Louis Jenkins is a poet who lives in Duluth. A regular guest on A Prairie Home Companion, Jenkins writes prose poems -- short paragraphs that turn everyday life into sparkling bits of homespun philosophy and sardonic humor.
He's just come out with a new collection, "North of the Cities." MPR's Stephanie Hemphill spoke with Jenkins about his work.
Here are two of his new poems.
In the box of old photos there's one of a young man with a moustache wearing a long coat, circa 1890. The photo is labeled "Uncle Karl" on the back. That would be your mother's granduncle, who came from Sweden, a missionary, and was killed by Indians in North Dakota, your great-granduncle.
The young man in the photo is looking away from the camera, slightly to the left. He has a look of determination, a man of destiny, preparing to bring the faith to the heathen Sioux.
But it isn't Karl. The photo was mislabeled, fifty years ago. It's actually a photo of Uncle Axel, from Norway, your father's uncle, who was a farmer. No one knows that now. No one remembers Axel, or Karl.
If you look closely at the photo it almost appears that the young man is speaking, perhaps muttering "I'm Axel damn it. Quit calling me Karl!"
The squirrel makes a split-second decision and acts on it immediately -- headlong across the street as fast as he can go. Sure, it's fraught with danger, sure there's a car coming, sure it's reckless and totally unnecessary, but the squirrel is committed. He will stay the course.
Listen to "Mushroom Hunting."
Listen to "The Afterlife."