Porters and Poetry

Reprinted from ‘Make it Minnesota

Living in Itasca County is a blessing with its idyllic crossroads of Minnesota’s Nature and growing rural arts scene. A number of us juggle daytime professions with after-hour passions, and we do a small part to augment our community with unique, cultural experiences. This spring such an event sprung with a Friday night in April dubbed ‘Porters & Poetry.’ The experience was born from a love of written language, performance arts, and craft brews. The setting in MacRostie Art Center, with local creations gilding the white walls, was inspiring.

Featured poets punctuated opportunities of open mic, and all was enhanced by a round or two of libations. We had roughly 80 in the crowd, which we figured wasn’t too shabby for a poetry reading in the north woods of Minnesota. Having gone well, thanks to support from area organizations and individuals, we wrote in a second round for October. Instead of featured poets punctuating the open mic, we tried to change it up with competitions for original limericks and haiku.

Why limericks? They’re just fun, and you can’t argue with that. Why haiku? Haiku, is Japanese micro-poetry, traditionally being an artistic observation and enjoyment of nature. In the midst of a gorgeous Minnesota autumn with the changing colors at their peak, inspiration from nature was abounding in October. Art reflects nature, and nature is an artistic creation of its own; so one cannot live in the beauty of the north woods without being inspired by every breath of clean, pine-scented air.

wind swirling tall pines:
The gravel is carpeted
in fresh, amber shag.

            Whether hiking far north of Grand Rapids on the trails of Suomi Hills, or in the heart of downtown on the banks of the infant Mississippi, an artist is inspired by the tremble of every aspen and the chastising from every squirrel. Not that one needs an excuse to get outside and enjoy nature, but the haiku challenge of our latest Porters & Poetry gave great reason to do so. Apparently it is customary for Japanese to go on a nature walk for the sole purpose of seeking an inspiring moment in time and nature, from which to write haiku. I found it difficult to set a poetry quota of one when the inspirations of nature are countless; from towering pines to trumpeter swans to vibrant rose hips…

those wild crimson lips
kiss the shrubs where roses grew,
bid farewell to green

            But all good nature walks must come to an end, and in time one has to come inside and go to a poetry reading to share it with others. If a pint of Minnesota’s finest brew or a glass of red wine are to accompany the eloquence of spoken word- so much the better. And best of all, proceeds from Porters & Poetry went to Grand Rapids Players community theatre; so essentially an artistic event helped to raise funds for other artistic experiences. That’s collaborative sustainability in Minnesota’s Nature; And creating arts in Minnesota is almost as good as going into the woods to find inspiration.

Rows of red fingers
interlock in rev’rent grace.
sumac radiance

Haiku: Winter in MN

birches at day’s end: the sun chooses at random several to keepsprightly chickadee
sticks beak in snow. emerges.
with frosty goatee.

birches at day’s end:
the sun chooses at random
several to keep

sage lichen dabbled
on a gray and white canvas
a subtle beauty

two lonesome brothers kept each other company for a centuryrainy December.
a red flag slices the drab:
northern cardinal

two lonesome brothers
kept each other company
for a century

four open perches;
nuthatches and chickadees
take turns on just one

eaglenestred-breasted nuthatch
throws out several black seeds
before taking one

high above the trees
eagle nest waits silently
for coming spring brood

A wasps’ paper orb
hangs fragilely on a branch
over the river.