reviewed
this manuscript, so. Michael, please. [ Inaudible ] How is writing different
for me now than–>>Thirty-four years–>>– than 34 years ago? I have more patience for
the poem to come more. It’s odd to say that
because I feel I’m in a hurry as I grow older and older. But I have more patience
to work on the poem, to let it sit and
simmer and stew. And I also know when to quit
with a poem and drop it. I mean, drop it. Just, it’s done. I’m not done to the
world but done. I can’t make that poem
work and let it go. That’s how it’s changed for me. Yes, please.>>I appreciate the titles
that was on your poem– [ Inaudible ] He’s saying he appreciates–
thank you very much, the titles of my poems
and you appreciated a “Night on the Town”. Oh, thank you very much. He’s referring to a poem
I didn’t read today, but Garrison Keillor, Mr. Keillor who’s
the proprietor owner of the bookstore Common Good
Books runs an annual poetry contest and puts, I
think, his own into it. I’m very grateful for that. I think we poets are very
grateful for the access that he’s– the audience
that he’s brought to poetry. At any rate, this year,
I won that contest and you read that poem. Do you go on the
website to read the poem? It’s called “Night on the Town”, which has an interesting
little story. Mr. Keillor came up to me at
the reading two weeks ago or so when I read the poem
and said to me, it almost didn’t get
chosen as a winner. And I said, oh, really? Whoa, why? What’s this about? And he said, well, you
used a child’s name. And I didn’t put it
together and I read the poem and all its wrong glory to the
audience, and then went home and kept thinking what
did he mean by that, and called a research– or a librarian at our public
libraries, a research librarian who scooted around
and came back. And this name that I used,
instead of F. Scott Fitzgerald for the statue in Downtown,
St. Paul in the poem, I called him Scottie Fitzgerald. And I couldn’t figure out why. I thought that was
an endearing name. And I knew– It turned up in a
biography about Zelda, his wife, well, back comes the
librarian from his cubby or his research site
and he said, the reason you’re thinking
Scottie would be a good name is that was his daughter’s name. So, I changed it from
Scottie Fitzgerald to the statue Downtown, St.
Paul, is F. Scott Fitzgerald. And that’s why it– my mistake. I mean, it is a pretty big
mistake, is why it didn’t– almost didn’t pass a semester
but– So use those librarians and thank them every time. They’re so great. Yes, please, Mimi
[assumed spelling]. [ Inaudible ] I always– Mimi is asking
what I’m working on now. And I’ve always wanted to
write a group of poems, well, as Athena did in “Course” that are all interrelated
in subject matter. And I tried that. I’ve written a group of poems
about Glacier National Park but they just don’t seem to
be– some of the poems are good, the whole doesn’t seem to hold
together, so I’m always working on just one poem at a time and
not a collection, just one poem at a time, and teaching and doing the things
that I love to do. Thanks for asking. Yes, Cathy [assumed spelling]? My– [ Inaudible ] She’s saying– She’s
referring to the mistake I made about Scottie and wondered if
I vetted, you know, vet work and people who are
experts in say a field. And usually, I do do
some research myself and usually I would be taking
a poem to a writers group and if I’m not smart enough
to catch that, usually, members of these
writing groups are. And that’s very helpful. I remember years ago, though– And a good editor helps when
you get the book together. With my first book, Bill Truesdale was then
head of New Rivers Press. And there was a little
line in one of my poems about sparrows eating
seeds every day one quarter of their weight. And he said, are you
sure that’s right? And so he sent me
to do more research to make sure it’s right. So a good editor will keep
you from making the mistakes. I was– This poem, I
happened to write– I heard about the contest and Connie Wanek who’s here
today too also won that contest so did two other writers, I’m
sorry, I don’t know their names. If they’re here today, they
could tell me their names. But we both heard
about the contest and wrote poems for the contest. And it turned out that was
what the judges were kind of looking for. They said, you know, they kind
of liked it that people wrote for the contest and Mr.
Keillor made a little joke, saying on some of the poems that
were submitted, he could see that somebody had erased
Bloomington and put in St. Paul, you know, so– [laughter]. So, I’m sure he was
joking, but anyway– So we– So I didn’t have time to vet
it is the end of that story. So, well, shall– Oh,
one– Oh, hi, George. George. [ Inaudible ] Absolutely, I am. And I’m drawn out
there physically as well as psychologically. He asked if I were
drawn to the prairies. And odd you could– you’d
asked that right now, I have just come back from three
days in my part at the prairie and I hope to go in the
fall to the Black Hills and the Badlands area, a
beautiful part of the world. So, thank you, yes I’m still
drawn not only to the literature about the prairies but to the
place itself as source material and just as pure beauty
and, so– Well, shall I– you know I started with my
longest poem and so I’m going to end with my shortest
poems, two of them. And they had to be very
short because one of them was for the contest that stamped
poems in the sidewalks of St. Paul, so that had to be
very short, five lines or fewer. And then another one was chosen
recently by the St. Paul Almanac for a project to put
poems and poem posters up on public transportation. And the limit for that
was, I believe, 10 lines. So these poems, one
is five and– I mean, I pushed it right out
to the edge of it and one is 10. And the five-line one, that’s in
St. Paul in the sidewalk stamped in a number of places is called, “Meadowlark Mending Song”
although interestingly, they don’t have names on the
poem– names of the poem, nor do they have names of
the authors on the poems. You have to go online to sleuth
that out, to suss that out. “Meadowlark Mending Song”. What hurt you today was
taken out of your heart by the meadowlark who slipped
the silver needle of her song in and out of the grey day
and mended what was torn. And then the other little short
poem which is from “Between Us”, I’ll read that but first, I wanted to say thank
you again for coming. I really appreciate seeing you
all here, and a lovely staff and archivists, it’s just
been great to get to know you and to meet you and
to see you all here. This is a little poem
from “Between Us”, sort of an “Ars Poetica”
of sorts. “Happy Day with An Egg”. An urban chicken
named Nancy nesting in the birdbath laid
an egg today, then walked around the yard with a fluff chest holding
high the crown of her red comb, loudly clucking about herself
and her marvelous achievement, exactly how I feel when
I write a new poem. Tonight at supper, I’ll
celebrate with a little omelet. [Laughter]. [ Applause ]>>Margaret, thank you so much. I am such a fan of your work. And you are such a star of the
literary world in our community that you have gathered and
drawn in a gust assemblage of the poetry world here. Thank you so much. I am so thrilled that you
are our Pankake author. You and I go back
on many adventures. And you didn’t read my
favorite poem, which is the one about sitting on the back
stoop after all the guests or when the families– I love that poem and I use
Margaret’s poems all the time to get through life. I’m Margaret Telfer,
I’m the other Margaret. And I lead the Board
of the Friends of the University Libraries and
we put on the Friends Forum. And we are people with curious
minds and a group of people that you’d enjoy and many
of you here are Friends. If you’re not, we would love
to have you be a member. It costs $40 and brings
you all sorts of benefits. Our next big event is an
annual event that we’re having. And we have Joe Haj
coming to speak to us. And we would love
to have you join us. That’s a dinner. That’s sort of our
big event of the year. But please become a
member of the Friends. And if you get a chance,
come to a first Friday which happens the first Friday
of every month here at Anderson. And if you haven’t had a tour of
the caverns, be sure to do that. Many of your papers
are in there and many of them maybe should be. So, thank you all
so much for coming. Please join us for
refreshments in the atrium. And Margaret’s books
are for sale and I’m sure she’d be
happy to sign them. Thank you. [ Applause ] [ Music ]

One Reply to “Pankake Poetry 2018 with Margaret Hasse”

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