State of the Arts Blog

MN poetry: James Armstrong’s “Kentucky Wonders”

James Armstrong is the author of Blue Lash, a collection of poems that examines the power and allure of Lake Superior. The book is divided into three parts: "North of Duluth," "Isle Royale," and "South Shore." Author Louis Jenkins wrote of Armstrong's work: "These poems have the handcrafted precision of a wooden skiff built by a master boatbuilder, rugged and durable yet light, quick, and capable of covering great distances." Armstrong is currently a professor of English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.

Kentucky Wonders

I'm thinking about your

coiled hose and muddy trowel.

You like the way the bean sprouts lift

their swan necks above the crumbled soil,

the way the squash blossoms

open their saffron cotillions.

It's like the way, when you talk to horses

their ears swivel, delicate periscopes,

and their humid gaze turns in your direction.

So much power, welded to gentleness,

so much gentleness, welded to power -

little insistent threads of seedlings

a single frost might blacken.

By midsummer, they are a solid wall.

- "Kentucky Wonders" in Blue Lash by James Armstrong (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2006). Copyright © 2006 by James Armstrong. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.