Connie Wanek

The poetry of Connie Wanek will be celebrated on Saturday when a nature trail in Duluth's Hartley Field park is named for her in a public event. The wildflower trail will feature posted excerpts from seven of Wanek's poems--"some of the best poetry written anywhere," Duluth Poet Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld said on Friday.

Wanek's first collection, "Bonfire," won the New Rivers Press 1997 New Voices Award. Subsequent books have been published by Holy Cow! Press ("Hartley Field"), Copper Canyon Press ("On Speaking Terms"), and the University of Nebraska Press ("Rival Gardens"). Both "Bonfire" and "On Speaking Terms," were named finalists for a Minnesota Book Award.

Wanek has also published a collection of short fiction ("Summer Cars") and served as co-editor (with Joyce Sutphen and Thom Tammaro) on the award-winning anthology "To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present." In 2006, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser named her a Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress.In 2009, Wanek was named the George Morrison Artist of the Year. She and Kooser are collaborating on a book of poetry for young people, to be published by Candlewick Press.

Connie Wanek on a frozen Hartley Field pond.

Connie Wanek on a frozen Hartley Field pond.

Saturday's event will run from 2-4 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, and Wanek will read her poem, "Wild Asters." The event is free and open to all; the park is at 3001 Woodland Av., Duluth.

"All this is due to the generosity and imagination of the current Duluth Poet Laureate, Ellie Schoenfeld, and to former Duluth Poet Laureate, Deb Cooper," Wanek said Friday. "I would never have envisioned any honor like this, and yet nothing could mean more to me."

Schoenfeld said, "Aside from the brilliance of her writing, Connie also exemplifies what it is to be a part of a community of writers, to enact a generosity of spirit. She has done so much in her quiet way to bring poetry to people's attention, to support the arts, and to be supportive of other writers. It has been really beautiful to work with a group to honor her in this way in a place that is so meaningful to her and to imagine all of the people who will be strolling on the trail and stopping to read her poems along the way."

Here is Wanek's poem "Hartley Field." Reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher.

Hartley Field

By Connie Wanek
And place is always and only place 
And what is actual is actual only for one time 
And only for one place . . . 
T. S. Eliot

The wind cooled as it crossed the open pond 

and drove little waves toward us, 
brisk, purposeful waves 
that vanished at our feet, such energy 
thwarted by so little elevation. 
The wind was endless, seamless, 
old as the earth. 
                           Insects came 
to regard us with favor. I felt them alight, 
felt their minute footfalls. 
I was a challenge, an Everest . . . 
And you, whom I have heard breathe all night, 
sigh through the water of sleep 
with vestigial gills . . . 
A pair of dragonflies drifted past us, silent, 
while higher up two bullet-shaped jets 
dragged their roars behind them 
on unbreakable chains. It seemed a pity 
we’d given up the sky to them, but I understand so little. 
Perhaps it was necessary. 
All our years together— 
and not just together. Surely by now 
we have the same blood type, the same myopia. 
Sometimes I think we’re the same sex, 
the one in the middle of man and woman, 
born of both as every child is. 
The waves came to us, one each heartbeat, 
and lay themselves at our feet. 
The swelling goes down. 
The fever cools. 
There, where the Hartleys grew lettuce eighty years ago 
bear and beaver, fox and partridge 
den and nest and hunt 
and are hunted. I wish I had the means 
to give all the north back to itself, to let the pines 
rise in the hayfield and the lilacs go wild. 
But then where would we live? 
I wanted that hour with you all winter— 
I thought of it while I worked, 
before I slept and when I woke, 
a time when the tangled would straighten, 
when contrition would become benediction: 
the positive hour, shining like mica. 
At last the wind brought it to us across the pond, 
then took it up again, every last minute.

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