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  The Laurel Poetry Collective
A four-year charter to publish books and broadsides created by its twenty-three poet/graphic artist members.

Laurel Poetry Collective Website

Books referenced:
Pilgrim Eye—Mary L. Junge
Diamonds on the Back of a Snake—Pam Wynn
A New Name for the Sun (chapbook anthology)
Pulling for Good News (chapbook anthology)

Reviewed by: Steve Mueske

View three poems from The Laurel Poetry Collective here

If you are a poet and have submitted your manuscript to a contest in the last few years, you know how stiff the competition can be. Many contests see 500 - 600 manuscripts for one - three available slots. It can be a daunting enterprise, to say the least, since most poetry publishers have moved to a contest-only model; this makes it very hard for poets who don't want to go the subsidy or vanity route to get a book published.

In answer to this dilemma, a group of *twenty-one poets from Minnesota have formed a poetry collective, a self-administered venture that brings the cooperative talents of its members, some of which are also artists, to produce, over a four-year charter, books by each of its members. They do well because they are, as Mary Junge says, "a frugal and cautious bunch." They also produce beautiful anthology chapbooks, for which they have work parties to hand sew the bindings, and limited edition broadsides, which are in such demand that many are sold out. Because they each have a built-in audience of family members, friends, and other poets, their readings are well attended events. Because their poetry, on the whole, is generally accessible lyric poetry about events of relevance, their audience extends beyond that of poets reading other poets. The books have a consistent look and feel, a simple cover with the title of the book and a stylized logo of a laurel tree; but the paper is high-quality, and the books are well made and satisfying to hold. The members of the collective are advocates for poetry in the best sense of the word; some, like Deborah Keenan (friend and mentor to many in the collective) and Margot Fortunato Galt, already have books published by established publishing houses, and lend their names and their talent to legitimize what could have been a risky enterprise. Three poems have recently been set to music by local composers Diane Benjamin, Warren Park, and Midge McCoy. A few of the poets have had work published in three candles.

On the whole, there is an easy lyric / narrative feel to most of the poetry. I don't, of course, mean easy in the sense of simple, but in the sense of line and how the image sits on the line and the way that the line is used to propel the reader down the page. The poems are carefully considered and well made: there is no effort made to obfuscate or misdirect, but rather, to let the poems just be what they are. Most of the poets have advanced degrees and the anthologies are edited by its members.

As you might expect with a co-operative comprised largely of women, many of the poems are centered on female themes: child-birth, community, breast cancer, and the daily life in households. Consider the opening lines of this poem by Mary L. Junge, "What We Mean To Be Today," for example: "We stand as garlands of pure place— / Home—while the lake remains empty and / Ready as an adolsecent womb", or in these lines from Pam Wynn's "Miscarriage" (see the gallery):
A woman in a white, sleeveless dress
Printed with small daisies

Her hair pulled back
In a rubber band

Opens the door
To the empty house.
These poems bear witness to the day-to-day experience of being a woman in America, the concerns of family, faith, and relationships. It is a poetry, largely, of experience, of the body. This is not to say that I like every poet, every poem, but I do find this collective to be a brave and bold enterprise in the increasingly fractious world of publication. They believe in their work and put their hearts and souls into it. The Laurel Poetry Collective sells books individually or by subscription for the whole. You can read more about them on the Laurel Poetry Collective Website.

*The collective has 23 members, 21 of which are poets. Two are graphic designers.


View three poems from The Laurel Poetry Collective here

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.