Carrying Water to the Field


Carrying Water to the Field

New and Selected Poems

Joyce Sutphen
Introduction by Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series

240 pages


October 2019


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2019


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2019


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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. Readers from Maine to Minnesota and beyond will recognize themselves, their parents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors in these poems, which move us from delight in keen description toward something like wisdom or solace in the things of this world.

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—erasures that Sutphen attempts to ameliorate with her careful attention to language and lyrical precision. 


Author Bio

Joyce Sutphen grew up on a farm in Stearns County, Minnesota. She is a professor emeritus of English at Gustavus Adolphus College and is Minnesota’s poet laureate. She is the author of seven poetry collections, including Straight Out of View, Coming Back to the Body, and Naming the Stars, and is a coeditor of To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present


"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."—Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews

"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. . . . The reader can dip in, selecting one perfectly crafted poem at a time and relish the weight and feel of each in their palm."—Elizabeth Hoover, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

"Perhaps you are interested in a poet’s journey, or the story of a family, the value of meaningful work, the beauty of things well-crafted, or the muscle and music of words. Perhaps the Heartland as a place intrigues you, or maybe you are fascinated by the places the heart will take us. If any of these things matters to you, then no matter how you choose to read Carrying Water to the Fields, you’re likely to find rewards."—Tracy Rittmueller, Lyricality

“How rare to see lyric tenderness sustained over years with no stumble into sentimentality. This remarkable collection wields a keen blade of attention, a nonchalant elegance. The reigning landscape is the Minnesota family farm of Joyce Sutphen’s girlhood, a world lost not only to her but to America. The mind at work here is not nostalgic, but piercing, acute. The city of her adulthood, her travels (especially to Ireland), and the tally of enduring and broken relationships form a faithful history of our raucous times. Chekhov comes inevitably to mind, with his remorseless stories set in the dustscapes of the Russian provinces. No regionalist, he. Joyce Sutphen is our Chekhov, only in poems.”—Patricia Hampl, author of The Art of the Wasted Day

“The writing in Carrying Water to the Field is faultless: the language is limpid and accurate, the choreography is unerring, the forms are balanced and satisfying. And even more satisfying is the fact that this brilliant technique justifies and is justified by the truth value of these poems, which usher us into the reality of time, change, loss, and memory’s belated and beautiful insights.”—Vijay Seshadri, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Three Sections: Poems

“It is poetry that Joyce Sutphen finds in owls, marshes, tractors, harrows and mason jars: just as (amid the urgent matter of contemporary existence, literary life, love, and human frailty) she shows us the very heart and soul of her working, rooted prairie people, as shy of being caught in a poem as they once were reluctant to be photographed, but perfectly captured for us in this sweeping account of life that is both specific and universal. A stunning collection of poems.”—Anne-Marie Fyfe, author of The House of Small Absences

Table of Contents

Introduction by Ted Kooser    

Selections from Straight Out of View

Straight Out of View    
The Farm    
Tornado Warning    
Feeding the New Calf    
My Father Comes to the City    
St. Joe, the Angelus    
In Black    
From Out the Cave    
Great Salt Lake    
Holland Park at Dusk    
Riding East to Dover    
Reading Sylvia Plath in London    
Edgar’s Dream    
Death Becomes Me    
Suppose Death Comes Like This    
What You Wanted    
A Kind of Deliverance    
In Quest of Agates    
Living in the Body    

Selections from Coming Back to the Body

Comforts of the Sun    
Girl on a Tractor    
A Poem with My Mother in It    
Apple Season    
Fields in Late October    
Of Virtue    
The Silence Says    
A Kind of Villanelle    
Her Legendary Head    
Not for Burning    
The Temptation to Invent    
Rodin on Film    
Arrangement in Grey and Black    
What the Heart Cannot Forget    
Older, Younger, Both    
Coming Back to the Body    
Into Thin Air    
The Assumption    

Selections from Naming the Stars

Naming the Stars    
Raku Songs    
How We Ended Up Together    
The Problem Was    
Losing Touch    
Polaroid # 2    
Ever After    
The Sound of No One Calling    
Aisle and View    
The Apostate’s Creed    
What Comes After    
In the Wake    
This Body    
Now That Anything Could Happen    
What to Pack    
Getting the Machine    
Some Glad Morning    
At the Moment    
Now, Finally, a Love Song    

Selections from First Words

First Words    
The Body I Once Lived In    
My Legendary Father    
The Kingdom of Summer    
The Aunts    
My Luck    
Just for the Record    
Bringing in the Hay    
My Dog, Pal    
The Oat Binder    
What Every Girl Wants    
The First Child    
My Brother’s Hat    
These Few Precepts    
In Vermeer’s Painting    
Things You Didn’t Put on Your Résumé    
How to Listen    
The Last Things I’ll Remember    

Selections from After Words

A Dream of Empty Fields    
Taking Stock    
The Scythe    
“Perfect Weather for Hanging Wash”     
My Mother’s Secret Life    
The Exam    
Grandma Clara    
September Afternoon, Writing    
My Grandmother Sells Her Strawberry Field    
The Queen of Summer Lawns    
My Sister’s School Papers    
Two Girls on a Hayrack    
The Blue in the Distance    
Things I Know    
Bell Bottom Baby    
The Suzuki Mother    
We Have Come This Far    
Next Time    
The Last Perfect Season    

Selections from Modern Love & Other Myths

On the Shortest Days    
Winter’s Night    
Like That    
It’s Amazing    
The Hampstead Sonnets    
Bird on a Wall in County Clare    
The Last Straw    
Things to Watch While You Drive    
The Idea of Living    
The Lost Prophecy    
One Thousand and One Nights    
The Poem You Said You Wouldn’t Write    
The One Constant Thing    
Death, Inc.     
Even in My Time    
The Posthumous Journey of the Soul    
All the People I Used to Be    
For the Evening Light    
Say It        
The Book of Hours    

Selections from The Green House

Irish Suite    
A Bird in County Clare    
A Postcard from the Burren    
At Clonmacnoise    
Playing the Pipes    
This Beautiful Paper    
Snow, Snow, Snow    
The Sound of a Train    
Writing Poetry    
Why We Need Poetry    
Reading the Notes in the Norton Anthology of Poetry    
The Birds Walking    
The Cardinal    
Still Life    
Constable Clouds    
Bird Song, Cannon River Bottoms    
The Cup    

New Poems
I. Luck

Those Hours    
Someone Just Like You    
In Iowa City One Night    
Too Much Luck    
The Signal    
The Fortune Cookie Writer    
Eleanor Beardsley in Paris    
At Los Alamos    
What the Music Required    
So Close    
The Light Left On    

II. Work

The Long Centuries    
What He Doesn’t Tell Us    
Hoeing Potatoes with My Grandmother        
Horseshoes with Maurice    
More of Everything    
My Brothers    
My Mother Breaks Her Ankle    
Snowmen at the Farm    
Because of the Sun    

III. Again    

The Last Apples    
Autumn Again    
Carrying Water to the Field    
What We Didn’t Talk About    
My Father, Dying    
After You Were Gone    
Sunday Afternoon in Early May    
Reading Anna Swir in October    
For the Letter Writers    
How I’m Doing    
Isla, Morning    
Your Name    
Making Do    


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