Joyce Sutphen’s evocations of life on a small farm, coming of age in the late 1960s, and traveling and searching for balance in a very modern world are both deeply personal and familiar. In addition to poems selected from the last twenty-five years, Carrying Water to the Field includes more than forty new poems on the themes of luck, hard work, and the ravages of time.
Representing nearly a quarter-century of published work, Carrying Water to the Field attests to Joyce Sutphen’s accomplishment as a lyric poet dedicated to clarity and concision. In his introduction, Ted Kooser describes the book as 'a collection of moments that may feel quite familiar to you.' But the poems — rooted in physical description and the rhythms of manual labor — have more heft and materiality than a fleeting moment. Instead, the book feels like a bowl of pebbles harvested over years of country rambles. The reader can dip in, selecting one perfectly crafted poem at a time and relish the weight and feel of each in their palm ... Her careful, clear observations capture the particularities of growing up on a farm outside St. Joseph and the sensual pleasures of the work there ... While these poems take readers through transformation and loss, they also linger on what persists in moments of grace, such as the blade of a scythe left behind by a mower 'distracted/by something sweeter than fact or fire' or the silence of the dead 'that I take/for love — a love that I carry/all the way to the horizon.'
Over the years, Minnesota Poet Laureate Sutphen has amassed seven collections of poems ... This 'new and selected' gathers her best of the best into one wonderful volume ... Ultimately, these are poems about coming of age and coming to terms, and they read like conversations with old friends. In addition to the rich imagery, they move to an underlying beat, rhythms affected by the hundreds of classic poems Sutphen memorized as she drove to work ... a Sutphen poem takes you to a place you never expect to go but a place you knew you belonged ... Gorgeous and deeply gratifying work recommended for all heartlands readers and anyone who appreciates the rural life Sutphen describes...
Precise in the language of everyday, rich in wisdom and maturity, Joyce Sutphen’s newest collection, her eighth, speaks to her comfort with farm life, travel, aging, the distortions of memory. Sutphen is Minnesota’s poet laureate and a professor emeritus at Gustavus Adolphus College.