Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems

Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems

Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems

Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems


For decades a restorer of old homes, Connie Wanek shows us that poetry is everywhere, encountered as easily in the waterways, landscapes, and winters of Minnesota, as in the old roofs and darkened drawers of a home long uninhabited. Rival Gardens includes more than thirty unpublished poems, along with poems selected from three previous books--all in Wanek's unmistakable voice: plainspoken and elegant, unassuming and wise, observant and original. Many of her new poems focus on the garden, beginning with the Garden of Eden. A deep feeling for family and for the losses and gains of growing into maturity mark the tone of Rival Gardens, with Wanek always attending to the telling detail and the natural world.


Ted Kooser

It may be a common though rarely acknowledged fate for a literary artist to discover to his embarrassment that he likes somebody else’s work a good deal more than his own, but that’s the way I’ve felt about the art of Connie Wanek during the dozen or more years since I first heard her read her poems at a conference in Duluth. I was seated that day next to Carol Bly, whose judgment about quality was never less than impeccable, and she agreed with me about the marvelously inventive, richly associative, and deeply moving poetry we were hearing. I wish that Carol could have lived to see the book you’re holding now.

In 2005, while I was serving as U.S. poet laureate, I presented one of two prestigious Witter Bynner Fellowships to Connie, who with her husband, Phil, drove from Minnesota to Washington to accept the award and to read her poems into the archives of the Library of Congress. There were Connie and I, both from the vast middle section of our country, an area that literary critics from both coasts avoid as if it were Death Valley in July, the two of us in the library’s handsome Poetry Room, a little parlor with furniture one is afraid to sit on and a guest book that Robert Frost had signed over and over again as if to underline that he’d been there.

And there we were, later that day, flanked by dusty velvet curtains on the stage of the stately Coolidge Auditorium, where scores of important American writers had stood to accept their honors and applause. I don’t know about Connie, but I had the time of my life that afternoon, being able to recognize this immensely talented poet who was not a professor of creative writing on her way to a better position but a person who worked at a public library and, with her husband, fixed up old houses for resale, a part-time painter and dec-

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