On Speaking Terms (Lannan Literary Selections)
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On Speaking Terms (Lannan Literary Selections) [Paperback]

Connie Wanek
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2010 Lannan Literary Selections

“Connie Wanek . . . is superb, mature [and] a master of mood and language.”—St. Paul Pioneer Press

“No poet I know, with the exception of Jane Kenyon, is as able to discover the magic and depth in ordinary, day-to-day life and to artfully render that vision for the reader.”—Louis Jenkins

Connie Wanek’s third book of poems, On Speaking Terms, is amusing, tender, and surprising. Herself a librarian in Duluth, Minnesota, Wanek’s poems emerge from everyday objects—Scrabble, garlic, lipstick, hawkweed—and the landscapes, waterscapes, and severe winters of the upper Midwest. Readers will shove off in canoes, buckle on skis, set fishing nets in Lake Superior, and spend time in the real world of the imagination. Lit by startling metaphors, Wanek’s work has been justly compared to Wislawa Szymborska’s for its wry wit and spare “Eastern European” sensibility.

. . . Afterwards it was Eve who made
the first snowman, her second sin, and she laughed
as she rolled up the wet white carpet
and lifted the wee head into place.
“And God causeth the sun to melt her labors,
for He was a jealous God.”

Connie Wanek is the author of two books of poems. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where she is a public librarian and renovates old houses with her husband. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including The Atlantic Monthly and Poetry. In 2006 she was named a Witter Bynner Fellow in Poetry from the Library of Congress.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Connie Wanek is the author of two books of poems. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where she is a librarian and renovates old houses with her husband. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, and Country Journal. In 2006 she was selected by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser as a Witter Bynner Fellow in Poetry.

Product Details

  • Series: Lannan Literary Selections
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556592949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556592942
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Life isn't a time where every day is an epiphany. "On Speaking Terms" is a collection of poetry from Connie Wanek, her third collection. Focusing on the topics of everyday life and the little bits of wisdom you collect without even knowing it, "On Speaking Terms" is a solid and highly recommended anthology. "Blue Ink": Blue Ink is friendlier than black,/more feminine. You can sign the papers/and still believe/it's not quite final.//You can conjecture in blue ink,/and write a check for more than you have./People will understand.//Some days the lake is blue enough/to be bottled, or injected/directly into a pen,//through as the words dry/they disappear, letter by letter,/sparing you/serious embarrassment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regional and Universal February 28, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think it was Flannery O'Connor who said that all of the best American literature is regional. Connie Wanek's "On Speaking Terms" certainly supports that claim. The region is the Midwest and primarily northern Minnesota with its wildlife, rivers, and lakes. Viewed through Wanek's wise and imaginative eyes, the places and scenes she describes become windows on many of our most basic human concerns, among them the passage of time, care of the environment, and the restorative power of nature. In Wanek's world, your canoe awaits you like a favorite dog on a leash, and later the wake smoothing behind it tells you that the planet too will heal after we are gone. In addition to her nature poems, Wanek writes about daily life, about a woman putting on lipstick or kids doing the splits, with an easy grace and a sly sense of humor. Without ignoring poetry's responsibility to think deeply about who we are, "On Speaking Terms" offers a welcome alternative to America's literature of urban angst.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh Perspectives on Common Things February 6, 2011
Connie Wanek's poems give us fresh perspectives on common, simple things, like playing a board game as a child. In the careful, uncluttered lines of her short poem, "Monopoly," we see lurking within an innocent child's game the insensitive, ruinous possessiveness of adults.

Her poems do not confuse, do not require an MFA in creative writing to fathom meanings. You don't need a degree in psychology or an unabridged dictionary at hand to understand the everyday events she describes and the tiny griefs and wistful joys they contain. Take for example her truly magnificent poem, "Closest to the Sky." A mother climbs to her boy's attic bedroom after his departure and finds common objects he left behind, then experiences her boy's cast-off environment, and Wanek ends the poem with a last line that may tear your heart out. A similar poem, "Comb," tackles the same subject beautifully and leaves no doubt that somewhere is a son who's still deeply loved.

We feel as if we've been there, done that, in every poem. Wanek's poem titles say it all: "Jelly Beans," "Coloring Book," "Blue Ink," "Pumpkin," "Garlic," but the subtle emotional tug we're left with after reading each one gives us a perspective on common events and objects we might have missed in our own encounters with them. Let me leave you with this little gem, entitled "Monkey See":

What he saw, he did, if he could.
A stick was a gun, a rock a bomb.
He threw it up and it came down
and landed in the sand box
smashing a solid little house
that he could reerect by pressing
mud into a plastic cup
and dumping it over.
Play was work, his craft,
his long informal apprenticeship
into the ancient guild
of vandals.
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