The winner of our state poem contest is...
|Here's how the vote broke down.|
You did. We narrowed the submissions down to four, and then put the finalists up to a vote.
Nearly 200 readers weighed in, and now, we're ready to crown Minnesota's new state poem (City Pages edition).
Kevin Watterson's "Untitled" earned the fewest votes of the four finalists, followed by Suz Anne Wipperling's "Minnesota Morning." "Walking with the late Paul Gruchow," by Joshua P. Preston, took second place with nearly half the vote.
But "If Not River" by Weston Cutter was the only poem to break the 50 percent mark. Cutter's winning submission includes these lines:
"Will you still love me Minnesota if I admit / that I, too, round up? That I don't have / ten thousand anything other than questions but I'm happy / to claim otherwise?" We'll take that over "Mother Nature's dream."
The poet is a 34-year-old St. Paul native who didn't leave the Cities until he was 26, and then only to get his MFA at Virginia Tech. When he was done in school, he moved to Iowa to teach at Northwestern College, and was stricken with homesickness for his state.
"I would write poems to the places [where] I wished I was," Cutter explains. One of those poems became "If Not River."
On top of the homesickness, "If Not River" was sparked by the Jayhawks album Tomorrow the Green Grass, and by growing up on the local waters.
"My friends and I worked on boats during college," Cutter says, "and I just feel like my years were spent in the most dorky Minnesota way, being out on a river and going to bars."
Now, Cutter lives in Indiana and teaches English and creative writing at the University of St. Francis. But his home state remains, he says, present in everything he writes.
"Minnesota is the most important part of my writing," Cutter says. "I'm walking around right now [in Boston] in a Twins hat, and my way of starting a conversation is asking people if they like the Replacements. Minnesota is the thing I identify with most."
We're sending Cutter a stack of poetry books as his prize. Though we can't say that "If Not River" will beat out "Minnesota Blue" for the official spot in the secretary of state's office, Minnesotans reading and writing more odes to their state is never a bad thing, state seal of approval or not.
Here's the winning poem in full:
"If Not River," by Weston Cutter
Minnesota I'm your river, I start distant,
in quiet, and I'm unfinished. I ache for scene's
completion, I'll flow till I get there and wonder
what I'll spill, when, where, etc. Minnesota
I rise and subside depending
on season, I swell and deserve
my own Army Corps to come install locks
to help with my overflow. Like water
is all or enough: Minnesota I'm made of 61 Highways
and have you heard how I sound
when my sky fluoresces? Sizzling in dark
and cold, that's what, Minnesota, shivers,
a whispering from the sky like a radio station
that died at sunset yet here we are, still
tuned in. I wonder about you, Minnesota.
I've ridden your hills and kissed your girls
and vice versa, I've let your winters finger me months
at a stretch, I've fallen for icy beauty, I've
gulped considering what lives in and/or through
such chill and I've dived into a lake's hole
to prove something about blood or toughness
or where I believe I belong and what I want
to know is this: Minnesota what if
I'm not river? What if I'm all boat?
Will you still love me Minnesota if I admit
that I, too, round up? That I don't have
ten thousand anything other than questions but I'm happy
to claim otherwise? All this water. All
that gouged fertility. Minnesota you wear
your trampled past well and don't let anyone fool you: it's not
nice, that flinty gaze you cast west to prairie, north
to another country, east to a lake bigger than sin
or the greatest awe but Minnesota neither you nor I
can pretend niceness was all we were ever after.