Caution: Poetry at Work

February 12

"At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet" --Plato

Valentine's Day is often remembered as a day full of romance and sentiments; however, the holiday originally began as the Roman festival Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. It wasn't until the 5th century that Pope Gelasius dedicated the day to St. Valentine, to honor his martyrdom in 250 AD. Consequently, the act of exchanging cards and gifts was not popularized until the 13th century and became the tradition we know today.

Modern Valentine's Day patrons use this day to celebrate their love. In honor of the holiday, the CSB/SJU Pseudonym student writing club paired with the Writing Center for a "Crappy Valentine's Poetry" contest. Students were encouraged to submit their sappiest poems for a chance to be published in Pseudonym's Surfaced magazine. Many topics dealt with food-related humor, while others took their love for electronics to another level. Here is one of the submissions:

Cheesy Love PoemValentine's Day
My one true love is a great delight
A comfort in times most trying.
I call you up for another late night
Then wait at my window, spying.

The doorbell rings and you come in
Your wonderful smell on the air.
A glorious, curvy, Italian
That's classic and beyond compare.

Your stay is too brief for my liking
So, I treasure your leftovers with glee.
Every time I see you its striking
For you, I would pay any fee.

Even though you may be unhealthy
I find that I cannot reject.
My pizza with cheese oh so melty
With pepperoni and olives bedecked.

In honor of Valentine's Day, try writing your own crappy love poem! You could begin with the sentiment: roses are red, violets are blue... or go even a step further and say: My love is like a...

Post and poem by Holly Ossanna, 2020

January 29

A Sense of Place in the Avon Hills

You may have heard the term "sense of place." What exactly does this mean and how does it apply to poetry?

First of all, perhaps we should decide what we mean by "place." Is place simply a geographic location or does it imply something more? Does it include the inhabitants, both human and non-human of a place? Does it include natural and man-made objects, such as rocks, rivers and lakes, soil, houses, shopping malls and highways? Does it include human activity in a location such as farming or mining or types of commerce? Is "sense of place" a feeling, positive or negative? Is place inside you as well as outside?

Let's take a look at some of these many questions through the lens of a local event taking place at Saint John's University on February 10th: The Avon Hills Conference. The day consists of classes, seminars, speakers and exhibits focused on human and non-human activity in the Avon Hills. Everything from poetry to rain barrels, honey bees to pond scum is on the agenda.

The conference will provide plenty of food for thought and one way to process this information is to write about it, specifically through poetry. I think poetry provides a means to explore our thoughts, feelings and ideas regarding this catalog of information at a deeper level. Is there a metaphor for living a successful life in "no till gardening" or integrating Dakota values into our treatment of the land we live on?

I can envision poems written about a local bee keeper or the emerald ash borer. How about a poem written about the way you feel when you have to leave your home in the Avon Hills daily to commute to your job in the city or the way you feel when you return home? Even if you don't live in the Avon Hills, do your feelings change when you visit the region as you explore the Saint John’'s Bible exhibit, the pottery located at Saint John's, or attend a concert at the Benedicta Arts Center? How does a walk in the woods, a canoe trip down the Sauk River, helping in the harvest and processing of tree sap and making maple syrup enrich your life? A person could simply google "poetry of place" and find a lifetime's worth of great poetry about the subject of place from poets such as Wendell Berry or Jimmy Santiago Baca. Better yet, explore the poetry of Joyce Sutphen (raised in St. Joseph) or Edith Rylander (Grey Eagle) or Joe Paddock (Litchfield).

Why not write your own? Write for your own benefit and for the benefit of those that follow. I realize this short essay is full of questions and few answers. It's up to you to explore your own thoughts and provide the answers. Put poetry to work for you!

Dairy Farmers
"Even on the day I die," he told me,
"The cows must be milked on time.
You hear me?
Even on the day I die."

Yesterday's sunrise brought golden light
Through the spider-webbed barn window,
The light embraced him,
Hay dust sparkled like gold dust
Around his bent shoulders.

He sat on this stool yesterday,
Its seat worn smooth long before him
By his father's wool pants.
This stool, where I sit,
My head pressed against a Holstein's side.

I remember daddy saying that
When a child,
I sat on his lap while he milked,
Like a kitten,
I licked fresh milk from his fingers, son.

Larry Schug

Previous Entries