Listen: Voices from the Heartland - Joe Paddock, Central Minnesota poet

On this Voices in the Heartland episode, MPR’s Marlana Benzie-Lourey talks with central Minnesota poet Joe Paddock about nature, history of the land, and his poetry. Paddock also reads numerous poems.

Program includes various musical elements.


(00:00:00) There was one very interesting man named Lauren Stoddard
(00:00:02) Olivia. He really appreciated the fact that I was honoring the story of the town in this way and Publishing it
(00:00:09) so he came to me once and told me these two stories
(00:00:11) and they both had to do with
(00:00:13) women. He was a man that in some
(00:00:15) ways Ed though. He was
(00:00:16) powerful male figure. He
(00:00:18) had found the feminine side of his Consciousness and could tell these stories really well in this first one is about called the meeting and it's about the first two women to settle north of the Olivia. Area in the difficulty of that isolation and alienation they felt and they would get together and meet about once a week so that they would have feminine company, but there was only one problem. They didn't speak the same
(00:00:42) language. I got to imagining what an incredible dance that must have been to communicate
(00:00:49) what they wanted to communicate and that evolved into this poem called a meeting. Two women past the noon of their lonely lives before the turn of our Century met weekly
(00:01:03) under a circling Hawk on a Hilltop between their Farm homes on The Bleak, Minnesota Prairie. there was no other woman for miles
(00:01:13) one spoke Norwegian the other Bohemian
(00:01:17) a black and white dog, lie between them sometimes whimpering as they try to cross prairies of difference with smiles and intense light from their eyes to exchange small particular things from their lives picking cabbage worms and potato bugs stripping feathers for ticks nursing children churning butter darning socks starting barrels of crowd boiling fat for
(00:01:40) Catching a picture of blood from the Cutthroat of the hog
(00:01:45) small particulars froth from the surface of the inner Rivers damned through silent days loosed now in the movement of hands hungering and are they chuckled and clucked but could not quite loosen their bodies to
(00:01:59) dance their lives for each other.
(00:02:03) And the black-and-white dog wind as if something in his brain to new of an immense effort towards speech. The two women then said they're different goodbyes till the next week a strong formal
(00:02:16) handshake and the Hawks swept the
(00:02:18) sky as they Strode back through Tall Grass to their homes and their men
(00:02:23) was luminous again. You must think of yourself not only is a poet but a poet / Storyteller is it would you say that's true? Exactly and I frequently do right in prose process of building a collection of prose narratives to but I feel that in many ways. They're quite close in style tone even in warding other than the fact that they operate in prose blocks.
(00:03:05) Maybe depend somewhat more on
(00:03:08) dialogue among characters nevertheless. There's not a lot of difference in my own thinking the free verse narrative poem might be simply the best way to tell the story you take into account. The importance of of language sounds rhythms Etc in telling a story. Well, well, why don't you read us something else? Okay. I did an interesting interview with a man named Andy Quinn. I think he's third Andy, I don't II Andy Quinn in line. I believe in Irish family from a group that settled north of town here. And in this particular poem and he describes how I was a boy walking to school. He saw Timberwolves leaping up to see who he was and the distance and I was struck by that particular image and wrote a poem called the end of their lead. And it has to do I guess it's a nickel. It's an environmental problem in that sense that it has to do I guess to with this is the end of the leap the life of timber wolves in this region.
(00:04:18) A glint Rising through the darkness of his pupils
(00:04:22) 85 now. He remembers Timberwolves
(00:04:25) leaping high at the distant. Margin of New Field in virgin Timber
(00:04:30) him trudging through snow toward a bone white school
(00:04:34) and the sunrise fire through the dark fur along the Arc of their backs. They hung High those Wolves at the end of their leap to see clearly what he was. A tight bundle of books in his clutching hand the better Predator. He pushed onto District 11 arriving to drill numbers rapid fire through the cold Bright Day the image of living wolves receding hanging in deep black regions of the Mind far back. I guess one of the points I was trying to make here calling him the better Predator.
(00:05:19) It was it was
(00:05:21) the education that he was accumulating that would give him the technical power
(00:05:25) to survive. So well on his land that was also eliminating the environmental situation in which wolves could survive. And so I tried to tie up the whole cycle of content in this particular poem. Let's see that these do go through your own filter, you know, obviously there's many things that cross togetherness poems is there's the preservation of a story of this man story and then you know, what also comes through is I think you're concerned for nature and for the environment which we were talking about earlier. But yeah, I can remember Robert Graves talking about how to how to evaluate poetry when you got beyond the mere technical expertise and he said it's low level of Consciousness and I think there's something to that how much Consciousness do you bring to a to a situation a story and idea or whatever how much reality can can be lighted by it because Consciousness is what lights it and that's what I think that the poet is constantly trying to do. When did you read us another poem? Okay. When I was a boy, I spent quite a lot of time around the local lakes and rivers you grew up in Litchfield right up here in Litchfield in their ideas in Meeker County. There are probably 50 likes canned. It's the Crow River Watershed and small streams run into it here and there and and these were places where I spent a lot of time and I've been fascinated by stories that Scribe Boys in this sort of Huckleberry Finn phase of their life and this particular poem the grinding comes from a story. I heard oral history interview about way back when the primary town around here was forced City on the Crow River and there was a middle layer and the boys had a kind of con con artist trick. They pulled on the Miller at that time to make a few cents from him and that's what this poem is about called the grinding. Back at the turn of the century
(00:07:35) grinning River Bottom Boys entered the current of The Crow and speared big scale Spring Run suckers by the Dozen admired their heavy flapping on a waterlogged grass. Then they impaled them on the teeth of the Turning Mill wheel causing the belt to slip on fish gun Greece to pop free from its power shaft. The Miller then old Adam wiping the Blurred Circles of his spectacles groaning that it is too short for all that goes wrong and it would hire those same boys for nickels to help him worried that belt back onto its shaft Adam was grateful for eyes sharp as a spear tines tip grateful for the quick sun-browned hands of the boys grateful. Even for the strange Artesian chuckling that weld from their bellies. The crow turns flows chuckling over rocks and those trickster boys have all been cut by the neck and shaking. The sunshine of their grins has been ground to Christin the harsh turning of their days gone now all gone under that fat grass upon which Spirit suckers blood and
(00:08:45) gasped. That's
(00:08:50) A thing I will frequently find in an
(00:08:52) interview the
(00:08:54) end the Storyteller will be
(00:08:55) lost in memories bringing him or her back 60 or 70 years into childhood and they'll be perhaps almost as Fully Alive as
(00:09:03) they were as children experiencing them and they'll be glowing with it and all the
(00:09:06) sudden we have this recognition. It's all gone. Now, they're all dead or most of them are dead and you have this kind of stopped feeling and I think that's one of the real
(00:09:13) values to the interviewer is that this is kind of a wake-up call. It's telling us that life is short. We
(00:09:20) can always ask down and that to recognize that over and over again people feel that it happened so fast, so it's a value. I think it's something that helps us to live more fully in the moment. When we connect with these older people who tell stories right. Do you ever grow tired of writing about the past
(00:09:44) when I write about the past it almost never is just about
(00:09:47) the past. It's a grounding. For the present and how we open out into the future,
(00:09:55) but occasionally I do I would say probably two or three poems. I write are
(00:10:01) focused on the past especially at this particular period of my life, but sure like to write about contemporary things and once in a while get story, so there's a little little poem. I think I gave you about girls that hang out in front of the dragons. But here
(00:10:22) if you want to read that one sure I'll read to you and this is a contemporary experience someone else looking at these 13 year old girls
(00:10:32) said those little beaners
(00:10:35) and I think he said he felt that there were sort of a
(00:10:38) they were sort of a living tragedy or they had the potential for it in a way and any case that's the title of this poem. It's called a little beaners.
(00:10:48) He called them little beaners those Beauties hanging out in front of the Dragon shop and they're 12 and 13 year old Perfection highlighted with a red lipstick and black eyeliner their Perfect Skin and lean and slender little bodies. They're clear eyes shining with the boldness of innocent hunger as they suck cigarettes bright at the tip. We see through these two that glowing forgotten ocean, which is the fullness of life in which we drown.
(00:11:25) Joe Paddock reading his poem little beaners


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