When Scott Lowery asked a friend to direct him to the Southeastern Minnesota Poets Call for Poetry Submissions for the “Bright Light Stories in the Night” contest, one word in the call stood out. for him – accessible.
Lowery, a retired teacher and educator who lives in Rollingstone, said he wanted to see more people try reading and writing poetry.
Contest organizers said they wanted the poems to be enjoyed by children as much as the parents or grandparents who read to them.
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A jury selected six poets and six artists for the e-chapbook project. A chapbook is a small prose book often bound by stitches.
The e-book contest was designed to bring some light and warmth into the heart of a Minnesota winter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seems like such a good time to get us out of this deep winter and into the light and warmth,” said Lisa Higgs, one of the organizers.
Using poetry to make sense of strange times is an example of this accessibility, Lowery said. Two of his poems are featured in an anthology of pandemic-related poems titled “Sheltering With Poems” to be published this spring.
With Lowery, Tim Brennan, of Austin; DE Green, Northfield; Jennifer Jesseph, Pine Island; Steven McCown, Northfield; and Jean Prokott, Rochester, were selected by a jury.
Michael King, Barbara Kinnick and Leisa Luis-Grill, all of Rochester; Rita LeDuc, of Fontaine; Eric Thomas, of Alden; and Kenna Sandborn, of Byron, were the selected artists.
The works will be read at a virtual event on Friday, February 26. They will be read by Rochester Mayor Kim Norton, Dr. Jeffery Boyd, Dr. Jess Garcia, Eric Kerska, Lorelai Lewis, Kesarin Mehta, Claudia Tabini and Juan Vasquez. After that, the works will be exhibited at Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists (SEMVA), 320 Broadway Ave. S.
For Sandborn, who submitted photographs, this will be the first public exhibition of his photography.
Sandborn has made a point of getting out and photographing his natural surroundings in southeast Minnesota since the pandemic began.
“I guess I just wanted to surround myself with beauty, even if it’s only a few miles away,” she said.
His photographs will illustrate Jesseph’s poem, “With Wings”.
Sandborn said illustrating the work was not difficult.
“I knew when I read the poem, I instantly connected,” she said.
Higgs said poets were selected from more than 30 submissions, while a dozen visual artists submitted work. She said their task of illustrating work they had yet to see on short notice was a “big ask”.
“They agree to do it before they’ve even seen the poem,” Higgs said. “These artists have produced really good work in a very short time.”
Lowery said he was not used to associating his poems with literal illustrations.
“It’s a bit intimidating,” he said. “What I’m looking for is more of an eye of the beholder type thing, so I’m a little wary of having it nailed.”
However, Lowery added that he was looking forward to seeing the results.
“It’s nice to work with an artist sensitive to poetry,” he says. “In everyday life, I don’t meet too many people who are.”
That’s why it’s important to make poetry more accessible, Lowery said.
What: Virtual Reading “Bright Light Stories in the Night”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, February 26
In line: www.facebook.com/SoutheasternMNPoets