Kristal Leebrick's prize-winning love poem has it all: winter, North Dakota, young love, first love, the northern lights, sentimentality, and the wise perspective of later years. It's evocative without being sweet, nostalgic without being mawkish, and it attracted the admiration of the three fine judges of Common Good Books' second annual Love Poems competition, who awarded it first prize.
Leebrick lives in St. Paul, edits a monthly newspaper, and is the author of "Dayton's: A Twin Cities Institution."
The four runners up in the competition are:
Edwin Romond of Wind Gap, Penn.
Kathleen Novak of Minneapolis
Ann Harrington of St. Paul
and Chet Corey of Bloomington.
Judges were Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen; Leebrick wins $1,000 and the four runners-up each with $250. May they spend it on fine pens, thick journals, and lots of books!
Here is the winning poem:
New Year Love
I remember our breath
in the ciy air
and how the northern lights gathered
in a haze at the horizon,
spread up past the water tower
then vanished into the dark.
I remember that January night in North Dakota:
We left the dance,
the hoods of our dads' air force parkas zipped tight,
our bare hands pulled into the coat sleeves.
into the wind
down the drifting sidewalks of our eight-grade lives
to the brick-and-clapboard row houses on Spruce Street.
We ducked between buildings
and you pulled me close.
A flickering light from someone's TV screen.
A kitchen window.
Your fingers tracing my face.
Your hair brushing my eyes.
Your skin, your lips.
I remember that January night in North Dakota,
but I can't remember you rname.
Common Good Books' second love poem competition drew more than 1,000 entries--"five shopping bags worth," writes Garrison Keillor (pictured) on his Common Good Books blog.
Keillor and fellow poet-judges Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen read poems about all kinds of love--love of cheese and tomatoes (that's two separate poems), cats and dogs (definitely separate poems), men and women, hymns and helmets.
They narrowed the field from 1,100 submissions to 25 finalists; most of the poets are from Minnesota but definitely not all of them.
The winner will be announced at a public event at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at Weyerhaeuser Chapel at Macalester College.
Here are the finalists--the name of the poem, the author, the hometown:
"Map," Melissa Anderson, Minneapolis
"Love Poem, Late in Life," Chet Corey, Bloomington
"Anniversary," Kathleen Donkin, Lubec MAINE
"Lexiphilia," Julie Excell, Denver CO
"Inheritance," Patricia Kelly Hall, Roseville
"They Will Appear Lovely In Your Eyes," Jennifer Halling, Leavenworth KS
"Shoveling," Ann Harrington, St. Paul
"An Iowa Song," Marsha Hayles, Pittsford NY
"Kinnickinnic," Michael Hill, Austin TX
"Pershing Avenue, 1960," Holly Iglesias, Greenville SC
"The Way You Move," Brett Jenkins, St. Paul
"Custodian," Maureen Cassidy Jenkins, Carnegie PA
"Galaxies," Ken Katzen Columbia MD
"New year love," Kristal Leebrick, St. Paul
"At Louie Arco’s," Kathleen Novak, Minneapolis
"Migration," Nancy-Jean Pement, Thousand Oaks, CA
"String," Jessica Lind Peterson, Brooklyn Park
"Sonnet (for K B)," John Richard, Minneapolis
"One Good Thing," Edwin Romond, Wind Gap PA
"Full Moon, Almost," Susan Solomon, St. Paul
"Parallel Lives," Donna Spector, Warwick NY
"Rondeau for My Grandmother," Marjorie Thomsen, Cambridge MA
"Sonnet for a sister who was once my best friend," Francine Marie Tolf,Minneapolis
"To Carla", Cary Utterberg, Golden Valley
"Every Morning," Mark R. Warren, Phoenix AZ
When you saw that Garrison Keillor and Common Good Books had decided to offer a $1,000 prize for the winner of this year's love poem contest--and $250 for each of the four runners-up--you probably thought, Heck. I'll never win. It'll probably go to someone really good, like Walt Whitman, or somebody.
Fear not! Prithee! 'Zounds! And other vaguely poetic sounding exclamations! Because the bookstore is hoping to level the playing field a little--bring you up, so to speak, to Whitman's level. And so, on its website, it is offering free advice on how to write a love poem. This advice is from the tops in the field. No, not Walt Whitman (someone needs to break the news to you that Mr. Whitman is dead), but from others just as good (and very much alive).
And so we have advice from Jeff Shotts, executive editor of Graywolf Press and editor of some of the finest poets being published today. Also, advice from Washington State's poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken, Tony Hoagland (whose newest book came out in March) (and was edited by Jeff Shotts), and many others. More advice will pop up between now and the competition deadline of April 15, so check back.
The advice is sound and simple and much of it applies to good writing in general: Be direct and intimate, be fully honest, be unexpected. But of course, since they are poets, they said this so much better. Here's a sampling:
"While writing a love poem, you must ignore everyone but the beloved." (Shotts.)
"I learned that love poems could be more than just 'let me count the ways' and contain the dark as well as the light.." (Flenniken.)
"The love poet is advised to twist the data convincingly towards the eccentric as well as the esoteric. Show the beloved emptying a mousetrap. Describe the expression on the mouse’s face." (Hoagland)
So. Ready? Submit your poem (with a signed release, available on the Common Good Books site) by April 15. Winners will be judged by Garrison Keillor, Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen--fine St Paul poets, all.
And even if you don't win the $1,000, when this is all over you will have written a love poem. And that's no small thing.
They'll be working all weekend, shlepping books out the door, up the street and around the corner, but Brian and Sue Roegge will be happy to do so. The owners of the three-year-old Chapter2 Books in Hudson, Wis., had lost their lease and up until two days ago had figured their indie bookstore was going to have to close. They'd been looking for a new space in Hudson's little riverfront downtown, but with no luck.
On Tuesday, their luck turned. They have signed a lease with a landlord in the Star Observer building, next floor to a flower shop and a chocolate shop. (That side of the street must be very busy on Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day, and Christmas.)
The new spot is what you might call "garden level"--it's down six steps-- but "it is a spacious 1,250 square feet with great lighting," Sue Roegge said, and it has big windows.
So on Friday night, the store will close for the last time in its current location, and the plan is to be up and running again by early next week in the new place. Sue Roegge suggested that interested customers might call the store at 1-715-220-8818 for updates.
And that's not the Roegges' only bit of good news: On Tuesday a publicist for Candlewick Press called the store, asking if they would be interested in hosting Minneapolis author Kate DiCamillo in May. It would be DiCamillo's first trip to Chapter2.
Interested? "I am bursting with excitment right now," Sue Roegge said. "I can't believe what a change from a few weeks ago."
The new store will be at 226 Locust Street, Suite 3, Hudson, Wis.
Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., which has been a friend of writers and readers for many years, hosting events and story time and writing workshops as well as selling all the latest national and regional titles (in print and in Kobo), has lost its lease and is almost certain to close.
Owners Brian and Sue Roegge of St. Paul have tried to find other space in Hudson's little downtown, but their last effort--Tuesday night--came up short. "I think we're done," a deeply discouraged Sue Roegge said in an e-mail. Even presenting the potential new landlord with a petition signed by more than 300 people who want the bookstore to remain in Hudson made no difference. "Goodbye, bookstore," Roegge said. "It's hard to think positive."
To show their gratitude to customers and authors, the store will host an author appreciation day on Saturday. Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., more than 15 local writers will come by the store to sign books, chat with customers and say goodbye to the Roegges. "We invited nearly every author who has ever been in the store," Roegge said. Some, she noted, are regional, some are national best-sellers, "and some are both!"
A partial list includes William Kent Krueger, David Housewright, Kate Hopper, Sarah Stonich, Barbara Deese, Susan Sims Moody, and many others. A full list is on the store's website here.
Chapter 2 Books is at 422 2nd St. in Hudson.
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